The Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim- Visiting the Sick

At the end of Parshat Lech-Lecha, Avraham had a brit milah (was circumcised) at age 99. In the beginning of Parshat Vayera, Avraham was still recovering.

Parshat Vayera begins with the words (Breisheet 18:1) “God appeared to him in Elonei Mamrei”.

Rashi explains that God appeared to Avraham in order to perform the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.  Rabbi Chama Bar Chanina said: It was the third day since his Brit Milah and God came to inquire about his welfare (Bava Metzia 86b).

The Gemara in Sotah 14a states: Rabbi Chama Bar Chanina said: What is the meaning of (Devarim 13:5) “Vehalachta Bidrachav”, “Hashem your God, you shall follow”? Is it possible for a human being to follow the Divine Presence? The Mitzvah is to follow the attributes of God. Just as God clothes the naked, you too must clothe the naked…Just as God visited the sick, you too should visit the sick…Just as God comforted mourners, you too should comfort mourners…Just as God buried the dead, you too should bury the dead.

By performing these mitzvoth we are emulating God.

Rambam states that it is a mitzvat aseh, positive commandment to visit the sick. Based on the Gemara in Nedarim 39-40, Rambam explains that one who visits the sick actually removes one sixtieth of their pain and on the contrary, whoever does not visit the sick is considered to be spilling blood.

In Jerusalem I have seen many wonderful acts of Bikur Cholim. When my baby, Yehuda was one month old, he was sick with bronchilitis and had to be hospitalized for a few days. On Saturday night, a group of Yeshiva high school students visited the hospital, instruments in hand and sang songs for the children. At only one month old, I could already see what a difference these students made and I truly believe that they helped speed up his recovery.

Last month, a Bat-Mitzvah girl from New York, Zahava Kunstler decided to celebrate her Bat –Mizvah with Torat Reva Yerushalayim. Zahava and her friends went to the Nursing Home- Yerushalayim Shel Zahav in the Talpiot section of Jerusalem and made Sukkah decorations with the residents. A month later, the residents are still talking about what a wonderful time they had. At that moment Zahava and her friends were emulating God.

Wherever we are in the world, let’s all take upon ourselves this important mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.