They span every element of life, from religious behaviors such as praying and celebrating festivals to everyday, humdrum routines. This area of the website is meant for employees who care for Jewish patients and to assist them understand some of the issues that their Judaism may impact.
These contacts, however, should be performed politely and in accordance with the patients' preferences. This means that doctors should not compel patients to discuss their religious beliefs if they are unwilling to do so. Taking care of patients' spiritual needs is important on several levels. It can help them feel better physically and mentally, which in turn may improve their response to treatment and decrease the likelihood of withdrawing from it.
According to a study published in 2004 by the Journal of Clinical Oncology, about half of all cancer patients report having problems accepting their diagnosis and/or undergoing treatment due to concerns about losing their soul. Other studies have shown that spirituality plays an important role for many patients going through chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Patients who attend church or other places of worship more often before starting treatment, pray regularly, and seek out spiritual guidance from others tend to have better outcomes than those who don't.
So how can doctors provide support for their patients' spiritual needs? The American Medical Association's code of medical ethics states that "a physician should give respectful consideration to a patient's religious beliefs and wishes" and that physicians should "encourage patients to speak openly about their fears and anxieties related to illness and treatment."
However, this does not mean that doctors must share their patients' beliefs or adhere to their own religious practices.
The Jewish commitment to healing, as both patients and physicians, is old and deeply anchored in theology and history. The concept of medical therapy was anathema, even heresy, in many ancient religions and remains so in some now. However health care is a fundamental right in modern democracy which is why it has been made legal in Israel for Jews and non-Jews alike.
Medical professionals were among the first people granted citizenship rights by early democracies. This was particularly true in Europe where doctors were given licenses to practice medicine after earning their degrees from universities such as Montpellier, Salerno, Barcelona and Leipzig. In Israel today, all citizens are entitled to free basic health care services at government hospitals. Additional private clinics and hospitals have sprung up over the years but even they must offer reduced rates to any patient who can prove that he or she is not covered by another health plan.
In medieval Europe, Jews were permitted to become physicians only if they converted to Christianity. Even after emancipation, Jewish doctors had to attend medical schools designed for Christians. These schools taught science mainly through lecturing rather than experimentation or clinical practice. Many Jews therefore learned about medicine from non-Jewish teachers. Some also served as amanuenses (copyists) for Christian monks and priests. They used this knowledge to help cure diseases without asking questions about religion or ethnicity.
Instead, a Jew prays at home and at the synagogue: they bring God into their everyday life through the blessings they recite each day, and they are reminded of and linked to God's will while simultaneously studying and discussing the Word of God on a regular basis. Prayer is also an important part of Judaism because it connects us to God. Without prayer, we would be disconnected from Him.
When Jews pray, they try to connect with God personally. They may ask Him for help with a problem or issue that is troubling them, or perhaps they just want to talk to Him about how their day was going. In any case, when they pray, they try to put themselves in His place, which means imagining what they would like to know from Him or have explained to them. Then, they speak directly to Him about these things.
During prayers, Jews often say words of praise or confession, read from the Torah, sing songs, give thanks for the world around them, and ask God for guidance on a daily basis. Prayers can be as long or short as you like; there are prayers for everything from morning blessings to meals to good deeds to requests for healing. No matter how long or short, prayers help Jews focus on God instead of themselves and their needs.