1) HEALING WITH VERSES FROM THE TORAH
QUESTION: The Gemara discusses the verses that one should says in order to heal himself from certain ailments. How can the Gemara here permit one to use verses from the Torah for healing? The Gemara in Shevuos (15b) states that it is forbidden to use verses for healing!
(a) When one's intention is to heal a spiritual ailment with verses, it is permitted. (MAHARSHA; see RAMBAM, Hilchos Avodas Kochavim 11:12.)
(b) If the illness poses a risk of mortal danger, one may use verses for healing. (TOSFOS to Shevuos 15b and Pesachim 111a)
2) "DARCHEI HA'EMORI" IN AN ACT DONE FOR "REFU'AH"
OPINIONS: Abaye and Rava rule that any act that is done for Refu'ah does not constitute Darchei Emori, while any act that is not done for Refu'ah constitutes Darchei Emori. What is considered an act done for Refu'ah?
(a) RASHI in Chulin (77b, DH Yesh) says that the category of Refu'ah includes any liquid, potion, or incantation which one uses for a wound. Rashi (ibid.) explains that an act that is not done for Refu'ah refers to any act that is not done "on a sick area," such as burying a Shilya at a junction. The PANIM ME'IROS (1:36) understands that Rashi means that one is allowed to do an act over the body of the sick person, but not from a distance. For this reason, he prohibits making a amulet to be hung in a tree to help a baby sleep better.
(b) RASHI here (DH she'Yesh) defines Refu'ah as an act that has curative effects from a medical standpoint. This would seem to exclude an incantation whispered over a wound.
The RAMBAM (in Moreh Nevuchim) also says that the act must have some medical quality to its healing ability. The RASHBA (Teshuvos 1:413) questions the Rambam's opinion from the case of the fox-tooth, which the Rambam himself rules (Hilchos Shabbos 19:13) is permitted.
(c) The RAN in Chulin (77b) quotes Rashi in Shabbos and asks, as the Rashba asks, that the Gemara permits one to wear a fox-tooth as a sleeping potion even though its properties cannot be understood from a medical perspective. The Ran therefore defines an act for the sake of Refu'ah as any act which we know works to heal -- even if it works metaphysically. An "act done not for the sake of Refu'ah" is an act which has no known results.
3) SLAUGHTERING A HEN THAT CROWED LIKE A ROOSTER
QUESTION: The Gemara says that one is prohibited to say, "Slaughter this hen which crowed like a rooster!" because it is Darchei Emori. In TZAVA'AS RABEINU YEHUDAH HA'CHASID (printed at the beginning of SEFER CHASIDIM, #50), the Chasid writes that if a hen crowed like a rooster, one should slaughter it immediately. Similarly, any other strange object should be removed from one's house.
How can he command that such a hen be slaughtered when the Gemara here says that it is prohibited to do so because of Darchei Emori?
(a) The MAHARIL (Teshuvos #111) says that he asked this question to the Vienna Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Avraham [Klausner], who answered that one is permitted to slaughter the hen as long as he does not say the reason why he is doing so ("because it crowed like a rooster"). A similar answer is given by the MAHARSHA in Chulin (95b) and the SHILTEI GIBORIM in Avodah Zarah (9a of the pages of the Rif). This is cited as the Halachah by the REMA (YD 179:3).
RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS (in HAGAHOS MEKOR CHESED on Tzava'as Rabeinu Yehudah ha'Chasid) points out that this approach may be inferred from the words of the Gemara itself. The Gemara does not say that "one who slaughters a hen" transgresses the prohibition of Darchei Emori, but rather "one who says, 'Slaughter this hen...'" transgresses. This implies that only saying the reason for slaughtering the bird is forbidden, but not the actual act of slaughtering.
(b) The VILNA GA'ON (YD 179) disputes this explanation. He argues that, on the contrary, one who slaughters the hen without saying the reason shows that he is trying to fool Hash-m, as it were. His silence makes his act worse, and not better. The Vilna Ga'on, therefore, sides with the Maharil's own answer, which is that Rabeinu Yehudah ha'Chasid had a different text in his Gemara. His Gemara read, "Ein Bo Mishum Darchei ha'Emori" -- "there is no Darchei Emori involved with this act." This reading is also cited by the RASHBA (Teshuvos 1:413), and the KESEF MISHNEH cites it in the name of the RAMACH. It is evident from Rashi, too, that there was such a reading, which he precludes in his comments here.
(c) RABEINU YEHUDAH HA'CHASID himself explains in SEFER HA'KAVOD (a manuscript which included the Tzava'os, which was lost until recently, cited by Hagahos Mekor Chesed and by the new Teshuvos Maharil) explains that even though the Gemara says that it is Darchei Emori, nevertheless anything strange that happens is meant to arouse a person to do Teshuvah and serve as a warning sign that he should do Teshuvah lest something bad happen to him.
It is not clear how this statement answers the question. RAV REUVEN MARGOLIYOS (ibid.) explains that this means that if a person slaughters the hen for no reason other than the fact that it crowed like a rooster, this is Darchei Emori. If, however, he slaughters the hen for an entirely different reason, then it is not Darchei Emori. In this case, if he slaughters the hen to arouse himself to do Teshuvah by reminding himself of the day of death, and he recognizes that the hen's crowing is a sign from Hash-m that he must do Teshuvah, then it is permitted.
(d) RAV YOSEF ENGEL (in TESHUVOS BEN PORAS) suggests another answer based on similar logic. He says that Darchei Emori is prohibited only when a person's intention is to slaughter the hen because that is what the Nochrim do. Rabeinu Yehudah ha'Chasid saw that many Jews slaughtered hens because the Nochrim did so, and they thereby transgressed the prohibition of Darchei Emori (see Sefer Chasidim, #59). In order to spare them from transgressing, Rabeinu Yehudah ha'Chasid commanded that people slaughter hens that crow like a rooster, so that they would then do so because he commanded it and not because the Nochrim were doing it. In this manner it would no longer be Darchei Emori!