A ruling in the name of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv forbidding certain kinds of alternative-healing practices

Halachic Musings

A ruling in the name of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv forbidding certain kinds
of alternative-healing practices

By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

“I am sorry, Mrs. Ploni, but the muscle testing we performed on you indicates that your compatibility with your spouse is a 1 out of a possible 10 on the scale.”

“Your son being around his father is bad for his energy levels. You should seek to minimize it.”

“Your husband was born normal, but something happened to his energy levels on account of the vaccinations he received as a child. It is not really his fault, but he is not good for you.”

Welcome to the world of applied kinesiology, or health kinesiology, and the way that it is practiced in, yes, some of our own communities.

The world of alternative medicine is not the innocuous and harmless pursuit that people may think it is. It is often used by practitioners in bizarre ways in which control and authority are exercised over other people. Incredibly, there are people who now base most of their life decisions on something called “muscle testing.”

Practitioners believe or state that the body’s energy levels can reveal remarkable information, from when a bride should get married to whether the next kinesiology appointment should be in one week or two weeks. Prices for a 45-minute appointment can range from $125 to $250 a session.

One doctor who is familiar with people who engage in such pursuits remarked, “You have no idea how many inroads this craziness has made in our community.”

How They Claim It Works

According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, applied kinesiology (AK) is a system that evaluates structural, chemical, and mental aspects of health by using “manual muscle testing” (MMT) along with other conventional diagnostic methods. The belief of AK adherents is that every organ dysfunction is accompanied by a weakness in a specific corresponding muscle. Treatments include joint manipulation and mobilization, myofascial, cranial, and meridian therapies, clinical nutrition, and dietary counseling.

A manual muscle test is conducted by having the patient resist using the target muscle or muscle group while the practitioner applies force the other way. A smooth response is called a “strong muscle” and a response that was not appropriate is called a “weak response.”

Like some Ouija board out of the 1970s, applied kinesiology is used to ask yes-or-no questions about issues ranging from what type of parnassah courses one should be taking, to what Torah music tapes one should listen to, to whether a therapist is worthwhile seeing or not.

“They take everything with such seriousness–they look at it as if it is Torah from Sinai,” remarked one person familiar with such patients.

The spouse of an applied-kinesiology patient was shocked to hear that a diagnosis was made concerning him through the muscle testing of his wife–without the practitioner ever having met him!

Practitioners of applied kinesiology may be Jewish or gentile; they are still seen by adherents. One gentile practitioner makes it a practice to travel to Israel and visit graves of righteous rabbis. He stated that he traveled to “37 graves in Israel and gets energy from them.”

The lines at the office of the AK practitioner are long. One husband holds a crying baby for three hours, while his wife attends a 45-minute session. Why so long? The AK practitioner let other patients ahead–because of emergency needs.

The Halachic Issues

The whole concept brings up a number of halachic issues. Is recommending someone to see an applied kinesiology practitioner a violation of the Torah prohibition of lifnei iver, putting a stumbling block before the blind? Is it a violation of darchei emori?

One type of lifnei iver is giving a person an eitzah she’einah hogenes–misleading advice. Three such examples are found in the Toras Kohanim and they clearly indicate that AK is a direct violation of lifnei iver:

  1. To advise a person to leave at a dangerously early time in the morning, when thieves are more likely to victimize him (Kedoshim Parsha 2).
  2. To advise him to go out in the heat of noon so that he will get sunstroke.
  3. To advise him to sell his field in order to purchase a donkey, and then by trickery purchasing his field from him in exchange for a donkey.

It is this author’s conclusion that in light of countless studies showing the ineffective nature of this therapy, the practitioners of AK are unequivocally violating lifnei iver lo sitein michshol.

In his kuntrus Al Tifnu, Rabbi Yitzchok Stein, shlita, posek, Foltichander Rav, and rosh beis din Avnei Shaish (he was also the rosh beis din of Dayan Yechezkel Roth, Karlsburger Rav, for 30 years) writes that there are violations of other biblical prohibitions.

In conversation with this author, Rav Stein related that Dayan Roth ruled, in two handwritten letters, that it is absolutely forbidden even in cases of pikuach nefesh. He also stated that Dayan Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss from the Eidah Chareidis has stated that it is entirely forbidden. He was recently misquoted saying that he had rescinded his ruling. To address this, Rav Weiss signed it again, writing on the 24th of Shevat 5777 (this year), “Ha’isur adayin betokfo–the prohibition remains intact.”  Rav Stein further stated in regard to applied kinesiology:

“There is an issur of kosem kessem. Why is it kosem kessem? Because the Rishonim write that it’s any action that works in a manner that is not b’derech ha’teva that reveals hidden things. Some wanted to say that it is only forbidden if it reveals the future, but the Rishonim indicate that it is any revelation that is not done through teva–natural means.

“There is a mitzvas aseih of ‘tamim tihyeh im Hashem Elokecha.’ There is a lav of ‘u’v’chukoseihem lo seileichu’ and this is darkei emori. If the practitioner is a gentile, there is also a question of being nisrapeh from a gentile who is a min.”

It is clear that anyone who is concerned with observing the Torah must stay far away from this.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com.


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