By Chedva Silver, photographs by Ellie Babani

Have you ever heard the expression “Laughter is the best medicine”? This is actually true! One of the reasons is because often, when a person is sick, they can get depressed.  Laughter is a great remedy for depression. 🙂 Even just smiling is good! And what makes a person smile more than knowing people care?

 

Bikkur Cholim, visiting the sick, is an extremely important mitzvah. In fact, the first time we hear of the mitzvah in the Torah, it is being done by G-d Himself, when He visits Avraham Avinu after he gives himself a Bris Milah. If it’s important enough for G-d to do, surely it’s important enough for us!

 

Visiting the sick is for every age to visit anyone, not only friends or acquaintances. It’s not unusual to be nervous before visiting someone, especially when you are not accustomed to doing so. That’s understandable, but once you start, it will get a lot easier. And there’s really nothing to be afraid of! Hospitals can seem big and scary and it might be weird to visit a friend when you’re the only one giving, but don’t worry! You’re doing a huge mitzvah.

 

There are a few things we need to keep in mind when visiting someone sick.

 

The first thing to remember is that THIS VISIT IS NOT FOR YOU, IT’S FOR THEM.

 

Keep in mind whhttps://s3.amazonaws.com/cohuman2/attachments/blobs/156640/175ce13f8ce1ea328f06607b88e35ff7/original/can_we_take_a_picture_Nrs.Oldlady_001.JPG?1368415639at they would like, want, need, or appreciate. Maybe they don’t really want any visits. Even if they are interested in visitors, make sure to keep the visits short and don’t come too often so you don’t impose. Do they need someone to talk to or just someone to be with? Could they use a card? Balloons? Flowers? Perhaps you could bring them homework? Maybe they’d just appreciate a phone call.

 

The second rule is BE TACTFUL.

 

Saying things like, “I knew it was coming to you,” “you deserve it,” “what horrible thing did you do recently?” “you shouldn’t have gone out in the cold like that” or other such things are extremely out of place and uncalled for. Bikur Cholim is about making the person feel better, not about making them feel guilty. In addition, saying things that will make them jealous, such as “at least you get off of school” or “we went on the best field trip today, too bad you missed it” is not a great idea. Don’t make them feel bad about their illness, either. “I really hope I don’t catch it from you” or “it smells really weird in here, do you smell it?”

 

Try to talk to them about things they enjoy. Do they follow sports? Want to know what’s happening in the news? Just telling jokes or funny stories is also good. Make sure to gauge their reaction. If they’re tired, maybe it’s time to wrap up the visit or talk a little less. On the other hand, maybe they haven’t had visitors all day and would love to have you chatter on and on. More important than talking, though, is LISTENING. They probably have a lot to get out of their system and would most appreciate it if you let them do that.

 

Don’t tell sad stories, talk about people who had this illness and died, or people who thought it was just what they have, but it was much worse, or other such things. Its better not to eat in front of someone you’re visiting, as you never know if they can eat, what dietary restrictions they may have, or whether they have an appetite or can keep anything down. Never complain about your own problems, because they really don’t want to hear. Sensitivity is key.

 

A good thing to do before visiting is CALL. Also keep in mind WHEN YOU GO.

 

Even if they like surprises, it’s possible they’re sleeping or are just tired. Maybe they even already have visitors and would like you to visit the next day.  Maybe they’re just not up to visitors at the moment. And by calling, you’re still showing that you care and that you’re thinking about them. Cards are good for showing friendship, too.  Sometimes that’s enough. Make sure you aren’t going too late, or too early, or when they’re eating, or at any other inconvenient time. More importantly, though, make sure it’s okay to visit at all. Maybe they are contagious or visitors are too stressful or against doctors orders.

 

WHERE YOU VISIT someone is also important.

 

When visiting in a hospital, you must make sure to go by their rules. Make sure not to be too rowdy or loud, for two reasons: For one, there are other patients around who probably need their peace and quiet, or at least want it. Also, a hospital is a public place and it’s very important to represent the Jews in a good like. Make sure to make a Kiddush Hashem by keeping quiet, not running, and most of all, thanking the doctors and nurses for everything. If you’re visiting someone in their house, make sure you’re not intruding on them or on their family.

 

Some great things to do for people who are stuck in bed:

 

·         Bring something they can do when no one is visiting – crosswords, other puzzles, games, music, books, magazines, etc. Find something they enjoy and get it for them!https://s3.amazonaws.com/cohuman2/attachments/blobs/156641/fe22a22fad6c199ffa9c805be01e1982/original/can_we_take_a_picture_Nrs.Oldlady_004.JPG?1368415645

 

·         Preparing food can be extremely helpful, too. Even if they don’t need meals, baked goods are much appreciated as well. Make sure they can have them, though.

 

·         If they are older and have kids, try to babysit or take the kids out. Maybe volunteer to come in the morning to help get them to school or to the babysitter. Perhaps they need more help picking them up in the afternoon.

 

·         Go shopping for them. Do they need groceries? Anything else you can get them? This will often be for older people who are keeping their own house.

 

·         The most important thing you can do for someone who is sick is: DAVEN!! Prayer is really the most powerful tool one can ever use to bring about a recovery. After all, Hashem is the Master Healer. Davening in the presence of the sick person is most effective and comforts them because they know you care and are looking out for them. Also, when in their presence, you can daven in any language you want because the Shechina, Hashem’s presence, is right there at the sick person’s bed. In fact, it rests right above their head! Therefore, when visiting, it’s better not to sit at the head of the bed or higher than the sick person. One form of davening, if doing so by their bed is awkward, is to say “Refuah Sheleima,” meaning “a complete recovery.” This is a very common form of davening for a sick person. However, you are not allowed to say this on Shabbos! Therefore, on Shabbos, we say “In the merit of Shabbos, you should be healed.”

 

 

יהי רצון מלפנך ה’ אלוקי ואלוקי אבותי, שתשלח מהרה רפואה שלמה מן השמים, רפואת הנפש ורפואת הגוף לחולי ישראל.

 

 

 

 

 

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