For the week ending 19 July 2008 / 16 Tammuz 5768

A Silent Sick Visit

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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Question: I am interested in paying a bikur cholim sick visit to a friend in the hospital but I have been told that because of his condition I may well find him asleep. What is the right thing to do?

Answer: Your question has already been dealt with by one of the early commentaries. The Tosefot HaRosh (Parshat Vayera) draws a lesson from the sick visit paid by G-d to the Patriarch Avraham in which nothing was spoken. "This teaches us," he concludes, "that it is proper to visit the sick even if he will say nothing to him, such as in the case where he finds him asleep and therefore leaves. The reason is that when he wakes up and is told that someone came to visit him he will be very pleased."

The question has also been raised as to whether there is a point in visiting someone who is in a deep coma who doctors say has no chance of recovery. Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein, rav of the Ramat Elchanan community in Bnei Brak, in his Barchi Nafshi on Sefer Bereishet, makes a strong case for making such a visit, and even cites a case in which someone who recovered after having been in a deep coma recalled something that was said to him in that state.

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