Bikur cholim

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For other uses, see Bikur cholim (disambiguation).
Breslov Hasidim visiting the sick in hospital.

Bikur cholim (Hebrew: ביקור חולים‎; "visiting the sick"; also transliterated Bikur holim) refers to the mitzvah (Jewish religious commandment) to visit and extend aid to the sick.[1] It is considered an aspect of gemilut chasadim (benevolence, selflessness, loving-kindness).[2] It is traditional to recite prayers for healing, such as the Mi Shebeirach prayer in the synagogue, and Psalms (especially Psalm 119) on behalf of the sick.[3] Bikur cholim societies exist in Jewish communities around the world. The earliest Bikur cholim society on record dates back to the Middle Ages.[4]

History[edit]

The roots of Bikur cholim can be traced back to the Torah, when God visits Abraham after his circumcision (Genesis 18:1).

Bikur cholim is mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud several times, in Tractate Nedarim 39a, 39b, and 40a. Nedarim 39a and 39b state that "[One must visit] even a hundred times a day" and that "He who visits a person who is ill takes away a sixtieth of his pain." Nedarim 40a says that "anyone who visits the sick causes him to live and anyone who does not visit the sick causes him to die"; it also states that those who visit the sick are spared from the punishments of Gehenna (hell) and that God sustains the sick, citing the Book of Psalms Chapter 31.[5] According to the Talmud, visits should not be very early or late in the day, and one should not stay too long. Relatives and friends are urged to visit as soon as possible. It is advised that a sick person not be informed of the death of a relative or friend lest it cause more pain.[3][6]

Visiting the sick during Shabbat, often after morning services, is a common practice; the House of Shammai opposed this but the House of Hillel viewed this as a mitzvah and the view of Hillel became part of halakha. Additionally, in some cases it is permissible to travel on Shabbat if a close relative falls ill.[3]

Organizations[edit]

There are many Bikur Cholim organizations in the United States, Israel and the World. They are not connected but generally serve similar purposes. One example in the United States is the California based Bikur Cholim, also known as the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, is a nonprofit organization in Greater Los Angeles and California, providing life-saving services and social support programs for children, adults, and families suffering from serious and life-threatening illness.[7] Its programs and services include physician referrals, help with treatment costs, free loan (g’mach) of medical equipment, visitation, meals, Blood & Bone Marrow program, Direct Donor Blood, Bikur Cholim House, the Living Room, Hearts of Angels Volunteers, Shabbox & Shabbos Closets, Kids Helping Kids, and a multi-media library.[8] Another Bikur Cholim organization,serving the Nation's capital, Washington D.C., as well as the Greater Washington D.C. area ( Northern VA and Montgomery County, MD) is the Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington, www.bikurcholimgw.org. Like other Bikur Cholim organizations, located in major cities, Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington serves Jewish patients coming its service area for medical treatment. Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington in particular assists Jewish patients at the NIH ( National Institutes of Health). The Rabbi Isaac N. Trainin Bikur Cholim Council in New York City holds an annual conference of visiting the sick that is attended by volunteers and professionals from around the country.

See also[edit]

References[edit]