In the not-too-distant past, it was common wisdom that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. But these days, something seems to have gone seriously wrong with our grasp of even the most basic, fundamental, simple, obvious 'wisdoms'.
You only have to look at the area of health to see how twisted everything's got these days. In the West, we are raised with such an abiding respect for the 'marvels of modern medicine' that we eat the most poisonous foods and live the most debilitating lifestyles, and expect that some magic little blue pill is still going to fix all our problems.
I used to think this way myself. When my daughter developed really bad eczema, it took around three years and a big hint from Rabbi Lazer Brody before the penny really dropped, and I started to make a link between her skin and the terrible junk food we were all eating, particularly the MSG.
The simple truth was that I had no time to cook good food, and still hold down a full-time job. There are many ways to remedy this problem, but the one G-d chose for me was to stop working for eight years (which is probably why so many working mothers will pick 'cure' over 'prevention' every single time, and part of me has a lot of sympathy for that.)
Even then, it took me many, many more years, and many more negative experiences with Western medicine before the horrifying thought actually dawned on me that doctors couldn't cure all my physical problems. The idea was completely terrifying.
Once I realized the massive limitations of modern medicine (which is an article for another time), I realized that staying healthy didn't depend on me finding the best doctor, or getting everything 'diagnosed' within a split second of me discovering. Rather, it depended on me putting all my eggs in G-d's basket, and doing what G-d wanted.
This is where 'prevention' started to make a very big entrance into my life, and my health and eating habits.
I listened to the 'Healthy Eating' CD by Rabbi Lazer Brody, and that taught me in no uncertain terms that G-d wanted me to stay away from junk food, margarine, MSG and white flour and to eat more whole grains and fruit and veg.
I also learnt that G-d wanted me to eat food that was properly kosher, and to say blessings on all the stuff I was eating.
But food, important as it is, is only part of the equation. I learnt the hard way that negative emotions like hatred, jealousy and vengeance could also cause an awful lot of deep-seated physical problems, and that G-d wanted me to chuck those out, too.
By talking to Him for an hour every single day, and visiting the graves of lots of dead tzaddikim. It's really hard work sometimes, but it's the ONLY thing that really gets underneath the millions of layers of 'fake nice' that's plastered all over everyone today.
The point is, we have to take responsibility for ourselves and our health. We can't eat junk food 24/7, indulge in our vices and lusts 24/7, and then think that saying a chapter of Tehillim (Psalms) before we pop off to the doctor is the only thing that G-d wants from us when illness strikes.
G-d wants us to change. He wants us to improve. If He, in His wisdom, makes us ill, He wants to think about WHY He's doing that, and to not just pull in all our connections to get an appointment with 'the top guy' at the hospital.
All this sounds so radical, doesn't it? It sounds so, so….extreme.
But that's the genuine Jewish, emuna-dik approach to life generally, and to health specifically.
The single best preventative measure for staying healthy, physically and spiritually, is to develop a strong relationship with the Al-mighty, where we talk to Him for an hour a day, and where we can decipher the hints He's trying to send us before they manifest as harsh illnesses or physical problems.
G-d much prefers that we prevent the problems we all have, by working out where we need to fix things, before He has to come and slap us, to wake us up.
Unfortunately, this is one of those things that it seems we just have to learn the hard way, if we learn it at all. Change, especially big changes, can seem so difficult, so hard, so much effort. It's usually only once we're facing a life-threatening illness, or a soul-destroying circumstance that it really hits us that 'prevention' would have been so much better than 'cure'.
But with emuna, it's never too late. However big the problem, however serious the disease, however bad the prognosis, we can still bring it all back to G-d, and ask Him to deal with it. G-d is the single best cure I know of, and He works for everything.