Oct 14, 2016

To Listen to Doctors or Not

There are health situations that impact on mitzvah observance, such as fasting.  The halacha is that what the doctor says, goes.  This is adhered to by all Torah observant Jews, whether Litvish or Chassidish.

For example, there's the famous story about an epidemic in Lithuania and doctors said that nobody was allowed to fast. Most people were inclined to ignore this, since how could one eat on Yom Kippur? Realizing this, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (founder of the Mussar movement) ate in shul in public on Yom Kippur.  Seeing him eat on Yom Kippur, the masses went home to eat too.

As for a Chassidic proponent, the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote to someone, "I object to your not meticulously obeying the doctor’s orders, as “Permission was granted the healer to heal.”
By granting this permission, healing becomes a mitzva on the part of the healer, as well as a notable and great mitzvah on the part of the individual being healed, [i.e.,] “You shall scrupulously guard your health”; “It is part of the service of G‑d to insure that one’s body is healthy and whole.”
With that introduction, I came across yet another example of a woman who disobeyed doctors' orders and went on to have a child or children.  In this case, the woman died and was regarded admirably in her circles for having mesirus nefesh to bring children into the world. 
I understand that sometimes, doctors tell a woman not to have more children only because, in their view, no women should have children after the age of 35.  This is because it puts her into what the medical world considers a "high risk" category.  If the woman has no health problems, then a medical directive like this is not one we would regard as a mitzvah to obey, and if there are any concerns, they are discussed with a rav. 
But in a case where there is a specific reason for the doctor to be concerned about the mother's health, and she goes on to have children regardless, then even if she doesn't die as a result, is she a role model of mesirus nefesh for us? Or is she an example of someone who has transgressed the mitzvah of guarding her health?

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