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Visiting the Sick

Visiting the Sick

Healing with a Smile


Want to play G‑d? It’s simple, says the Talmud—and it’s a mitzvah, too: just visit the sick. G‑d visited Abraham when he was sick, so when you visit the sick, you’re playing G‑d.

In Hebrew, the game’s called bikkur cholim. Here are the rules:

Giving a Lift

No frowns, no tears, no gloomy faces. None of that is going to heal anybody. Your job is to provide a little smile, some hope, and maybe even a few laughs. Learn a few good lines, like, “What’s a spring chicken like you doing in a place like this?” or, “How’s the room service in this place?” Extra points for every smile you elicit.

Extra points for every smile you elicitOf course, you have to know when you’re overstaying your welcome. At that point, tell the patient the chassidic adage, “Think good and things will be good”—and quietly slip out.

Lending a Hand

Your presence itself is therapeutic, but the patient has other needs too. Find out how you can be of help. Grocery shopping? A ride to the doctor? Or maybe the house needs some tidying?

Time your visit with care. If the patient is in middle of a medical procedure, or in the immediate aftermath of one, it is likely that he or she won’t be in the mood for visitors.

Sometimes the situation doesn’t allow for visits. You can still do bikkur cholim by visiting the family, offering a helping hand, and . . .

Saying a Prayer

The patient’s room is a holy place. While there, say a short prayer for a speedy recovery, such as, “May G‑d care for you amongst all the patients of Israel.” Or, on Shabbat, “On Shabbat it is forbidden to plead, but healing is soon to come.” When you leave, say a psalm or other prayer.

It is traditional to ask a holy person to pray for the patient. Click here to send a prayer request to the Rebbe’s resting place.

Illustrations by Yehuda Lang. To view more artwork by this artist, click here.
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John Michael Hart Basingstoke UK May 15, 2013

Visiting the sick Thank you Rabbi,
We all need reminding to show more care for one another. Not just outwardly but inwardly too. Healing on Shabbat, would it not be better to heal someone on shabbat or let them suffer, is a prayer not a form of healing?. Reply

Anonymous USA May 15, 2013

Visitng the Sick So funny. I had surgery 64 days ago and not a soul visited me at the hospital nor at home. I have helped others in their needs. Financially and other ways. I like to be of help. But I don't seem to fit anywhere. I am a loner. Some days ago I used to reach out to everyone. Lately it seems that no one wants me around. Even when I helped others, they did not seem to like me. I do not care anymore. I used to suffer for it. Not anymore. I feel that maybe Hashem, blessed be He, is separating me from everyone I ever loved. Especially now that I return to my roots. But my roots do not want me either. Therefore, I surrendered it to G-d. There most be a reason for it. Theirs, not mine. Everyone to me is the same. I am not prejudiced. Reply

Chance Reader Germany September 2, 2017
in response to Anonymous:


I just happened to pass by on this webpage and read your comment. It made me sad that you feel like this, rejected and unwanted by everyone. It also sounded a little bit familiar, because I have experienced similar feelings at times. I just want to send some good thoughts and express my hope that you were just going through a difficult phase. Hopefully by now, you are doing well and have found people who love you and care for you.
Best wishes!
Isabelle Reply

Gavriel Eliezer ben Ze'ev Gershon Largo, FL December 6, 2011

Playing G-d I'm not sure that those who protest the use of the expression "Playing G-d" are truly understanding the depth of meaning in that phrase. HaShem is constantly keeping the world created so that we can engage in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and if that's not "playing G-d", what is? Whenever we do a mitzvah in the merit of a departed loved one's soul, are we not "playing G-d" by elevating their soul to a higher realm? Is not visiting the sick both a tikkun olam and an elevation of a soul (your own!)?
Mr. F. of Pretoria, there is no sickness of the mind to compare doing a mitzvah to being godly. That's exactly what they're for, all 613 of them! Reply

Virginia Wasilla, Alaska December 6, 2011

Praying with the sick So good
Thank you Reply

GM Schwartz Seal Beach, USA December 5, 2011

Being Grateful It's so important to be able to provide this amazing commandment!
Whenever i perform it, I feel so very grateful! Reply

Barney Wolfson Phoenix, AZ March 7, 2011

Playing G.D When you are a member of a Hospice group and you visit Group Homes and Nursing homes as I do, you are not playing G.D but you are standing with him/her. Reply

Stephen Grubman-Black North Kingstown, RI/USA June 9, 2009

Visitng the sick This message is very timely. I was in the hospital last week for surgery, and during my stay I discovered that a colleague was also there. So, after I was blessed to come home, I contacted him and I will perform this mitzvah of visiting him at home.
Thank you for your advice and suggestions. Reply

Barney Wolfson Phoenix, AZ June 8, 2009

Mitvahs I do Bikkur Choim by beinh a Hospice volunteer. I have been doing this for about 5 years and I love what I am doing. Reply

Anonymous Dublin, Ireland June 5, 2009

Rabbi Schneerson's Blessings This mitvah article coincides with my going to work as a carer ! so you can imagine how inspiring this blessing is.

Blessings to God Almighty and thanksgiving for the holy intercession of this blessed rabbi who continues to give glory to God.

May he always be a guide to all the Lord's children regardless of creed so that we might all learn and live His holy torah.

Amen Reply

Louis Ferreira Pretoria, RSA June 5, 2009

Playing G-D Shalom
You must be out of your mind to say by visiting the sick, we are playing G-d.
I am sorry but i have to much respect for G-d to compare myself to the Creator of the world.
Only a sick person can come up with something like this? Reply

Devora Los Alamitos, Ca June 4, 2009

bikkur Cholim Dear Rabbi: THank you for the article on Bikur cholim I hope to become a volunteer when I retire and always visit the sick like some people at Kolel Chabad do. Also you gave good pointers and advice on what to say when visiting the sick. Hopefully, I will get a brocha that I will be able to visit the sick often without financial stress. I am Devora Bas Pessal. Reply

Susanna Bronxville, NY June 4, 2009

Sharing your love with people who are shut in Here's another thought--many people in nursing homes would love a visit. I say this from personal experience from visiting my aunt. The people in the homes have lost their short-term memories, but their long term memories are full of the happiness of childhood.They love visitors, even for 5 min., but few come. Here's something else I'd like to share: I think it's offensive to ask a "holy person" to pray for someone --we are all "holy" and we can all do mitzvahs and pray when moved to do so. Sorry--no person is more holy than another, but all people deserve our love. We have all been created in the Creator's image. What we do with our time on earth is what's important. P.S:There are Bikur Cholim organizations in many communities. If you cannot find one, be an organization of one--start with the shut-in people down the street or up the hill. Hold their hands and give them your prayers and your love. I will try harder too! Thanks for this "Mitzvah Minute!" Reply

dg February 20, 2008

visiting the sick good point, cath, but i must say that this is the way i was brought up, values tried and true..wish i could feel it was a soul uplifter..for me it's a good possession... Reply

Cath Chicago, IL February 20, 2008

shame on me You are not going to visit for their soul, you aer going to visit for yours...isn't it ironic that although they tried to harm you, they have given you the wonderful gift of uplifting your soul Reply

Yisroel Cotlar, February 10, 2008

Re: Shame on me.... There is a beautiful verse in Psalms: (chapter 104) "Sins will be destroyed from the earth.." The Talmud comments on the wording: "Do not say the 'sinners' should vanish, but rather the sins should vanish from earth..."

Let's apply this to the case at hand: The person might have behaved improperly to you. But try to differentiate between the sin and the sinner. Perhaps this was a person who really wanted to do the right thing just had his (or her) evil inclination get to the best of them. Pity them for falling prey to their Yetzer Hara and you won't have to step over any pride to visit them. Reply

Anonymous via January 27, 2008

Response to Anonymous I read a short while back in relation to Joseph and his brothers, when Jacob died, the brothers were scared that Joseph would take advantage now and punish them for selling him into slavery. Instead, Joseph treated them with much respect, kindness and dignity, to the extent that the brothers felt 'if only he would act against us, he is being so kind, we cant stand it.' Meaning, the worst thing to do to someone who did something negative to you is to do something good back to them, because they will then begin to feel, oh how did I ever do something like this to such a nice person... Good Luck... They will no doubt appreciate your visit. Reply

Anonymous January 22, 2008

shame on me.......... there's a person who's sick....who, in the past, has done bad things to me, many knowingly.....

how do i step over my pride to visit with this person.. Reply

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