13 Facts About the Mitzvah to Visit the Sick – Mitzvahs & Traditions – Chabad.org

Posted By on June 15, 2020

In the age of corona, we are no longer able to visit the sick in person as often or as easily as we wish (and sometimes not at all). In the meantime, lets take a step back and learn 13 facts about this building block of Jewish life.

Visiting the sick is a fundamental Jewishvalue. The Hebrew term for visiting the sick is bikur cholim. Among Ashkenazi Jews, this is pronounced BICK-erKHO-lim. In Modern Hebrew, it sounds more like bee-KOOR kho-LEEM.

Although not explicitly legislated in the FiveBooks of Moses, visiting the sick is considered a mitzvah (obligation). So importantis this act, that we enjoy both its dividends in This World and the primaryreward in the World to Come.

Visiting the sick is one of the mitzvahs thathas no set limit; each person is encouraged to do it as much as possible, evenvisiting the same person several times in a single day.Those who increase the frequency of their visits are praiseworthy, providedthey do not become burdensome.

Visiting is not appropriate at all times.Tradition tells us to stay away in the early morning or late hours when thepatient is being tended to and may not appreciate a visit. Nor should one visitat any other time they believe their presence will not be appreciated.

While Abraham was recovering from hiscircumcision (which he performed on himself at the age of 99), Gd visited him.The sages tell us that this indicates Gd Himself visits the sick.

The Talmud teaches that the visitor absorbsone sixtieth of the patients sickness.

A young student of Rabbi Akiva fell ill, andnobody bothered to visit him. When Rabbi Akiva heard, he himself went to visit.Seeing the deplorable state of the young man, who was not receiving help, RabbiAkiva himself swept and tidied the room. The grateful student exclaimed:Master, you have revived me!

The Talmudic narrative asserts that one whovisits a sick person and prays for their recovery is considered to have giventhem life. Conversely, neglecting to visit and pray is comparable tomanslaughter.

When visiting the sick, one should not sit ona higher surface than the patient. Why? The Divine presence rests on the bed ofthe sick person, and it would be disrespectful to sit above Gd, so to speak.

We say no blessing when fulfilling thismitzvah. Why is that? For one, we cannot know in advance if our visit will bewell-received. Since we may potentially not perform a mitzvah at all, noblessing is said.

Since the purpose of the Torah is to bringpeace and harmony to the world, the sages see it as axiomatic that one shouldvisit non-Jewish patients just as one visits Jewish ones.

In many communities, Bikur Cholim societies dojust more than just visit the sick. Services may include stocking kosher foodin hospitals, providing rides to medical appointments, accommodations for thosewho must stay near hospitals, childcare and meals for those at home, patientadvocacy, and more.

Since the 19th century, the ill of Jerusalemhave been treated in the Bikur Cholim Hospital (now a branch of Shaarei ZedekMedical Center), which operates according to Jewish law and initially provideda vital alternative for Jews whose only other option was to be treated byChristian missionaries. No longer a tiny operation in the Old City, it hasremained true to its purpose: Bikur Cholim.

The Bikur Cholim Hospital as it appeared in the summer of 1924 (credit: Bikur Cholim Hospital).

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13 Facts About the Mitzvah to Visit the Sick - Mitzvahs & Traditions - Chabad.org

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