Ethics

For the week ending 23 May 2009 / 28 Iyyar 5769

Risk of Visiting the Sick

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: In regard to visiting the sick there sometimes arises a situation in which there is a danger of the visitor contracting the illness of the patient. What is the right thing to do in such a case?

Answer: Our Talmudic Sages have already ruled that even though a visitor contracts one sixtieth of the illness of the patient he is visiting, he is still obligated to visit. The obvious inference is that when a danger greater than this relatively insignificant amount is involved there is no obligation to risk contagion.

Even though you cannot visit in person, you still have the option of calling the sick person on the phone, cheering him up with some encouraging words and a prayer for his speedy and complete recovery.

Although there are authorities who have reservations about fulfilling the mitzvah of visiting the sick via telephone instead of a personal visit, there is no doubt that this is the preferred way when a real danger to health is involved.

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