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Bikur Cholim

Feature

February 04, 2019

Bikur Cholim

Bikur cholim means "visiting the sick”. Bikur cholim encompasses a range of activities performed by an individual or a group to provide comfort and support to people who are ill, homebound, isolated and/or otherwise in need of company and contact. Bikur cholim can include such activities as: visiting patients in a hospital, rehabilitation center or nursing home; visiting people who are restricted to their home because of physical or psychological impairment or social isolation; taking people who are ill or impaired on errands or field trips; providing telephone contact and reassurance to those who are ill or homebound.

Bikur cholim is a mitzvah, a moral and spiritual obligation incumbent upon all Jews to perform. The Bible tells us that human beings are created in the image of God and instructs us to aspire to be like God by emulating God’s ways. God visits Abraham while he was recuperating after being circumcised (Genesis 17:26-18:1). The Talmud teaches us that "As He visited the sick, so shall you visit the sick...

"Bikur cholim is an essential quality of good interpersonal relationships.It reflects the primary Biblical value, "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18). By fulfilling this role, we deeply enrich both our lives and the lives of those we visit. When we visit we attain a spiritual dimension that goes well beyond a simple personal expression of caring and links us with generations past, present and future. We link our selves to the whole of the Jewish people, and humanity as well, emulating the G-dly attributes of compassion and loving kindness.

The local Bikur Cholim Society was one of the principle institutions established by Jewish communities, the first one formed at the time of the Middle Ages. Bikur cholim groups continue to exist to this day, in all parts of the world, with people making the commitment to care for one another, and bring the strength of community and connection of Jewish heritage to the bedside.

Why is bikur cholim important?

  • Because people need to feel connected to the community especially when they are ill or homebound.
  • Because bringing the community to the bedside lifts the spirit of those who may feel forgotten.
  • Because studies have shown that social contact and support positively influences those needing and receiving comfort.
  • Because we are acting in a G-dly way when we visit.
  • Because those who are lonely, bored or fearful can be greatly comforted by human contact.

"Our generation, as those before and after us, will be judged by how we listen to those who are sick and vulnerable and to those who care for them. In the end, there is no them. There is only us."

—Rabbi Simkha Weintraub in Sh’ma, March 2003

Do you feel the urge to participate?