Bikkur Holim – Tell us who needs a sick visit
Rabbi Alex Freedman
I’m proud to say Beth El has a Bikkur Holim Committee to visit sick congregants. I’m thrilled to share that this group of 17 is freshly trained by me. Yet I’m surprised to acknowledge that it doesn’t have a list of people to visit. This is where you come in.
Bikkur Holim is no ordinary Mitzvah; it’s one of the ways in which we directly imitate G-d, Who visited Abraham when he was sick at the beginning of Parshat Vayera. As a Jewish community, we visit the sick because it’s a Mitzvah and adds holiness to the world. At Beth El, the Bikkur Holim Committee exists to do this and to communicate that we care about each other. The strength of a community is measured in how it looks after its most vulnerable.
For those who have been very sick or injured, I’m guessing you agree that a visit from somebody lifted your spirits; receiving no visitors would have made a tough situation even more difficult.
As clergy, from time to time we receive a name of somebody who is in the hospital briefly or rehab for a longer period of time. But we know that there are many more members in nursing homes or even in homes who may be quite lonely. They may not be hospital-sick, but they may still not be 100%. In these long-term situations, they may not have visitors. If you know of somebody who could use a visit from a friendly clergy or congregant, please ask their permission to share their name with me. And we’ll be sure to visit them.
Even if you don’t plan to join this committee, there is value in knowing the best way to visit somebody who is sick. Though we wish it were otherwise, at some point each of us will likely have a sick family member or friend and feel moved to visit. But this visit can feel daunting.
Here are a few pointers for visiting somebody who is sick:
1. Call ahead to schedule a visit sometime between mid-morning and mid-afternoon.
2. Begin with “I just came to wish you well.” Listen well and follow the person’s lead.
3. Sit down in a place where it’s easy for them to see you.
4. Don’t try to fix or explain the injury or illness.
5. Don’t stay too long, which may tire them out – maybe 15 minutes.
Remember that your presence is the key, and your very act of being there does immeasurable good. Please help us bring this goodness to as many congregants as we can by sharing names with me – firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more step by step instructions on how to do the Mitzvah well, check out this terrific article from chaplain Jason Weiner – https://jewishaction.com/jewish-living/how-to-do-bikkur-cholim/.