This article appeared in the Temple Beth Hillel publication, Hillel Omer.
“Reaching Out When You’re Ill”
Did you know that you can remove a sixtieth of a person’s suffering simply by visiting them? According to the Talmud (Bava Metzia 30b), we learn that by fulfilling the positive sacred obligation of bikkur cholim, visiting the sick, we can ease the ill person’s suffering. Now, this might cause you to wonder, why not cram 60 people into the room to take away all of the illness? Good question. Rabbi Abba clarifies,each visitor removes one-sixtieth of the remaining illness so even sixty visitors would not remove all remaining illness.
Bikkur cholim, visiting the sick, is an immensely meaningful sacred obligation, and a vital aspect of the work that Rabbi Hronsky and I do as leaders of our congregation. There is just one catch, we need to know there is something going on with you or your family member.
There was a time that it was the job of the clergy assistant to call local hospitals and receive the lists of the admitted Jewish patients. Since 1996 and the enactment of the HIPAA laws, a rabbi can no longer know who is admitted to the hospital unless the patient or a patient’s family member provides the information. Though there is much happening during a hospital stay, please add contacting Rabbi Hronsky or I to the list.
No bikkur cholim visits are the same. In some cases an ill person may be too weak to have a conversation so singing and praying is all that takes place. Sometimes Rabbi Hronsky or I spend time offering our support to the caregivers, the family members sitting at bedside or in a waiting room. Other times we are able to speak on the phone to a patient or a family member and make arrangements for a visit once the ill person is at home or more stable.
While we hope all hospital stays are brief, it is our hope that we can be present for you and your family in these precious moments. Please make sure that your family members are aware of your relationship with our congregation and that it is appropriate for them to reach out to us via phone call or email.
May we have the opportunity to spend moments together celebrating and sanctifying life’s beautiful moments.