A Vital Visit
We know of the great Mitzva
of Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick, which is one of the Mitzvos that one who
fulfills enjoys their fruits in this world but the principle remains intact for
him in the next world.
What are the reasons for Bikur Cholim?
The Tur says one reason is in
order to motivate the visitor to daven for their
recovery. Then it is considered as if he renewed the sick
person’s life. In fact, the Rema
brings that one who visits a sick person and doesn’t daven for him hasn’t
fulfilled this Mitzva.
reason is to tend to any needs that are not being attended to. Indeed, ביקור means to check and to tend to as in אבקר את צאני, I will tend to My
sheep. ביקור is also related to בוקר, morning, since that is when
things are clear and bright. This is what one must do for a sick
person—brighten his day, encourage him, buy him a present and the like.
fulfill Bikur Cholim with a phone call? There is a lot that is lacking in this
Mitzva if it is done with a phone call. When one personally visits a sick
person, this arouses him more since he feels the pain more and it makes him
daven better for the sick person. Additionally, being physically present at the
bedside is usually a better way of determining what is needed. Furthermore,
although a phone call can cheer up the sick person and make him feel important,
a personal visit accomplishes this more effectively. Therefore, most aspects of
this Mitzva require a personal visit. However, in
cases where circumstances don’t allow him to visit, he should call.
Eliezer says that if the sick person
is in the hospital, all his needs are being tended to. Consequently, most of
the Halachos of Bikur Cholim don’t apply. The only Halachos that are
relevant are to bring the sick person enjoyment and to daven for him. By asking
those who are close to him, such as his relatives, about him they will relay
the message to him which will bring him joy. Although the sick person may have
more enjoyment if you visited in person, and even though you may daven better
if you personally see his situation, since there is no set amount of how much
pleasure you must give him, and no set amount of how much you have to daven for
him, you have fulfilled the Mitzva of Bikur Cholim (through asking his
relatives about him or with a phone call).
says that one can fulfill the Mitzva of visiting the sick by simply going
there. The visit itself is pleasant to the sick person since from the pleasure
he receives, the sickness becomes lighter.
What about if one visits a sick person but he is
sleeping? The Rosh
says that he fulfills the Mitzva just by being there—even if the person was
sleeping or if he didn’t say anything to the sick person. This is because it
gives pleasure to the sick person when he is told that someone came to visit
merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close
to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt
has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the
author of the Sefer, Fascinating Insights: Torah Perspectives On Unique Topics.
His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live
with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a
suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is
passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.
Yoreh Deah, 335. Also, see
the Beis Yosef, s.v. ומצוה גדולה.
It has been pointed out that
Hashem actually came to visit Avraham to be מבקר חולה, visit the sick (See Breishis 18:1, Sota 14a) and didn’t ask
about him from a distance.
Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah
1:223. Also see the Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov 2:128, Minchas Yitzchak 2:84, Minchas
Shlomo 2:82:9, Shulchan Shlomo 1 in Hilchos Refuah, p. 224, Pachad Yitzchak
Igros U’kesavim 33, Chazon Ovadia, 1:8,9 and Yechaveh Daas 3:83.
Pirush Ha’Rosh Al Hatorah,