Dr Judith Guedalia

Partnering With Hashem To Heal The Sick
 The Madrich HaCharedi, a veritable goldmine, is the Yellow Pages of goods and services of the ultra-religious community here in Israel. One gets just a taste of the chesed (mercy, love, or compassion) that abounds in this community from this unique Yellow Pages. One small example is an unusual gemach (which stands for gemilut chasadim - acts of benevolence, usually used in reference to associations giving interest-free loans). This unusual gemach listing can be found under "a" or "aleph" and is the arbes gemach.
 Well, we defined gemach, but what is the meaning of arbes?Arbes are traditionally served at a Shalom Zachar. There are many commentaries on this topic; suffice it to say that a proof of the ritual quality of Shalom Zachar is the fact that there is a traditional food served: "arbes" = "niyid" = "Garbanzo Beans"= Chickpeas."
 And now for the act of kindness: If a baby boy is born just before Shabbat, there is probably not enough time to soak, boil, salt and pepper the arbes. So, listed in the Madrich HaCharedi is a gemach for arbes, where someone makes this dish weekly and has it available to give out "just-in-case."
 I bring this as an example of the wonderful thoughtfulness of the community. More times than not, one is unaware - until you require them yourself - of the tremendous acts of kindness and generosity that take place every second of the day. Now, I want to highlight a more serious example, which is the wonderful work of the Bikur Cholim volunteers. What is bikur cholim?

 It is the Hebrew term for visiting the sick. In his book The Chesed Boomerang; A Bikur Cholim Primer, by Jack Doueck www.judaicapress.com and www.traditionofkindness.org/howto-bikur.php, the author quotes Rabbi Eliezer ben Isaac (11th century Germany) who wrote in his Orot Chayim (Paths of Life): "Visit the sick and lighten their suffering. Pray for them and leave. Do not stay too long, for you may inflict upon them additional discomfort. When you visit the sick, enter the room cheerfully." The Rabbis teach that a person, who visits someone who is ill takes away one-60th of their pain.

 In Cleveland, Ohio, for example, there exists a world-famous eye clinic (The Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute). People from all over the world come there to be treated. The waiting rooms (and staff too, for that matter) look like a veritable United Nations. People arrive daily for emergency or scheduled clinic visits.
 Amazingly, if you are a Jew, and an Orthodox one at that, have no family, friends or even contact persons in Cleveland, the bikur cholim comes to your rescue. Almost as important as the medical care, is the support and loving kindness shown to the ill and their families. Not only is there a Bikur Cholim House, decked out with the patient's every possible medical accoutrement, library of holy and secular books, but also three (if not more) meals a day, freshly-cooked, packaged and delivered. As if this isn't sufficient, there are volunteers to drive you to and from doctor appointments, translate for non-English speakers, and, of course, visit the sick.
 If your community does not yet have a bikur cholim , speak to Mmes. Sora Shapiro, Naomi Dessler, Shifra Rennert (and probably every other religious resident) of Cleveland, Ohio for advice on how to set up a (kosher) "cracker-jack" one! Be a partner with Hashem in healing the ill.
Originally published in the Jewish Press on July 5, 2006.

Tags: Bikur Cholim | Jewish Press