by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
There is a mitzvah in the Torah called Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick. Technically it’s described as “Bikur holim is from the Torah, when God visits Abraham after his circumcision (Genesis 18:1). Bikur holim is mentioned in the Talmud many times, and 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."
We find a common report from those who are sick for an extended period of time and for mourners… it appears to them that they have entered an alternate reality. For the mourner who has lost a close loved one, life is on hold. He or she struggles to function in a world without their loved one, and adjust to going forward in life without them.
For the sick, they are struggling to recovery and struggling to function to whatever extend they are currently able.
In both cases they are intensely turned inward, and in many ways the world passes by without them even realizing it. And in both cases we have G-dly commandments to “comfort the mourner” and “visit the sick” – to draw them out, remind them that loved ones, friends, and community are still there for them, and that they are valued.
This is not a minor thing. It’s very easy for both the sick and mourners to fall into depression, to dwell on the negative of their situation, to get stuck turned inward.
Often those who have mourned are those who rush to others who are mourning, for the fully understand the immense value of being comforted. For those who have not mourned it often seems uncomfortable – you don’t know what to say, you don’t even know if you should sit quiet, or even if your presence is welcome. Be assured, the value the of mitzvah is immense to those being comforted – whatever it’s value may be in Shamayim (in Heaven), it’s value on Earth is great.
And visiting the sick can be even more uncomfortable. What do you say? Will you be staring at tubes or machines, or near someone who is coughing or other things that you might catch? But again, be assured that the value is immense, letting the person know they are cared about and the world and community and family hasn’t forgotten them.
These mitzvot are considered important enough that they are mentioned daily in Jewish morning blessings. And while those blessings end with “and Torah learning is equal to them all”, it’s not INSTEAD of them. Today, Thank G-d, you may not know the value of these mitzvot. Some day, most likely, most of us will.