Visiting the Sick - Rabbi Elimelech Biderman shlit"a
Visiting the Sick
One form of kindness between one and his fellow is visiting the sick. It is discussed in this week's parashah, as it states (18:20), "Teach them the way they should go…" The Gemara (Bava Metzia 30:) explains that this refers to visiting the sick. According to some Rishonim, visiting the sick is a mitzvah from the Torah. As the Gemara (Nedarim 39:) says: "A hint from the Torah to the mitzvah of bikur cholim (visiting the sick): It states (Bamidbar 16:29), "If they will die like all people, and they are visited like all people…" Rava explains, "If they will die like all ill people who lie on their beds and people come to visit them…" As the ריא"ז writes, "Bikur cholim is a mitzvah from the Torah. It is a great mitzvah. The life of the ill person depends on it, because the visit makes the illness lighter. Furthermore, by these visits, they can offer counsel regarding his treatment, they can encourage him, and they can calm him, and these matters grant him life. If no one comes to visit, sometimes the ill person becomes bored, the illness becomes unbearable, and then he dies, and that would be counted as murder." The Gemara (Nedarim 40.) tells, "One of Reb Akiva's student was ill and the scholars weren't visiting him. Reb Akiva visited him. He swept and washed the floor, and this revived the spirits of the ill student. He said, 'Rebbe, you granted me life.' "Reb Akiva went out and taught his students, 'Whoever doesn’t visit the sick, it is like murder.' … Whoever visits the sick causes him to live…"
The Seder HaYom writes, "Bikur cholim is the from highest forms of gemilus chasadim. As Chazal (Nedarim 39:) write, 'Bikur cholim, there's no limit.' … Because sometimes with his clever, encouraging, and kind words, he can revive the ill person, and enable him to live… We saw this many times, because sometimes a person visits the sick for an hour or two and the ill person says 'I feel like a new person. My soul came back to me' and we see that the illness became lighter." A primary part of bikur cholim is to bring joy to the ill person. We know that a positive spirit and hope have a large part in a person's ability to fight off his disease. Therefore, the Rambam (in his sefer on health) writes, "Tell an ill person happy stories that will gladden his heart. Tell him interesting news that will take his mind off his illness and that will make him – and the people taking care of him – laugh. When you choose someone to be with the ill person, choose someone who can make him happy, because this is needed for all ill persons."
Sodi Razyah (attributed to the Rokeach) writes, "When one visits the sick, he should speak to his heart, words of solace." These encouraging words will bring joy, and at times, the recovery, too. It states (Psalms 41), "Fortunate is the person who takes care of the poor…" The Gemara (Nedarim 40.) explains, "the translation of דל is ill…" Thus, the chapter is referring to the mitzvah of bikur cholim, and the chapter tells his rewards: 'He will be saved from a bad day." The Gemara explains that this means he will be saved from Gehinom (Hell). That's his reward in the next world.
The following are the wonderful rewards that he will earn in this world: "Hashem will protect him, grant him life, happiness in the world, and he won't be given over into the hands of his enemies." The Gemara explains: Hashem will protect him from the yetzer hara (evil inclination). Hashem will save him from afflictions. Everyone will honor him. He will have good friends who help him with good counsel. He will be protected from bad friends who harm him with their bad counsel. The meforshim explain that these rewards are based on the concept of: Hashem repays measure per measure. The way he helped the ill person, is in exchange, the reward that he receives. For example, the Gemara says that by visiting the sick, one is saved from afflictions. This reward is measure per measure. He saved the ill person from afflictions therefore he is rewarded that he won't be afflicted. We can add that he will definitely be saved from the type of illness that the ill person had. Just as he helped the ill person overcome that illness, Hashem will help him that he won't be afflicted with that illness.