Loving Kindness – SEFER AHAVAS CHESED – 29th Av, 5769
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27 Av, 5769 / August 17, 2009
Day 145 – Everyone’s Mitzvah
SEFER AHAVAS CHESED — Part III Chapter III/III footnotes
There is no one too great, nor anyone too ordinary, to perform the mitzvah of visiting the sick. Everyone is eligible to earn the merit of this deed, and everyone is obligated to perform it when the opportunity arises. Even the most revered Torah scholar has a responsibility to visit his neighbor or acquaintance who is lying sick in bed. He has no right to think, “I have nothing in common with him. I’ll leave it to his circle of friends and family to take care of him.” On the other hand, an ordinary individual should not excuse himself from visiting the great man, thinking, “Why would he want to see someone like me?”
The effect of another person’s concern and attention is immeasurable, as is illustrated by an incident from the life of Rabbi Avraham Pam. In the back of the synagogue where Rabbi Pam regularly prayed, there was an old man who could be found day after day in his customary seat. One day, he was missing, and Rabbi Pam’s inquiries elicited the news that the man was sick in the hospital. Although Rabbi Pam wished to visit the man, he could not, because the rabbi was a Kohen. (A Kohen is someone descended from the Priests of the Jewish people. Kohanim are in some circumstances forbidden to enter a hospital.) Instead, Rabbi Pam wrote the man a letter saying that his presence in synagogue was missed, that he prayed for his recovery every day, and that he would love to visit but was unable to because he was a Kohen.
The old man was ecstatic with his mail. The great Rabbi Pam, the head of the famous Yeshivah Torah Vodaath, had written to him. He prayed for him. He would even have come to visit him if only he could. The man showed the letter to everyone who entered the room. His elated spirits soon boosted his physical strength as well, and a full recovery ensued. When Rabbi Pam heard of the impact his letter had made, he cried: “What did it take to write that letter? Nothing. A pen and a piece of paper. I jotted a couple of lines and sent it over.”
With that quick gesture, he restored a person to life. That is the power of a moment of thoughtfulness — a ten-minute phone call, a half-hour visit, a get-well card, a small gift. What, then, is the cost of the many such opportunities missed? If extending oneself a little bit has the potential to renew someone’s spirit, what justification can one have when, in the World to Come, all the lost opportunities are laid out before one’s eyes?
Obviously, not every act of bikur cholim will result in totally restored good health, but even if one can make that day — or just that hour— more bearable, one has accomplished a deed of heroic proportions. The Chofetz Chaim adds a note of caution to this discussion; a person should be attentive to the patient’s needs, visiting as much — but no more than — is appreciated and beneficial.
Step by Step
I will try to extend myself to those in my community who are sick, even if they are not within my immediate circle.
Taken from “Chofetz Chaim: Loving Kindness – Daily Lessons in the Power of Giving,” a project of Mesorah Publications and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation
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