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A lesson in visiting the sick

In this lesson excerpt, parents can think about:

How to help their children understand the importance of bikur cholim, visiting the sick.

Children and parents can overcome their own anxieties about visiting the sick by focusing their energies on the patient and what he/she truly needs. Parents can brainstorm with their children on creative ways to help someone who is ill.

Families can also appreciate the importance of accepting help and bikur cholim from others when they find themselves in need.

Here are three of the six texts from the Melton curriculum, along with questions for discussion.

Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Nedarim 39b-40a

Rav Chelbo fell ill. Rav Kahana went out and proclaimed, “Rav Chelbo is sick.” But no one came. He said to them, “Did it not once happen that one of Rabbi Akiba’s disciples fell sick, and the Sages did not visit him, so Rabbi Akiba himself entered to visit him, and because he swept and dampened the ground before him, he recovered! ‘My master,’ said he, ‘you have revived me!’ Rabbi Akiba went forth and taught: He who does not visit the sick is as if he shed blood.”

Discussion question: What are the rabbis teaching us through this story?

Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Mourning 14: 4-6, Halakhah 5

…We do not visit the sick except from the third day onward. If, however, a person became ill suddenly and his illness became very severe, he should be visited immediately.

We do not visit the sick during the first three hours of the day, nor in the last three hours because they are tending to the sick person’s needs. We do not visit patients with stomach illnesses, eye illnesses, or headaches because the visits are difficult for them….

Discussion question: In discussing each of Ramban’s principles, brainstorm ways each can be applied today

Wendy Mogel, God’s Laws of Human Kindness

Children can also see God at work through the structure of Jewish law.

When my husband injured himself in a skiing accident three years ago, Cis, the head of the temple mitzvah committee, called to ask what the committee members could do to help us. Drive the children to school? Bring dinners? I told her we five were fine, that we appreciated the call but didn’t need any help. She insisted. I remembered that this was the mitzvah of bikkur cholim, visiting and helping the sick.

…I ended the conversation by agreeing to call Cis back as soon as I figured out how the committee could help us…

Discussion question: In which ways can a community be involved in bikur cholim?

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