Visiting the Sick

There is a passage of the Talmud (Sota 14a) that always caught my attention and I am happy to share its beginning and end with you.

“R. Chama b. R. Chanina said: What is the meaning of the verse, “You shall walk after HaShem your God” (Deut. 13,5).  Is it possible for one to walk after the Presence?  Is it not written, “HaShem your God is a devouring fire” (Deut. 4,24)?  Rather, it means, follow in God’s ways:

Just as Hashem clothes the naked, as is it is written, “HaShem God made for Adam and his wife coats of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 4:21) – so you too clothe the naked;

God buried the dead, as it is written, “He buried him in the valley (Deut. 34:6) – so you too bury the dead.”

This explanation by Rabbi Chama describes the beginning and the end of the Torah. At the beginning, God acted with Chesed, loving-kindness, by clothing Adam and Eve. At the end of the Torah,  God acts with Chesed again by burying Moses.

Guess what other example is brought in this passage?

You are correct!!! “God visited the sick, as it is written, “God appeared to him in Alonei Mamreh” (Gen. 18:1) – (To visit Abraham after the bris) so you too visit the sick.”

Bikkur Cholim, visiting and assisting those who are physically and spiritually, sick is a commandment. It is our responsibility, our obligation and our duty.

At Congregation Beth El, we are committed to assist those who are sick and we have several ways to do it:

  • Cooking and delivering chicken soup. The soup is cooked at Beth El’s kitchen and we encourage you to ask for some! Just let us know.
  • Partnering with the Bikkur Cholim house. Across form NIH there is a house where families of the patients being treated at NIH or Suburban can stay without cost. We help Bikkur Cholim house in many ways. More info at
  • Visiting patients at Holy Cross hospital (for more information see the recent Scroll article. We need more partners, so if you’re interested, contact Rebecca Carlisle at and check the June 2018 issue of the Scroll. MORE PARTNERS ARE NEEDED.
  • Praying for those who are suffering. During our services, we invite you to add the names of people in need of healing to the Misheberach. Join us this Shabbat!
  • Pastoral care by the clergy. Our clergy is available to you if you need our support. Please let us know.

Our clergy and our broader community work to provide support and loving kindness to individuals and families who need support. Our challenge is that, as in the story above,  we know the beginning and the end but we need to “guess” the part of the middle. We cannot assist those who suffer if we don’t know who they are.

Please, contact us, let us know who is sick and may benefit from a visit. Volunteer to visit others. Be in the middle of this act of loving-kindness.

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin

1 comment

What does the Talmud say about helping non-Jews, physically and emotionally. I will give an example. I have a close friend, a wonderful man who is Middle-Eastern in origin. To my surprise, while not being Jewish, he is very pro-Israel, more than some Jews I know. He has reasons. He has talked of conversion and he attends a reform schul. He truly loves Judaism but I told him I cannot discuss this with him, it is against our belief to influence people, which he knows. He is also emotionally troubled and needs some help. He is overwhelmed with his family including a troubled son. Am I allowed to offer solace ? How can I offer solace avoiding religion ?

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