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.