כ״ח בשבט ה׳תשע״ח (February 13, 2018)

Avoda Zara 29a-b: Talmudic Medicine

Following the discussion on yesterday’s daf regarding offering cures on Shabbat, the Gemara on today’s daf continues with descriptions of remedies for a variety of illnesses.

The Gemara also offers general recommendations for a healthy body, teaching that there are six things help the sick to recover from sickness and have a real curative effect – that is they not only help remove the symptoms, but that they heal the illness and strengthen the body. These include: cabbage, beets, dry sisin, tripe (the contents of the stomach), womb and the lobe above the liver; some say, also small fish; moreover small fish keep the whole human body in a fit condition.

Not only in Talmudic times, but even until relatively recently, the internal organs of an animal were not considered edible under ordinary circumstances. At best, the innards of the animal were viewed as being “lower grade” in comparison with the main parts of the animal that were eaten – the muscular part, and, to a lesser extent, the fat of the animal. This applies not only to the windpipe, but even to the liver and spleen, heart, lungs and other inner organs, which were eaten only by poor people who could not afford to purchase regular meat. Traditional “Jewish foods” that are made from these parts of the animal were either made specifically by the poor, or were specially prepared for particular needs (e.g. for someone who was ill).

According to the Ge’onim, the sisin referred to here is Matricaria chamomilla of the composite family Asteraceae. This annual plant grows wild in Israel. Even today, Chamomile is used medicinally to treat sore stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, to strengthen the body against colds and as a gentle sleep aid. It is also used as a mild laxative and is anti-inflammatory and bactericidal.

Previous
Next