This paper focuses on the practice of controlling non-natural elements and the medical concepts that developed from this practice. First, I study Cairo Genizah fragments written during the 11th–13th centuries to reveal the actual practice involved in the control of non-natural elements. Second, by referring to his medical and rabbinical works, I demonstrate that non-natural elements play an important role in Maimonidesʼ medical and rabbinical thought.
One Genizah letter (T-S Ar.38.87) describes an accident where the progress of the natural disease was affected through the intervention of a layman and a patientʼs mental condition. Medieval Arabic medical books and Cairo Genizah fragments often describe patients as easily affected by changes in non-natural elements. Based on the medical practice and theory of the time, Maimonides insisted that physicians always have to conduct both patientsʼ bodies and souls. Since medical theory concerned itself with human souls only in case of necessity, his claim does not fit into the common scheme of Arabic medicine.
In his Mishneh Torah, Maimonides insists that Arabic Aristotelian ethics and control of non-natural elements are components of the rabbinic tradition. Virtuous character traits and good health conditions are prerequisites for obtaining knowledge concerning God. Maimonides introduced the transcendent into the control of non-natural elements, thereby, releasing this practice from the strictly medical realm into the sphere of a whole life. Based on his statement, a rabbi has to also be a physician of sorts, and the jurisdictions of physicians and rabbis overlap concerning the control of non-natural elements.