Health Issues, Part III
Chapter 4, Laws 18-23
As I stated in the introduction to this chapter, the Rambam's fourth
chapter is devoted almost entirely to health issues. As we saw earlier,
the Ramban views maintaining one's health as a religious obligation;
accordingly, he devoted a chapter of his work to medical advice. Although
a fair measure of his advice is archaic, I decided for completeness' sake
to translate this chapter in its entirety, offering virtually no comments
of my own.
 One should not accustom himself to bloodletting constantly. He should
only let blood if he especially needs it. He should not let blood in the
summer or the rainy season, but in the springtime and a little in the
fall. Beyond the age of 50, he should not let blood at all.
One should not let blood and enter the bathhouse on the same day. He
should [also] not let blood and [then] travel, nor should he let blood on
the day he returns from travel.
One should eat and drink less than usual on the day of his bloodletting.
He should rest on that day, neither exerting himself nor walking.
 Semen is the strength of a person's body, his life, and the light of
his eyes. Whenever too much of it goes out, his body withers, his strength
wanes and his life expires (lit., "is lost"). This is what Solomon said in
his wisdom, "Do not give your strength to women nor your ways to that
which blots out kings" (Proverbs 31:3). Any one who is obsessed
(lit., "carried away") with sex will age rapidly (lit., "old age will jump
upon him"), his strength will weaken, his eyes will dim, a bad smell will
emanate from from his mouth and underarms, the hair of his head, eyebrows
and eylashes will fall out, the hair of his beard, underarms and his legs
will increase, his teeth will fall out, and many ailments besides these
will afflict him.
Doctors say that one out of a thousand dies from other ailments, whereas a
thousand from too much sex. Therefore, one should be careful in this
matter if he wants to live well. He should not have relations except when
his body is healthy and very strong. If a person finds he has many
unintentional erections even when he thinks about other matters, and he
feels heavy in his loins and below, and the cords of his testicles feel
stretched and his flesh warm -- such a person should have relations and
this is healthful for him.
One should not have relations when he is full or hungry, but rather after
his food is digested. He should check that he does not need the bathroom
both before and after having relations. He should not have relations
standing or sitting, nor in the bathhouse, nor on the day that he goes to
the bathhouse, nor on the day he lets blood, nor on the day he intends to
travel, nor on the day he returns from travel, nor on the day before or
after he travels.
 Anyone who accustoms himself in these ways that we have taught, I
guarantee him that he will not come to sickness his entire life -- so much
so that he will live long (lit. "age greatly") and die without requiring a
doctor. His body will be whole and healthy his entire life -- unless he
was created with a defective (lit., "bad") body, he accustomed himself
with one of the bad health practices [described earlier] from his birth,
or if a plague or famine comes to the world.
 All of these good habits which we have discussed are only applicable
to a healthy person. One, however, who is sick or one of his limbs is
ailing, or one who formerly had an unhealthy lifestyle (lit., "who
accustomed himself to a bad practice for many years"), it is appropriate
for each of them to follow different ways according to his ailment, as
explained in books of medicine. For changing one's regular pattern is the
start of illness.
 Wherever there is no doctor, both the healthy and sick person should
adhere to the ways we have described in this chapter, for all of these
ways ultimately lead to good health (lit., "bring to good").
 Any city which does not have the following ten things a Torah scholar
should not dwell in. They are: a doctor, a bloodletter, a bathhouse, a
bathroom (meaning, a sheltered outhouse), a ready supply of water such as
a river or stream, a synagogue, a teacher of children, a scribe, a
custodian of the charity collections ("gabbai tsedaka"), and a court which
both whips (lit., "hits")and jails.
Text Copyright © 2009 by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld and Torah.org