This is Rivkah writing this blog as I wanted to created a series looking at Yeshua's interactions with various women in the course of His Work here on earth. I also hope to put this in a video and podcast formate.
There are three places in which Yeshua's healing of of Simon's mother in law is mentioned = Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:30-31, Luke 4:38-39. The basic story line is as follows: It is Shabbos, as we see a couple of hints to this in these passages. In Luke, verse 31 "Yeshua came down to Capernaum, a town in the Galilee. He was teaching them on Shabbat". It also states in that same section that he went to the synagogue and was teaching and healing there. As a side note, the synagogue is not mentions in the TNK, but was started in Babylon during the exile and was carried through when the exile was ended and brought to the land of Israel once they returned. Returning to the topic - Yeshua was staying with Simon at the time and in all three places, it mentions that Simon's mother in-law had a fever. There is important note in Luke where he says that she has a HIGH fever. You will see why this is important later. Yeshua hears this from the family and He goes and heals her. Two accounts mention that Yeshua touched her bit Luke doesn't. Finally, in all three accounts it mentions that she starts serving a meal as soon as she is healed. That evening, after Shabbat, the town brings to Yeshua others who are sick.
There are several Halchic issues that I would like to discuss within this story
- Point one: Shomar Nagiah (touching of Men and women)
- Point two: Shabbos and healing
What is Shomar Nagiah?
- In genral it means "guarding one's touch" so men and women are not allowed to touch.
- In depends on who you ask how far one goes in their interpretation of what these laws means and how to apply them.
- The Rambam (Hilchos Issurei Biah 21:1) writes that one who engages in acts of physical intimacy with a prohibited person deserves lashes for violating a Biblical prohibition. He gives the examples of hugging and kissing and extrapolates from Leviticus 18:6 (“Do not draw near…”)
- For the most part, in the orthodox community, men and women refrain from touching at all - no handshakes or casual touching.
In this story, in two accounts it mentions Yeshua touching Simon's mother in-law's hand. We get some insight into what he is doing in Luke where it says that He was specifically hoping her up. Certainly this makes sense to help her off her mat (beds were low to the ground in those days). We don't know how old she is but if she was an elderly woman, it would be an act of honoring an elder which is a Torah commandment. (Lev 19:32). A final note on this point is that after she was healed, she did not touch Him back.
- In modern Halcha, healing on shabbos is allowed but only under certain conditions.
- Minor illness like a mild headache or the taking of meds on shabbos is generally prohibited.
- What is allowed then? - It someone's life or limb is in any kind of danger, one is allowed to put aside all shabbos rules to help that person such as when a woman is having a baboon Shabbos - you have to take her to the hospital even though in general, driving would normally not be allowed on Shabbos.
We have a clue in Luke how sick Simone's mother in-law was as it states that she had a "high fever". In those days, a high fever could mean the death of the person. The family was concerned enough to speak to Yeshua about it. As a rabbi, it would make sense for them to consult their rabbi. It doesn't say that they were asking him to heal her but only was letting Him know what the situation was. It can be argued that He saw how ill she was and perhaps that she was close to death, so He had no issue with healing her on Shabbos. It should also be noted that He did not do anything but speak and tell the fever to leave her so no Shabbos laws were violated.
A final note, it is interesting to note that she got up immediately started serving a meal. At that point, no mention was made of them eating after coming from synagogue so it makes most sense that she would be serving the afternoon meal of Shabbos as her family was hosting Him for Shabbos.
In summery, we see Yeshua caring deeply for Simon's family, which of course would include his mother in-law. One last point that I would like to mention is that Is. 53:4 is mentioned as a support for why Yeshua healed her. That verse speaks about how "he has taken our sicknesses and diseases.". Tow points on how this is interpreted in Jewish sources. The Torah Anthology by Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez states that this verse speaks of the Jewish people but in the book "Countdown to Moshiach" it states that Rashi in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 98b). where He states that this verse is about the suffering Moshiach.
Please let me know if you have any questions on this article.
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