Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Practical Guidelines for Visiting the Sick

The Gemora (Nedarim 40a) cites an incident: Rav Chelbo fell ill. Thereupon, Rav Kahana went out and proclaimed: Rav Chelbo is sick. But no one visited him. He rebuked them, saying, “Did it not once happen that one of Rabbi Akiva’s students fell ill and the Sages did not visit him? Rabbi Akiva himself went to visit him, and because they swept the ground and settled the dust before him (as per Rabbi Akiva’s instructions), he recovered. ‘My master,’ said the student, ‘you have revived me!’ Rabbi Akiva went out and lectured: He who does not visit the sick is regarded as if he spills blood (since it may lead to his death).”

The Rosh gleans from this Gemora and the Aruch Hashulchan (Y”D 335:2) rules accordingly that the primary mitzvah of visiting the sick is to check on the sick person’s needs and to do whatever is deemed necessary. The Aruch Hashulchan (ibid. 8) concludes that one who visits the sick and does not pray for mercy on his behalf has not fulfilled the mitzvah.

Our affiliate, Hakhel wrote about some of the important requirements of properly performing the mitzva of visiting the sick person. They are:

1. Davening for the choleh while visiting. Since the Shechina rests above the head of a sick person, tefilah is more efficacious in front of the sick person (Rema, Yoreh Deah 335:4). The tefilah should include the following nusach "Hamokom Yerachem Alecha B'soch Cholei Yisroel", so that the choleh benefits from the z'chus harabim (Yoreh Deah 335:6). Tefila in the presence of the choleh can be said in any language, because the Shechina is present and, of course, understands all language of prayer (Yoreh Deah 335:5).

2. Seeking help for the choleh, both physically and emotionally—Does he have everything he needs—all the medications, the deodorant, toothpaste? Does he need Torah Tapes (718-438-3904)? Does his nurse know what an important person he is? Does he need to see a Rov or more friends? (Yoreh Deah 335:8)

c. 3. Providing Positive Reinforcement. Is the choleh kept in the right frame of mind all day? Provide positive reinforcements, words of encouragement, bring in light (open the shades) and cleanliness (clean up the bedroom floor if need be). (Nedorim 40A; Ahavas Chesed 3:3)

4. According to the Chochmas Odom (151:3) the ikar (main point) of Bikur Cholim is davening for the sick person while visiting him. In fact, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (193:3) poskens that one has not fulfilled the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim if he visits, but does not daven to Hashem while there. This is because the Shechina is present above the head of the sick person, and your tefillos are, k’viyachol, in front of the Shechina itself (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335, Shach seif katan 3). In your tefillah, you should ask for Hashem’s mercy for that particular choleh “b’soch cholei Yisroel” (amongst the other sick of Israel), because, in the merit of the many, your tefillos will be better received (ibid., Shach seif katan 4).

5. Bikur Cholim should not be performed when it is convenient for the visitor, but when it is best for the choleh. As the halacha states, one should not visit in the first three hours of the day… the last three hours of the day…, etc. (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 335:4).

6. In addition to tefillah, there is a mitzvah to give the choleh “nachas ruach” (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 193:3). This does not mean that one should speak on and on, or even with witticisms. Statements should as “You’ll now have to take that medicine for the rest of your life,” or “Next time, you’ll be more careful,” or even “How will this affect your life going forward?” may be equated with smacking a poor person across the face and knocking out a few teeth as you hand him a hundred dollars with a smile.

7. The Chazon Ish (Collected Letters, Volume I:138) writes that everyone has the mitzvah to perform “Bikur Cholilm” upon himself, as well. This means that he must take care of his body and use the most effective means possible for his personal health.

8. One should try to tidy up and make the atmosphere more cheery for the choleh, if possible. The Gemara (Nedarim 40A) relates that Rabbi Akiva himself swept and cleaned the floor for his sick student. As a result, the student told him, “You have caused me to live.” Rabbi Akiva then taught, “He who does not perform the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, it is as if he spilled blood.” The reverse is also, of course, true. In fact, the Gemara clearly teaches that one who acts wisely with the ill will himself be saved from “a bad day” by Hashem (see Tehillim 41 and Gemara, Nedarim 40A).

9. Finally, one should consider a choleh’s status after he leaves the hospital, and even after he returns to shul or to work. The fact that he has somewhat healed does not necessarily mean that he is not suffering pain or is otherwise in distress. One should continue to daven for, and inquire as to, a person’s welfare, until he is confident that the choleh has received his refuah shlaimah.


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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Compensation for Teaching Torah

Rabbi Yochanan said (Nedarim 37a): While it’s true that one cannot take money for teaching Scripture, he may take money for teaching them the proper cantillation of the verses.

One is obligated to teach others the laws and statutes of the Torah without demanding payment. The Chasam Sofer rules: Nowadays that the entire Gemora and the poskim are written down, one is not obligated to teach them inside for free; rather, he is required to teach orally the halachos and the rationale behind them. If, however, one teaches the students the Gemora inside, he may demand payment. The reason that the Gemora makes a distinction between Scripture and Midrash is because the Scripture was already written down. (Although Rebbe arranged the Mishna, it was not written down until much later.) Therefore, if one teaches student the correct method to read the Gemora, he may demand payment.

The Ran cites a Yerushalmi which rules that although a person may not receive compensation for teaching Torah, he may demand payment for the loss of income that he suffers by the fact that he does not pursue other means of support. This is true as long as he devotes himself completely to teaching.

Other Rishonim rule that if a teacher has no other means of support, he may receive compensation for teaching Torah.

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