Loving Kindness – SEFER AHAVAS CHESED – 1st Elul, 5769
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29 Av, 5769 / August 19, 2009
Day 147 – Behind the Scenes
SEFER AHAVAS CHESED — Part III Chapter III
Bikur cholim is a deed that can take place on center stage — at the side of the sick person — or, when necessary, completely behind the scenes. Sometimes, the recipient of this act of kindness is not even aware of it. There is no grateful smile to reward the doer; there is only the knowledge that he has fulfilled his obligation to emulate Hashem by caring for someone in pain.
The Sadivner Rav, the saintly leader of a small synagogue in Brooklyn, lived up to this obligation with a combination of overflowing compassion and stubborn persistence. In one instance, an elderly member of the synagogue took ill and was placed in the hospital. For many weeks, the Sadivner Rav made a long daily trek on foot to the hospital to inquire after the man, even though the patient was not permitted any visitors. The rabbi would seek out the doctor and ask about the man’s condition, treatment and prognosis. “I’ll be back tomorrow,” he would conclude.
Finally, a nurse asked him, “Why are you coming here every day? You know you can’t go in to see him.” The Sadivner Rav replied, “I come for two reasons. You know, the man has no family. I want him to know that I care about him and I’m thinking about him. Secondly, I want the doctors and nurses to know that there is someone who cares about him and is thinking about him.”
The rabbi well understood that in the high-pressure, high-speed world of a city hospital, the patients who had friends and relatives expressing interest in their cases would be tended to first. Their needs would be cast constantly in the forefront of the doctors’ and nurses’ field of vision. He made it his mission to be the voice for those who had no voice. Even without ever laying eyes upon the patient, he performed the mitzvah of bikur cholim to its fullest extent, keeping a place in his heart and a place on his daily agenda for a fellow Jew in his time of need.
The lesson here should not be misconstrued. Bikur cholim does not mean harassing already overworked doctors and nurses. In fact, an aggressive, argumentative attitude will often elicit a backlash that could cause the patient and his advocates to be avoided as much as possible. The point is that when one shows that the patient is someone who is valued, that impression has an impact on those who care for him. Human nature is such that if the patient were, for instance, the king of a foreign country, his needs would be assiduously attended to. By visiting someone regularly and inquiring after his condition, one confers a degree of importance upon that person, and this inevitably has an impact on his treatment
In practical terms, going to the hospital even when one cannot see the patient enables one to find out firsthand what the patient needs. Anything that will make the patient more comfortable, whether or not the patient is aware of one’s intervention, is part of the fulfillment of this mitzvah. In the end, every element of this act of kindness is a means to convey one’s concern for the patient, to deliver the encouragement and support that are the essential spiritual ingredient in every cure.
Step by Step
If I have occasion to visit someone in the hospital, I will inquire whether there are other patients who have no visitors, and pay one of them a visit as well.
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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