Sunday, March 01, 2009

Searching for the sketch

I've put out a tweet asking for someone to supply the brain surgery sketch the Hazon Ish is said to have drawn. For those not in the know, the story goes something like this:

1. Guy gets a brain tumor
2. Doctors decide the tumor is inoperable
3. Guy and his doctor go to see the Hazon Ish, an Israeli sage of the last century, who
4. draws a sketch illustrating the correct way to do the operation.
5. The operation is a success; and
6. everyone lives happily ever after (especially Das Torah-niks who say this story "proves" that absolutely everything is contained in the Torah, and that studying Gemarah can produce expertise in the natural sciences.)

The problems with the Dass Torah conclusion are many. For instance, we don't know:

1. what the doctor told the Hazon Ish
2. what the Hazon Ish replied.
3. what was actually diagrammed; and
4. if such a diagram even exists. (the only source for the story seems to be "everyone knows.")

Another problem left unsolved is this: How did the Hazon Ish manage communicate with the doctor? Even if we accept that Talmud study gave the Hazon Ish expert knowledge of the brain, we're still left with a language problem. Doctors refer to body parts by their scientific names, which are usually Latin, and Latin derived. The Hazon Ish, presumably, only knew the Torah-true names. Who translated? And if you say no translation was needed because the solution was sketched, does it follow that in addition to providing him with expert medical knowledge, the study of Talmud also made the Hazon Ish a competent artist?

My own theory is that the Hazon Ish was presented with all the relevant facts, and he solved the puzzle. In other words, the story demonstrates that he had a really good and creative brain (which no one doubts) not that he aquired sophisticated knowledge of anatomy from studying Talmud (which is absurd.)

I'm hoping someone within the sound of my voice can turn up the sketch so we can find out for sure.

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