Bikur Cholim is Hebrew for “visiting the sick” – but it is much more.

Bikur Cholim is one of the important deeds included in Gemilut Chassadim – the performance of deeds of loving kindness. These acts of loving-kindness were viewed by the sages as one of “three pillars of Judaism upon which the continued existence of the world depends,” along with Torah and Avodah/prayer (Pirke Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, 1:2).  Some Rabbinical authorities maintain that Bikur Cholim is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah.  Others also hold that it is derived from the precept, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

The tradition of Bikur Cholim was part and parcel of Jewish life for centuries, wherever Jews lived. The mitzvah found expression in the formation of Bikur Cholim societies in villages, towns and cities in all parts of the Jewish world. It was an accepted practice for neighbors, friends and people in the community to visit those who were sick, disabled, elderly and lonely and to minister to their needs – to provide care for the sick, to bring them food, to maintain their households, and to care for members of their families.

The Jewish people view the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim to be an essential social obligation reflective of the mitzvot guiding “man’s relationship to man.”

The Shekhinah {Divine Presence) rests above the bed of one who is ill. – Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 12b

Do not shrink from visiting the sick; in this way you will make yourself loved. – Ben Sira 7:35

The Rabbi Isaac N. Trainin Bikur Cholim Coordinating Council, JBFCS. Website: www.bikurcholimcc.org • Email: bikurcholimcc@jbfcs.org.
120 West 57th Street, 6 Fl.  New York 10019.  212-399-2685 ext 212