Notes on how to do bikkur cholim (visiting the sick) from Hakhel.
As this week’s Parsha teaches of the primary importance of Bikur Cholim, as
Hakadosh Baruch Hu visited Avraham Avinu after his bris, we provide the
following notes on Bikur Cholim:
1. According to the Chochmas Odom (151:3) the ikar (main point) of Bikur
Cholim is davening for the sick person while visiting him. In fact, the
Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (193:3) poskens that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah
of Bikur Cholim if he visits, but does not daven to Hashem while there.
This is because the Shechina is present above the head of the sick person,
and your tefillos are, k’viyachol, in front of the Shechina itself (Shulchan
Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335, Shach seif katan 3). In your tefillah, you should
ask for Hashem’s mercy for that particular choleh “b’soch cholei Yisroel”
(amongst the other sick of Israel), because, in the merit of the many, your
tefillos will be better received (ibid., Shach seif katan 4).
2. Bikur Cholim should not be performed when it is convenient for the
visitor, but when it is best for the choleh. As the halacha states, one
should not visit in the first three hours of the day… the last three hours
of the day…, etc. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335:4).
3. In addition to tefillah, there is a mitzvah to give the choleh “nachas
ruach” (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 193:3). This does not mean that one should
speak on and on, or even with witticisms. Statements should as “You’ll now
have to take that medicine for the rest of your life,” or “Next time, you’ll
be more careful,” or even “How will this affect your life going forward?”
may be equated with smacking a poor person across the face and knocking out
a few teeth as you hand him a hundred dollars with a smile.
4. The Chazon Ish (Collected Letters, Volume I:138) writes that everyone
has the mitzvah to perform “Bikur Cholilm” upon himself, as well. This
means that he must take care of his body and use the most effective means
possible for his personal health.
5. One should try to tidy up and make the atmosphere more cheery for the
choleh, if possible. The Gemara (Nedarim 40A) relates that Rabbi Akiva
himself swept and cleaned the floor for his sick student. As a result, the
student told him, “You have caused me to live.” Rabbi Akiva then taught,
“He who does not perform the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, it is as if he spilled
blood.” The reverse is also, of course, true. In fact, the Gemara clearly
teaches that one who acts wisely with the ill will himself be saved from “a
bad day” by Hashem (see Tehillim 41 and Gemara, Nedarim 40A).
6. Finally, one should consider a choleh’s status after he leaves the
hospital, and even after he returns to shul or to work. The fact that he
has somewhat healed does not necessarily mean that he is not suffering pain
or is otherwise in distress. One should continue to daven for, and inquire
as to, a person’s welfare, until he is confident that the choleh has
received his refuah shlaimah.
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