Bikur Cholim: Visiting to Help and Heal


Dear Rabbi,

I was contacted by a group in Israel to volunteer visiting wounded soldiers in the hospital on occasion. Sounds good and I am wondering if this is mitzvah and what should be the goal my going?




  1. Yes, there is a mitzvah called “visiting the sick” and it is an act of great loving-kindness. This mitzvah is called in Hebrew “bikur cholim” — literally, visiting the sick. Not only does the person who visits instill this positive character trait into his being, but his visit has the potential to improve the other person’s medical condition in a number of ways.

    Visiting the sick expresses sympathy and empathy, and lets the person know how much others care about him and his state of health. Since a person’s physical condition is often related to his emotional state, a visit that says “I care” has the power to heal to a certain degree.

    Judaism teaches that one who fulfills this mitzvah has a double reward: “eating of its fruits” in this world as well as retaining the “principle” in the next world. We are also taught that visiting the sick or injured is tied to the mitzvah of “You shall love your fellow person as yourself.”

    Our Sages teach that that one who visits the sick takes away one-sixtieth of the illness. Of course, this does not mean that the visitor becomes “infected” with one-sixtieth of the illness, but rather by “attaching” himself to the person in need he literally makes the person feel better.

    An important aspect of visiting the sick is to offer a prayer for the person’s complete and speedy recovery. This prayer is customarily said in the person’s presence by wishing him “refuah shelaima” — a complete recovery. The ailing person normally responds “amen,” as with any other blessing a person receives or hears.

    It is important to note that it is not enough to just visit the person, as praiseworthy as this would seem to be. It is essential to inquire about what help the person may need in any way, shape or form. In fact, the word “bikur”, implies much more than simply visiting. The root of the word is “to inspect” or to check out the condition and see what can be done to help. Not always can the visitor help in every way necessary, but if one finds out what the person needs, it might be possible to do something to help, even if it’s not everything. Every little bit helps!

    Best wishes from the Team