Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Visiting the Sick

The practice of visiting the sick, known in Hebrew as “Bikur Cholim,” literally means “to check on the ill.” Why is the word "check" used rather than "visit"?

On a simple level, the idea of “checking” means to quickly see that all is in order (and offering help if necessary)--but not to spend too much time! While some who are ill might desire a longer visit, certainly having a chance to rest is a necessity for many of them. “Checking on the person” implies that visiting time is limited to a visit of reasonable length.

On a deeper level, out-of-the-ordinary experiences, whether an individual illness or a natural disaster that results in many victims, are meant to give the sufferers, survivors and onlookers an opportunity to reflect on life and on their own priorities.

In this sense, “checking” on the ill is a reminder to the afflicted and the visitors alike to “check on their deeds” and commit to self-improvement.

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