Loving Kindness – SEFER AHAVAS CHESED – 30th Av, 5769
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28 Av, 5769 / August 18, 2009
Day 146 – Doing Good
SEFER AHAVAS CHESED — Part III Chapter III footnotes
When a person’s health is compromised, well-meaning gestures can sometimes do more harm than good. To prevent this result, the Chofetz Chaim offers guidelines for bikur cholim. He cites Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah (Siman 335), which permits only relatives and close friends to visit the patient within the first few days of his taking ill. Casual friends and distant acquaintances should wait three days, so that the situation has a chance to stabilize. If the patient becomes critically ill immediately, however, everyone should visit as soon as possible. There is no obligation to wait.
When a person takes ill, much is occurring on the physical plane. Much more, however, is occurring on the spiritual plane, and the visitor must take this into account also when he makes his visit. The Torah teaches that the Shechinah — the Divine Presence — rests at the head of a sick person. The visitor is therefore prohibited from sitting at a level significantly above the patient. If he is lying on the ground for some reason, one may not sit next to him. It is not necessary, however, to measure the height of the bed relative to the height of the chair. One may sit on a chair next to the bed, even if it happens to be slightly higher
Equally important to understanding the obligation to visit the sick is understanding the obligation to leave the patient alone if that is better for him. The Chofetz Chaim enumerates certain types of illness in which the patient may be better off without personal visits. Someone with digestive problems who is unable to control his elimination processes is one such case because of the embarrassment he may have. Someone with severe headaches or eye problems, or someone for whom speaking is difficult, may also in some cases be better off without personal visits.
This does not mean, however, that such people should be left alone. The Chofetz Chaim recommends visiting outside the patient’s room, inquiring of his relatives or caretakers about his condition so that he knows someone is concerned. The message should be conveyed to the patient that his friend has come and asked for him, is praying for him and willing to help in any way that is appropriate. Even when a person is in no condition to accept visitors, the knowledge that others care about his well-being is as vital as ever. A person may not want others to see him in his weakened state. He may not want to feel obligated to carry on a conversation. He may not want company, but more than anything else, he does not want to be forgotten.
Step by Step
If I know someone who is not in a condition to receive visitors, I will try to make sure my concern is conveyed to him in some other way.
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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