SICK, VISITING THE (Hebrew, "biḳḳur ḥolim"):
By: Kaufmann Kohler
To visit the sick in order to show them sympathy, cheer them, and aid and relieve them in their suffering is declared by the Rabbis to be a duty incumbent upon every Jew, even if the sick one is a Gentile (Giṭ. 61a). While there exists no special command in the written law concerning this act of benevolence, the Rabbis found allusions to it in several passages of the Pentateuch. Thus, "Ye shall walk after the Lord your God" (Deut. xiii. 4) means, say the Rabbis, "Imitate God; as He visits the sick—e.g., in the case of Abraham (Gen. xviii. 1, so interpreted by the Rabbis)—so do thou also visit the sick" (Soṭah 14a; Gen. R. viii., end); when it is said, "Show them the way wherein they must walk" (Ex. xviii. 20), the duty of visiting the sick is referred to (B. M. 30b; comp. Targ. Yer. ad loc.); and likewise when it is said (Gen. xviii. 29), "He [Abraham] will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness" ([Hebr.]; Gen. R. xlix. 7). The ḥaberim, or Ḥasidic associations, made the performance of this duty a special obligation; and therefore the visiting of the sick is enumerated in Matt. xxv. 36 among the various forms of charity. In the Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, a whole chapter is devoted to the command concerning such visitations; and in many Jewish communities there existed, and still exist, Biḳḳur Ḥolim societies, whose particular object is to visit and care for the sick. See Charity.