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(Halachos of Visiting the sick)




We will now, B’Ezras Hashem, begin learning the Halachos of the fundamental Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick.
Bikur Cholim is a biblical Mitzvah although it isn’t explicitly written in the Torah.
Some Rishonim classify it as an independent Mitzvah. (BeHag Mitzvas Asei 36, Sefer Yereim Siman 219 and Smak Siman 47)
Other Rishonim don’t classify Bikur Cholim as an independent Mitzvah and rather classify it as an extension of the Mitzvah of V’Ahavta L’reiacha Kamocha and/or Gemilas Chasadim. (See Rashi to Shabbos 127b top of page and Ramban to Sefer HaMitzvos Shoresh 1 Dibur Hamaschil  V’Hateshuva HaRevi’is)

The Posuk (Shmos 18:20) says: “…V’HoDa’atah Lahem Es HaDerech Yeilchu Bah V’Es Hama’aseh Asher Ya’asun…You shall make known to [the Jewish people] the [right] path for them to follow and the [right] things they should do”
The Talmud (Bava Metzia 30b) dissects the aforementioned Posuk as follows:  “Es HaDerech” refers to Gemilas Chasadim… “Yeilchu” refers to Bikur Cholim…, as Bikur Cholim is a Mitzvah that generally requires “Halicha, going”. (See Prisha to Yoreh Deah Siman 335:3)

The Torah (Devarim 28:9) commands us “…V’Halachta B’Drachav, you shall go in [Hashem's ways]. Chazal derive from here that all Jews are commanded to emulate Hashem’s kindness. Just as Hashem has compassion so too must we have compassion on our fellow man, just as Hashem visits the sick so too must we visit the sick etc. ( See Talmud Sotah 14a and Rashi to Bereishis 18:1)

Most Mitzvos that [good upstanding Jews] perform in this world generally do not generate reward in this world; rather the reward is reserved for Olam Haba, the eternal world.

There are a few exceptions to this rule whereas physical reward is given in this world in addition to the spiritual reward given in Olam Haba.

One of the exceptions is Bikur Cholim, for which the reward is received in both worlds. (See Mishna Peah Perek1:1 and Talmud Shabbos 127a for the other Mitzvos that have this unique double reward)

The word “Bikur’ is often translated as “visiting” the sick. Although that is definitely a large part of the Mitzvah, it goes much deeper than that.

“Bikur” also means “to inspect” or “scrutinize”. (See Talmud Pesachim 96a that a Korban Pesach requires “Bikur” for four days to ensure that no blemishes are present. See also Rashi to Shmos 12:6)

Indeed, the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim requires more than just visiting someone who is ill, it also requires to take an interest in the ill person’s situation, to try and fulfill their needs, to talk to them, to comfort them etc., details of which we will now begin to learn.

As always, if you have any questions on this, or any other, topic, please do not hesitate to email me at  and I will try my best to provide the answers.


1) Bikur Cholim is a Mitzvah that all Jews- men and women- are required to fulfill at all times, in all places and in all situations (See Ohr Zarua Vol. 1 Hilchos Birchas Hamotzi Os 140 where he lists Bikur Cholim amongst the Mitzvos that one can never be exempt from)

2) Bikur Cholim can be fulfilled in regard to the physical well being of the sick man or woman (i.e. looking after their needs, feeding them, making them comfortable etc.) as well as in regard to the spiritual well being of the sick person (i.e. daven with them, help them do Teshuva, say Vidui with them, help them pay up monetary debts etc.), more details of which we shall discuss in the near future.


1) Just as Bikur Cholim can be fulfilled in regard to the physical well being as well as the spiritual well being  of the sick man or woman, so too, the one performing the Mitzvah can do so physically, financially and  spiritually (See Kitzur Shl”ah  page 296)
2) Physically:  it is a Mitzvah to tend to the actual needs of the sick person.

Financially: it is a Mitzvah to purchase medicine, supplies and other necessities to facilitate the healing and well being of the sick person.

Spiritually: it is a Mitzvah to pray for the recovery of the sick person. (we shall B’Ezras Hashem delve deeper into more details of each of the aforementioned areas of Bikur Cholim as we progress in our coverage of this topic)


1) There is no limit as to the amount of times one can fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, even with the same sick person.

The more times the ill person is visited and tended to each day the more praiseworthy is the one tending to him/her. (Talmud Nedarim 39b, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:2)

2) Of course, if the numerous visits are a burden or an annoyance to the sick person, it is no longer a Mitzvah and should be avoided. Each situation needs to be determined on its own specific details (e.g. a sick person that doesn’t have many visitors will appreciate multiple visits whereas a sick person who has a steady stream of visitors may not appreciate  numerous visits from the same person). (Shulchan Aruch ibid.)


1) What is the criteria to determine if one is considered a sick person (Choleh or Cholanis) and thus worthy of Bikur Cholim?

If one needs assistance with things that pertain to his/her sickness, such as with medicine, bandages, feeding, bathing or other hygiene, or even requiring prayers to facilitate a cure, he/she is considered sick.

If one needs any of the above or similar assistance only in one limb [even with a non life threatening illness (e.g. a broken bone)], according to some Poskim,  he/she is considered sick and one who visits them and tends to their needs has fulfilled the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.

Other Poskim disagree and do not consider a person with a [non life threatening] ailment in one limb a sick person in regard to Bikur Cholim. (See MaHaral in Gur Aryeh beginning of Parshas VaYeira Dibur Hamaschil Amar Rav Chama, where he seems to say that one who is sick in only one limb is not considered a Choleh. However, some Meforshim explain that the MaHaral means to say that usually one who is only ill in one limb does not need the assistance described above, but if he does, even the MaHaral would agree that we must tend to his needs. However, from the Rambam Hilchos Zechiya U’matana Perek 8:1 it seems clear that he rules that a person with an ailment in one limb is considered a well person for all matters.)

2) One who R”L is permanently missing a limb, is not considered a sick person in regard to Bikur Cholim (as it isn’t something that can become healed and thus no amount of Bikur Cholim can help him) but of course there is a Mitzvah of Chesed  and V’Ahavta L’Reiacha Kamocha to assist him whenever he needs help.


Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh

1) One who is able to visit a sick person and does not do so is considered to have spilled innocent blood, as when a sick person receives visitors or otherwise has his physical and emotional needs tended to, his/her body and soul gets invigorated and enlivened, and oftentimes can be the difference between recovery or its alternative (Talmud Nedarim 40a and Rambam Hilchos Avel Perek 14:4. See also Rashi ibid. Dibur Hamaschil K’Ilu and Pirush HaRosh ibid. Dibur Hamaschil SheKibdo)

2) Just as every Jew is obligated, to the best of their ability, to save the life of his/her fellow Jew, so too each Jew is obligated to save their own life. Thus, a sick person must do whatever possible to ensure that he avails him/herself of any available cures, therapies, treatments, medicines etc. that may work to rid themselves of their illness. Doing so is a fulfillment of the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. (See Kovetz Igros from the Chazon Ish Vol. 1 letter 138. See also Tzafnas Pa’aneach to Sanhedrin 73a. See also commentary of the Zayis Ra’anan on the Yalkut Shmos 21:19)


1) No Bracha is recited when performing the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, One of the reasons for this is that it is not 100% in the hands of the one doing the Mitzvah to be able to fulfill it, as there is always a chance that the sick person will decline being visited, being assisted or otherwise accepting anything from the visitor. (See Shu”t HaRashba Vol. 1 Siman 18)

2) Another reason for no Bracha is because one is always obligated in the fulfillment of Bikur Cholim and there is never a time when a person is exempt from this Mitzvah. (Ohr Zarua Siman 140)

Another reason is because Brachos are only recited on Mitzvos that are unique to the Jewish nation; Mitzvos that non Jews perform at times (i.e. it’s common etiquette in every society to perform) cannot have “Asher Kidshanu B’Mitzvosav” recited over them. (See Shu”t Binyamin Zev Siman 169)

Lastly, any Mitzvah which involves someone else who is hurt, harmed or otherwise not well, does not merit reciting a Bracha over. (See Sh’Yarei Kneses Hagedolah Yoreh Deah Siman 335 quoting the Ra’avad)


1) It is proper [for people other than close family and friends] to refrain from visiting a sick person for the first three days of the sickness. (Talmud Yerushalmi Peah Perek 3 Halacha 7)

The reason for this is that for the first few days we don’t want to label him/her as a “sick person” and we wait for them to perhaps get out of their situation on their own. (See Meiri to Nedarim 40a)

Visiting someone during this initial period may actually do more harm than good as it will weaken their Mazel and worsen their state and cause them to indeed become a real Choleh/Cholanis. (See Taz Yoreh Deah Siman 335:1)

Once people start visiting [even during the first 3 days], or once 3 days have passed, he/she has a Chazaka (established status) of a Choleh/Cholanis and should be visited.

2) The above does not apply to one who is stricken with an illness to the point that there is a fear that he/she will pass away within the first 3 days, as such a person is considered a Choleh/Cholanis immediately. (See Rambam Hilchos Avel Perek 14:5)

Additionally, the above does not apply to close family and friends who regularly are in the home anyway, as their being there is not out of the ordinary and their being around gives the sick person comfort.  (See Talmud Yerushalmi  Gitin Perek 6 Halacha 5 and commentary of Pnei Moshe)





1) If a Talmid Chacham takes ill, other Talmidei Chachamim may visit him within the first three days, as all Talmidei Chachamim are considered as close relatives to one another. (See commentary of the Korban HaEidah to Talmud Yerushalmi Peah Perek 3 Halacha 7)

2) Although it is best for those who aren’t relatives and close friends to not visit within the first three days, if the sick person requires something (even a small insignificant task) or requests a visit, it should be done for him immediately, even by a person who otherwise should not visit during the first three days. (As not providing the sick person what he needs is tantamount to shedding blood as we discussed previously, and this of course supersedes the etiquette of refraining to visit in the initial stage of the illness, which is a Hanhaga of Derech Eretz and not strict Halacha)


1) When scheduling a time to go visit someone who is ill it is best to try and go at a time when all (or as many as possible) aspects of Bikur Cholim will be able to be fulfilled (i.e. being able to physically assist him, talk to him, pray with him etc.) as if certain aspects are omitted the Mitzvah fulfillment can be compromised or at times even totally missed (as we shall discuss in the coming days B’Ezras Hashem)

2) It is best to not visit an ill person during the first 3 hours of the day (calculated in Shaos Zmaniyos, solar hours), as most ill people feel better during that time period, and thus the visitor will think the sick person is faring better than he/she actually is and thus will not properly pray for him/her, and thus possibly not fulfill the Mitzvah properly if at all.

An ill person should not be visited during the last 3 hours of the day, as most ill people feel worse than they actually are during that time period and thus the visitor may give up hope of the ill person ever recovering and thus not bother praying for him/her. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:4. See also Sefer Ahavas Chesed from the Chofetz Chaim Vol. 3 Perek 2 that it must be solar hours, otherwise in the short winter days it would be impossible to fulfill the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.)

Some Poskim rule that nowadays the aforementioned times do not apply and an ill person can be visited any time even during the first and last three hours of the day. (See Birchei Yosef Yoreh Deah 335:2. See also Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah 335:8)


1) If the ill person is in a hospital and the designated visiting hours are during the first three or last three hours of the day, he/she may be visited then, as the rule of not visiting during that time period was only referring to visiting an ill person in his/her home where there are no set hours, and not in an instance where following this rule will cause the ill person to lose out on visitors.

Furthermore, it is more important for the ill person to be attended to unhindered by the doctors, nurses and hospital staff during those hours than to have visitors potentially be in the doctors’ way. (Psak of Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld Zatzal, Rav of Yerushalayim in Shu”t Shalmas Chaim Siman 411)

2) Breaking the rules and sneaking in to a hospital to visit a patient when it is not during visiting hours should not be done as it is a Chilul Hashem and thus a “Mitzvah Haba B’Aveirah” and thus no Bikur Cholim will have been fulfilled.


1) If one is leaving town or will otherwise be unable to visit the sick person at a time other than in the first three days of the sickness or during the first or last three hours of the day, they should visit during those times rather than not visit at all, as it’s possible that this particular visitor will be particularly beneficial for the sick person’s recovery. (Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed Vol. 3 Perek 2)

2) It is not proper to visit a sick person during a time when he/she is being tended to medically. (See Rambam Hilchos Avel Perek 14:5)

Although Bikur Cholim can be done by day or by night, according to some opinions it is best to refrain from visiting during the night if possible. (See Talmud Yerushalmi Terumos Perek 11 Halacha 5 and commentary of Mareh Kohen. See also Toras Chaim to Sanhedrin 34 Dibur Hamaschil V’Amar Rav Chisda)


Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh

1) By visiting a sick person, a small portion of his/her sickness is removed. (Talmud Nedarim 39b)

If the visitor is someone who is similar to the sick person, referred to in Chazal as Ben Gilo (either referring to being the same age (Rashi Nedarim 39b) ,born under the same mazel (Rashi Bava Metzia 27b) or sharing similar views, thought processes and opinions (Rashi Megilah 11b) his visit removes 1/60 of the sickness.

The more pleasure the sick person has from the visitor, the larger the portion that is removed. (See Meiri and Shita Mekubetzes to Nedarim 39b. See Drisha to Yoreh Deah 335:2 and Chasam Sofer to Nedarim ibid. where they maintain that this does not apply to all visitors, rather it only applies to Ben Gilo. Many Poskim do not concur with this view and maintain that all visitors remove a portion albeit a smaller one than Ben Gilo)

2) One who does not visit a sick person causes his/her sickness to increase by 1/60 (Midrash Shocher Tov [Tehilim] Perek 41)





1) When visiting a sick person it is important to examine the room in which he/she is laying to ensure that  it is clean, neat and not dusty  and that he/she isn’t lacking any food, medicine or supplies to aide in their recovery.

Doing these things are not just supplemental to the Mitzvah of visiting, rather this is  the primary fulfillment of the Mitzvah, as a cluttered room can cause a sick person’s  state to worsen and by tidying up can cause his situation to improve. (Based on actions of Rabbi Akiva as brought in Talmud Nedarim 40a. See Shita Mekubetzes ibid. See also Bais Yosef to Yoreh Deah Siman 335 Dibur Hamaschil U’Mitzvah Gedolah)

The cleaning of the room does not necessarily need to be done by the visitor him/herself; notifying the members of the  sick person’s household that the room needs to be cleaned and having them do it is also sufficient.(See Prisha to Yoreh Deah Siman 335 Os 4)

2) The bed of a sick person should be prepared the way one would prepare a bed for a dignitary. (Shita Mekubetzes ibid.)





1) Someone who is critically ill (Choleh Sh’Yesh Bo Sakanah) is best not left alone and should always have someone with them[or nearby] to act as a Shomer (guard) to protect them from mazikim and Sheidim (harmful spiritual forces) which can cause harm to those whose Mazel is weakened.(Talmud Brachos 54b and Rashi Dibur Hamaschil Choleh. See also Mishna Berura Siman 239:9)

2) Talking to a sick person is one of the best things for them, and thus the more people that are there to talk and the more talking that takes place during the visit, the better off they will be. (See Sefer Chareidim Perek 12:47)

It is a Mitzvah to tell a sick person happy stories which put him/her in a better mood and make them smile and/or laugh.

Likewise, it is a Mitzvah to talk about things which help take the sick person’s mind off of their sickness and their pain. (Letter from the Rambam quoted in Sefer Yikra D’Chayei Perek 3:6)

Obviously, the best candidates to talk to the sick person are people who he/she enjoys talking to and who bring them happiness, and not simply to have people chatter in a way that will annoy the sick person and thus defeat the purpose of Bikur Cholim.


1) One who visits a sick person should not stay too long, unless a lengthy visit is indeed what the sick person wants and needs, as if one stays too long or otherwise is a burden on the sick person, he has defeated the purpose of the visit.

2) The sick person will usually not tell a visitor to leave even when it becomes burdensome (in length or otherwise), thus it is up to the visitor to be smart and attentive and realize when his/her visit needs to come to an end.(See Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah Siman 334:4. See also Rambam Hilchos Avel Perek 14:6 where it seems from the word “V’Yotzei” that one should keep his visits short, though the Rambam can arguably be referring to a Choleh that is in a critical state and can’t communicate)


1) When visiting a sick person, the visitor should not sit in a manner that will place them higher than the sick person. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:3)
However, if the visitor is sitting on a chair that reaches the same level of the sick person’s bed it is acceptable, and there is no need for the visitor to be lower. (See Rama ibid. Some Meforshim learn that the Rambam Hilchos Avel Perek 14:6 indeed requires the visitor to sit lower than the sick person as is the opinion of the Ritva to Nedarim 40a, or possibly even means to require the visitor to sit on the floor. See S’fas Emes to Shabbos 12b)

2) The visitor should not sit behind the head of the sick person as the Shechina (the divine presence of Hashem) hovers above the head of a Choleh (Talmud Nedarim 40a derives this from the Posuk (Tehilim 41) “Hashem Yisa’adeinu Al Eres D’vai”. See Meiri to Nedarim ibid. for a different approach)

Kabalistic sources teach that one should also not sit at the feet of a sick person, as the Malach HaMaves (angel of death) hovers there.





1) One who visits a sick person but does not pray for him/her and beseech Hashem to heal them has not [sufficiently] fulfilled the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim. (Rama Yoreh Deah Siman 335:4 quoting the Ramban [in Toras HaAdam Sha'ar Hameichush] based on Talmud Nedarim 40a. See also Sefer Chasidim Siman 753 that all Jews are responsible for one another and are like one body, and when one is in distress and another doesn’t pray for them like himself it is a sin.)

2) Although the Tefilah for the sick person can be said in one’s own words, the “official” Tefilah to say [on  weekdays] is “Hamakom Yerachem Alecha B’Soch Sha’ar Cholei Yisroel, Hashem should have mercy on you amongst all the ill people of the Jewish nation” (See Talmud Shabbos 12b and Pri Megadim[Mishbetzos Zahav] Siman 287:1)

It is important when davening for a Choleh to include in the Tefilah “amongst the other sick people of Am Yisroel”, as including a specific sick person amongst the other sick people will allow for  the Tefilah to be more readily heard as it will have the Z’chus Harabim, the merit of the Klal. (Rashi Shabbos 12b Dibur Hamaschil B’soch. Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:6 and Shach Os 4)


1) When davening for a Choleh on Shabbos [or Yom Tov], the words “Shabbos [or Yom Tov] Hi M’Lizok U’Refuah Kerova Lavo, It is Shabbos today so I must refrain from crying out, but your Refuah is sure to come soon” are added. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:6)

2) When davening for the recovery of an ill person, when in their presence, there is no need to mention their name. Saying something to the effect of “Hashem I beseech you to heal him/her” is sufficient. (This is learned in Talmud Brachos 34a from Moshe Rabbeinu when he prayed for the recovery of his sister Miriam where he said (Bamidbar 12:13) “Keil Na Refah Na Lah, Hashem, please heal her” without mentioning her name)

In fact, according to kabalistic sources the prayer has a better chance of being accepted in heaven when the sick person’s name is not mentioned, as mentioning their name may evoke Midas HaDin. (See Even Shelaima Perek 9:14 quoting the Gaon of Vilna. See also Chasam Sofer to Nedarim 39b and Hagahos Ya’avetz to Brachos 34a. This is based on a Zohar Parshas Bereishis page 58 in the old prints)

When not in the presence of the Choleh, his/her name should indeed be mentioned along with their mother’s name (e.g. Moshe Ben Yocheved or Dina Bas Leah) (See Mogen Avrohom Orach Chaim Siman 119:1 and Rashi to Shabbos 66b Dibur Hamaschil B’shma D’Ima)


Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh

1) When davening for a sick person in their presence, the Tefilah can be recited in any language not just Lashon HaKodesh, as even though the Malachim (angels) do not understand Aramaic [or other languages other than Lashon HaKodesh, according to some Rishonim] being that the Shechina is in the room with the Choleh, there is no need for the Malachim to take the Tefilos up to the Kisei HaKavod. (See Rashi to Shabbos 12b Dibur Hamaschil Zimnin that this applies only in the weekdays, as on Shabbos it must be in Lashon Kodesh. See Taz Yoreh Deah Siman 335:4 regarding Malachim and other languages besides Aramaic)

2) Likewise, when  davening for the Choleh with a minyan of 10 people, and thus the Shechina is present, the Tefilos may be recited in any language.

However, some are stringent and daven only in Lashon HaKodesh even in the presence of the Choleh and even with a minyan. (See Shu”t Maharil Diskin, Kuntres Achron Siman 182)

When the Choleh is not present in the room where one is davening for him the Tefilos should be recited only in Lashon HaKodesh. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:5)


1) It is proper to daven for the sick person in a way that he/she hears what is being said and understands what is being davened for. (As is evident from the exchanges quoted in the Talmud Shabbos 12b that they were talking “to” the Choleh. See also  Hagahos of Rav Eliezer Moshe Horowitz Zatzal printed in back of the Talmud)

However, if by doing so the Choleh will become emotionally upset, of course it should not be done and the Tefilos should be recited quietly or after leaving the room. (See Gesher HaChaim Vol. 1 Perek 3:1)

If giving the ill person a blessing for a Refuah Shelaima it can be said out loud, and there is no need to worry about him/her getting emotionally upset about receiving a blessing for a recovery. (ibid.)

2) It is customary to recite a “Mi Shebeirach” to bless and beseech Hashem to have mercy for ill people in Shul at the time the Torah is read as this is a particularly opportune time for heavenly mercy. (See Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah Siman 335:12 and Darchei Moshe Yoreh Deah Siman 335:2)





1) The proper place to daven for a Choleh during the Shemona Esrei is in the Bracha of Refaenu.

The insertion of a request for healing of a particular person during the Bracha of Refaenu may only be done for one who is currently sick.

2) However, if one is davening to prevent an illness from befalling someone [or him/herself]  or from returning  to someone whose illness is in remission but may  relapse, it may not be added into Refaenu and can only be inserted during the Bracha of Shma Koleinu [or at the end of Elokai Netzor]. (See Mishna Berura Siman 119:1. See also Shu”t Shevet Haleivi Vol. 8 Siman 21)


1) One who has a sick person in his household should seek out  the blessings of Chachamim, Tzadikim and Roshei Yeshiva and also ask them to daven on behalf of the Choleh. (See Nimukei Yosef to Bava Basra 116a ,53a in the Dafei HaRif towards the bottom, Darchei Moshe Yoreh Deah 335:2 and Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah Siman 335:12. See also Ramban Parshas Yisro 18:15 that people came to Moshe Rabbeinu to daven on behalf of their sick relatives)

2) If the sick person is located in a faraway place and it isn’t known if he/she is still alive, Tefilos should still be recited on their behalf as there is a Chazaka(Halachic status quo) as well as a Rov (Halachic majority telling us that all ill people are still alive unless we hear otherwise, see Talmud Gitin 28) that tells us that they are still alive , especially since Tefilos are being said on their behalf. (Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah Siman 335:12)

If one accepted upon themselves to say the entire Sefer Tehillim in the merit of a sick person, it is proper to fulfill this commitment even if the sick person passes away. (Sh’eilas Rav Siman 19:8 quoted in Sefer Yikra D’Chayei Perek 3 footnote 19)


1) It is a great Mitzvah to assist a sick person in doing Teshuva (Returning to Hashem and repenting for their sins) and getting him/her to do some soul searching to uncover areas where Teshuva is necessary.

Additionally, it is a great Mitzvah to encourage sick people to call out to Hashem in prayer on their own behalf.

2) The heavenly reward for facilitating the aforementioned Teshuva and Tefilah is extremely large as the Posuk (Tehillim 41:2) says “Ashrei maskil El Dal B’Yom Ra Yemalteihu Hashem, Praiseworthy is the one who exhibits thoughtfulness with one in need on his unfortunate day, Hashem will save him”. This Posuk is referring to a sick person who is assisted with Teshuva which will either bring about his healing or if he is already destined to pass away it will save him/her from the punishment of Gehinom.

The person who facilitated the Teshuva will also merit having Hashem save him/her from his/her own misfortune. (See Rashi and Ibn Ezra to Tehillim 41:2. See also Sefer Chareidim Perek 12:48 quoting the Zohar)


1) A sick person who remains sick (without any signs of improvement) for three days, as well as someone who suddenly was stricken with a grave illness (even on the same day)  should be reminded to pay up any outstanding debts and to write a will [if that is the custom in the city where the sick person resides].

This should not cause the sick person to fear that death is imminent, rather doing these things is a merit for him to actually recover. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:7)

2)The Chofetz Chaim (in Ahavas Chesed Perek 3:3 quoting the Chochmas Adam 151)  writes as follows:

“In many Jewish communities, including Berlin,  it was indeed the custom for those in charge of the Bikur Cholim to visit all the sick people on the third day of their sickness and  tell them that the custom in this city is for a sick person  to get their affairs in order and not to be nervous that it meant their end was near, rather it was the accepted custom for all to do it even those that would be cured of their sickness.

Likewise, they would tell the sick person to recite Vidui, as all who confess their sins and do Teshuva merit having their sins forgiven and in that merit  they  would live.

It is a good idea for all Jewish communities to adopt a similar custom, though if any particular community does not have this custom, it is best not to say these things to the Choleh, lest he get worried…”


1)If one is  gravely ill and on the verge of passing away, Vidui should be recited with him regardless of his getting worried about his imminent death or not. (See Talmud Shabbos 32a and Shach to Yoreh Deah Siman 338:1.See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 338:2 for the text of the Vidui)

He should be told that many people have said Vidui and lived and many have not said it and died, and in the merit of saying it you will live. Moreover, all who recite Vidui before death have a portion in Olam Haba. (Ahavas Chesed Perek 3:3)

2) If the sick person cannot speak, he should be urged to think the Vidui in his heart.

If the sick person does not know how to recite or think the Vidui, he should be told to say the following ” Yehi ratzon Sh’tehei Misasi Kaparah Al Kol avonosai, May it be the will of Hashem that my death serve as an atonement for all of my sins” (ibid.)

Vidui may be recited with a sick person on Shabbos if by waiting until after Shabbos it may be too late. (See Be’er Heitev Siman 288:3 where he quotes the Seder Hayom’s ruling that one may say Vidui on Shabbos when having a bad dream, so surely  one who is passing away may say it on Shabbos)


Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh

1) It is proper to remind a sick person to be mochel (forgive) those who may have sinned against him/her in regard to monetary issues or by verbally insulting them or other issues.

Doing this is not only beneficial to those who receive forgiveness; it is also beneficial for the sick person, as Chazal tell us that one who is Ma’avir Al Midosav, (overlooks sins against themselves) merits having Hashem be Ma’avir Al P’Sha’av, (overlook his/her sins.) (See Chochmas Adam Siman 151) (Talmud Yoma 23a)

Likewise, the sick person should ask Mechila (obtain forgiveness) from anyone that he/she may have sinned against financially or otherwise. (ibid.)

2) If the sick person is unlawfully in possession of money or objects belonging to other people, it is of paramount importance to make sure it gets returned to its rightful owner. (See Kitzur Shnei Luchos HaBris (Shla Hakadosh) at length Inyanei Bikur Cholim Dibur Hamaschil Im Gemilus Chasadim, page 256 in the old print)

It is also a good idea for a sick person to do Hatoras Nedarim (annulment of vows) and to give Tzedaka. (Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed Perek 3:3)

When talking to a sick person regarding all of the aforementioned items (Vidui, Mechilah, Teshuva, getting affairs in order etc.) it is best that there be no women or children in the room, lest they begin to cry and cause the Choleh to become heartbroken. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 338:1)





1) When there is more than one person who is sick and one must choose between them, the order of precedence follows the same order as when it comes to giving Tzedaka, as  we learned in Hilchos Ma’aser :

The order of precedence for giving Tzedaka (in most cases) is as follows :

  • Him/herself

  • Spouse

  • Children under the age of 6

  • Parents

  • Grandparents

  • Children older than 6

  • Grandchildren

  • Siblings

  • Other relatives

  • Neighbors

  • Poor People from your city (However, if one lives in a large city such as New York, only his immediate neighborhood is considered his city for this purpose according to Rav Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal)

  • Poor people from other cities

Poor people from Eretz Yisroel take precedence over poor people from other cities (besides your own)

Poor people from Yerushalayim take precedence over poor people from other cities in Israel. (Shu”t Chasam Sofer Yoreh Deah Vol. 2 Siman 274) .

This includes both the new and old cities of Jerusalem (Psak of Rav
Shlomo Zalmen Auerbach Zatzal)

A Kohen takes precedence to a Levi, and a Levi takes precedence over a Yisroel, when their needs are equal. (See Shu”t Shevet Haleivi from Rav Shmuel Wosner Shlita Vol. 3 Siman 125)

2) If the choice is between a Choleh that is a rich man and a Choleh that is a poor man, the poor man takes precedence, as rich people usually have plenty of visitors and people tending to their needs. This applies even if the rich man is a Talmid Chacham. (See Sefer Chasidim 361 and Sefer Gesher HaChaim Perek 1:5. See also Tosefos to Chulin 104b Dibur Hamaschil V’Nosenes. See also Yosef Ometz page 324 regarding the praiseworthiness of visiting poor Cholim)

If the choice is between a Talmid Chacham and an Am Ha’Aretz, the Talmid Chacham takes precedence as doing so honors the Torah. (Sefer Chasidim ibid.)

However, if the Talmid Chacham is not a Yarei Shamayim (does not exhibit signs of fearing heaven, and his Torah knowledge is thus simply academic and thus does not give him any status as it says (Tehilim 111) Reishis Chochma Yiras Hashem) and the Am Ha’Aretz is a Yarei Shamayim, the Am Ha’Aretz  should be visited first. (ibid.)


1)There are certain sick people who are not visited in person; rather Bikur Cholim is done in other ways from afar.

One who has a stomach ailment or other abdominal pain with bleeding which necessitate frequent trips to the restroom should not be visited, as having visitors present when they have to quickly go to the restroom may cause them embarrassment. (See Talmud Nedarim 41a and Ran and Meiri there.  See also Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:8)

One who is sick with an eye ailment or with a severe headache should not be visited, as having people talk to them is painful. (See Chochmas Adam Siman 151)

Any sick person who gets agitated or annoyed or whose condition worsens when there is talking in his/her presence, should not be visited. (Shulchan Aruch ibid.)

2)For all instances where entering the room is not acceptable, the visitors should stand outside the room and look in and determine if anything is needed (tidying up, cleaning, food ,medicine etc.) and let the people tending to the Choleh know about the needs. (ibid. See also Biur HaGra S”K 11)

Additionally, the pain of the Choleh should be seen and noted and the visitor should daven for the Choleh while standing outside their room, as davening for the Choleh is the most important part of Bikur Cholim [even for Cholim who are visited] as we learned previously. (Shulchan Aruch ibid. See also Sefer Chasidim Siman 753)


1)If a close relative of a sick person passes away he/she should not be informed of this sad news, even if it is regarding someone that he/she would otherwise be halachically obligated to rend their garments.

There is no obligation for someone else to rend the sick person’s garment. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 337)

Even if he found out about the passing, there is no obligation to have him rend his garments. (See Shach Yoreh Deah 337:1 that by rending the garments it will increase the pain of the sad news.)

2) Nobody should cry or otherwise exhibit signs of sadness and despair in the presence of the Choleh, nor should any Hespedim (eulogies) be said in his/her presence. (Shulchan Aruch ibid.)

The ban on eulogies and despair in the Choleh’s presence applies for any people that passed away not just for a relative of the sick person. (See Shach Yoreh Deah 337:2 for the reasoning)

All of the above is so that no unnecessary pain and heartache should be caused to the sick person.

Likewise, if the family is sitting Shiva in the home where the sick person is resting, care must be taken to keep all the people who come for Shiva visits quiet. (Shulchan Aruch ibid.)


1) If an ill person’s condition worsens considerably to the point that [medically] it seems that he/she will not recover, it is proper and customary to add on a name, as when one’s name changes his/her essence changes as well and thus the heavenly decree that was passed against them can change as well. (Rama Yoreh Deah Siman 335:10)

This is learned out from Avram Avinu and Sarai Imeinu whose destiny it  was to die without children, yet after  having their names changed to Avraham and Sarah (See Bereishis 17:5 and 15)were indeed able to have a child. (See Talmud Rosh Hashana 16b and Midrash Rabbah to Koheles Perek 5:4. See MaHarsha to Rosh Hashana 16b Dibur Hamaschil Arba Devarim for a detailed discussion about the real effects of a name change. See also Rambam Hilchos Teshuva Perek 2:4)

2) The new name is added in addition to the established name and does not replace the old name. (See Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah Siman 335:12)

(Regarding how to choose a “good” new name to add, see Sefer Chasidim Siman 244 where he discusses using a Goral, a sort of Torah lottery to choose a proper name.


1)It is permitted to visit sick people on Shabbos. (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Siman 287:1)

Chazal (Talmud Shabbos 12b) were originally hesitant to allow Bikur Cholim (and Nichum Aveilim) on Shabbos lest the visitor become pained and begin davening for the Choleh in a manner that is prohibited on Shabbos. (See Rashi Dibur Hamaschil B’Koshi)

Although Chazal did not in actuality ban it, it is still best to try and avoid visiting the sick on Shabbos, and surely one should not purposely schedule the visit for Shabbos if he can easily do it on another day of the week.

Of course, if one is too busy to visit the sick during the week, he should surely go do it on Shabbos. (Sha’arei Teshuva Siman 287:1. He writes there that if one is extremely weak hearted and will become extremely distraught when seeing the Choleh’s condition, he should indeed not go on Shabbos, a day of pleasure (Oneg) where we avoid unnecessary pain (Tza’ar))

2) If one visited the sick person already in the weekday, he may go visit again on Shabbos, and doing so is in fact a great Mitzvah, as there is no limit to how many times Bikur Cholim can be fulfilled. (See Biur Halacha Siman 287:1)


1)On the Yom Tov of Sukkos, one who is tending to a sick person, even a Choleh Sh’Ein Bo Sakana, who is not in grave danger, is exempt from sitting in a Sukkah.

This is because he is engrossed in a Mitzvah, and is thus exempt from other Mitzvos at that time (Osek B’Mitzvah Patur Min HaMitzvah) (Shulchan Aruch Siman 640:3 and Mishna Berura S”K 7. See Bikurei Yaakov, Tosefes Bikurim Siman 640:22 for a different reasoning for this exemption)

Some opinions rule that this is only the case during the actual time that the Choleh needs his assistance, but not the entire time that he is at his bedside.(ibid.)

If two people are assisting the sick person and they aren’t both needed together, they should take turns and one should eat in the Sukkah while the other watches over the sick person and then switch places. (Mishna Berura Siman 640:10)

2) If the sick person is a Choleh Sh’Yesh Bo Sakana, and is in grave danger, the one assisting him is exempt from the Sukkah, according to everyone, the entire time he is at the bedside. (Mishna Berura Siman 640:11)

If the person attending to the sick person is getting paid for doing it, he is not halachically considered “Osek B’Mitzvah” and is not exempt from eating in the Sukkah. (Bikurei Yaakov ibid.)


Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh

1) It is prohibited to take payment for fulfilling Bikur Cholim [for a short visit whilst standing], as doing so is disrespecting the Mitzvah. (See Talmud Nedarim 39a and Shita MeKubetzes there)

Even if one [sits down and]stays for a little longer time than necessary to fulfill the Mitzvah, it is still prohibited to take payment, as we are concerned that he will end up taking payment for a subsequent short visit, which is prohibited.(See Ritva to Nedarim 39a)

2) However, if one sits down for a long visit with the sick person, he may indeed take payment as we consider it compensation for his time and efforts and not a payment for doing the Mitzvah, which could have been accomplished by standing at the bedside or sitting down for a short time. (See Rambam Hilchos Nedarim Perek 6:8 and Nimukei Yosef to Nedarim 39a)


1) If a sick person’s relatives or friends, or even a total stranger, spent money for his medical expenses (doctor, hospital, medicines etc.) he/she must compensate them for their costs, even if he/she did not specifically request of them to spend this money on his/her behalf.

2) The reason for this is because it is the accepted and praiseworthy custom when someone R”L falls ill and is unable to care of themselves that his/her family and friends come to his/her aid and do whatever is necessary to facilitate healing. (See Shu”t HaRosh Klal 85:2. See also Yad Ramah to Sanhedrin 73a Dibur Hamaschil Tanya Minayin)


1) A man may visit a woman that is sick and a woman may visit a man that is sick, as long as they aren’t alone in a way that they will Chas V’Shalom transgress the prohibition of Yichud. (See Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah Siman 335:4. Click Here for Halachos of Yichud.)

A man may, in most instances, assist a sick woman, even to lend her a hand to help her get up, lay down and similar assistance. (Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah Siman 335:5. See also Birchei Yosef Yoreh Deah Siman 335:10 why this is different than a man assisting his wife who is not well when she is a Niddah, where it is prohibited.)

However, if the woman is sick with abdominal issues and needs assistance using the restroom or cleaning herself after using the restroom, a man may not assist her as doing so  is improper and Pritzus (decadent behavior) and will lead to indecent thoughts or even Chas V’Shalom to the Yetzer Hara overpowering him to  act immorally. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:10 and Shach and Taz there. See also Maseches Semachos Perek 12 Halacha 10 and commentary of Nachlas Yaakov.)

2) A woman, however, may assist a sick man even with abdominal issues, as the Yetzer Hara of a woman to act immorally is weaker than a man’s.

Furthermore, if the man is sick his Yetzer Hara for immorality is weaker, and thus even if the woman would want to act improperly she cannot do so with him in a weakened state. (Shulchan Aruch ibid. See also Darchei Moshe Yoreh Deah 335 where he proves this from the Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 352:3. See also Birchei Yosef ibid. that for a man to have improper thoughts is worse in a sense than for a woman, as it may lead to Hashchosas Zera L’vatalah which is a terrible prohibition only applicable to men)


1) There is no minimum age for Bikur Cholim, and if children are ill it is a Mitzvah for adults to visit them and all aspects of fulfilling the Mitzvah apply. (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:2. See also Rashi Nedarim 39b Dibur Hamaschil V’Afilu Gadol Aitzel Katan.)

Likewise, it is a Mitzvah for someone of stature to visit a sick person of lesser stature (e.g. A Talmid Chacham visiting a less learned person), as when it comes to doing the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim one should not be concerned with his own Kavod, honor and say that it is beneath his dignity, as even the Gadol HaDor (Torah leader of the generation) is obligated to visit the smallest statured Jew when he is sick. (This is learned from the fact that Hashem Himself performed Bikur Cholim when Avraham Avinu was ill. See Shita Mekubetzes to Nedarim 39b and Prisha on the Tur Yoreh Deah Siman 335 Os 5. See also Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed Vol. 3 Perek 2. We do not apply the concept of “Zaken V’Aino LeFi Kevodo” as we find by Hashovas Aveida that a Talmid Chacham need not  return a lost object if by doing so his honor will be diminished. For the reasoning and more on this topic see Shita Mekubetzes ibid., Sefer Shalmei Nedarim to Nedarim 39b and Pachad Yitzchak, Igros, pages 57-60)

2) The Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim applies even to an infant who is ill even though he has no clue that he is being visited as well as to a Choleh who is unconscious or otherwise not aware of his/her surroundings, as the Mitzvah is to see the situation of the Choleh and determine if he needs anything, and this is possible even if the Choleh does not know he is being visited. (See Tur Yoreh Deah Siman 335:1


1) A Jew who intentionally denies and does not keep one [or more] of the Mitzvos of the Torah, but does so for his/her own pleasure or convenience and not for the purpose of rebelling against Hashem or angering Him (known in Halachic terms as a Mumar L’TeiaVon), is still considered a Jew as long as he/she believes in the thirteen fundamental principles of Judaism (The Yud Gimel Ikrim  written by the Rambam which can be found in its extensive version in his Pirush HaMishnayos  of the 10th Perek of Sanhedrin and in an abridged version in most siddurim following the morning prayers).

Thus, if the aforementioned Jew is sick it is a Mitzvah to visit him and all the Halachos of Bikur Cholim apply to him. (See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 251:1 and Rama Sif 2 that it is optional and not mandatory. However, see Biur HaGra there who rules that it is mandatory.)

2) However, if one intentionally denies even one Mitzvah in the Torah and does so with rebellious intentions (known in Halachic terms as Mumar L’Hachis), he is not considered a Jew and it is prohibited to visit him when he is sick or otherwise save his life. (Shulchan Aruch ibid. Sif 2; See Shach there Os 3 who rules that it is also prohibited to feed and financially support such a person)

If the person who is sick denies [at least one Mitzvah of] the Torah, but we aren’t sure if he does so rebelliously or out of lust, convenience or another personal pleasure, we can assume it’s the latter and we indeed should visit him. (See Pischei Teshuva Yoreh Deah Siman 251:1)





1) A Jew about who it is well known that he is an idol worshipper, Mechalel Shabbos publicly or a government informer [regarding other Jews], even if he does these things L’Teiavon, for his own pleasure, and not in a rebellious way, has lost his status as a Jew [as long as he doesn't do Teshuva] and no kindness, including Bikur Cholim, should be afforded him. (Chofetz Chaim in Sefer Ahavas Chesed Dinei Mitzvas Halva’ah Perek 3:3)

However, if it isn’t proven and is only rumored that one is in violation of one of the aforementioned sins, he retains his status as a full fledged Jew (until proven otherwise) and he must be visited when he is sick. (ibid.)

2) A Jew who is not religious and does not follow the laws of the Torah , but is living as such due to lack of proper Jewish education (referred to in Halacha as Tinok Shenishba, i.e. a child that was captured and raised by non Jews, and thus had no way of receiving a proper Jewish education) retains his status as a kosher Jew and must be visited when sick.

Most non religious Jews today fall under the aforementioned category and as such should be treated as our brothers and sisters , with warmth and compassion ,and gently influenced to see the beauty of Yiddishkeit and helped in their journey back to Torah true Judaism and closeness to our Father in heaven.

The main thing, of course, is to ensure that no Chilul Hashem results from any of our actions towards our non religious brethren, or any time. (See Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah Siman 2:16)


1) If there are two people in a city who are on their death beds, one of them is a righteous or average person (Tzadik, or a Beinoni) and the other one is an evil person (Rasha) and they both require someone to say Vidui with them before passing away, the Rasha takes precedence.

The reason for this is that the Rasha definitely transgressed sins for which there is no atonement besides death, and thus surely requires the Vidui in order for his death to facilitate atonement, while the Tzadik or Beinoni may have received Kapara via yesurim (physical or other earthly afflictions) or other methods while alive, and did not necessarily transgress any sins for which only death can atone. (See Hagahos Chochmas Shlomo from Rav Shlomo Kluger Zatzal to Yoreh Deah Siman 338:1)

2) Although there is no Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim to visit non Jewish sick people,  it is still the accepted custom  to visit them to avoid animosity (Mipnei Darchei Shalom) (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah Siman 335:9)


Halachos for Erev Shabbos Kodesh

1) If one has the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim to perform and also the Mitzvah of Nichum Aveilim (comforting a mourner), and he has the time to accomplish both, the Bikur Cholim should be done first, as tending to the needs of the sick person and davening for him/her  will “give life” to them. (See Shach Yoreh Deah Siman 335 S”K 11)

If, however, only one of the two can be performed, Nichum Aveilim takes precedence, as it is considered a kindness with both the living and the deceased. (See Rama Yoreh Deah Siman 335:10 and Rambam Hilchos Avel Perek 14:7. See commentary of Radvaz to the Rambam there where he seems to argue and maintains that Bikur Cholim should always take precedence, as abstaining from Bikur Cholim is tantamount to “spilling blood”)

2) If any one individual’s visit will have a special significance to the sick person (e.g. an extremely close friend or a dignitary or if the visitor brings with him food or medicine that will surely serve to improve the sick person’s situation.) then Bikur Cholim will take precedence in this instance over Nichum Aveilim, even if there is no time to accomplish both. (Aruch HaShulchan Yoreh Deah Siman 335:12)


1) Bikur Cholim is best done in person, as many of the aspects of Bikur Cholim can only be accomplished when one is physically in the presence of the Choleh.

However, if one cannot visit a sick person, there is still good reason to call them on the telephone to do Bikur Cholim, as certain aspects can still be accomplished from afar. (See Igros Moshe Yoreh Deah Vol. 1 Siman 223 and Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak Vol. 2 Siman 84)

2) The Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim applies even to sick people who are ill with a sickness that can be contagious. Of course the visitor should maintain some distance to avoid getting affected. (See Shu”t Rama Siman 20. See also Chofetz Chaim in Ahavas Chesed Bikur Cholim Perek 3 end of footnote Dibur Hamaschil Isa B’Nedarim that the zechus of the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim will protect him from becoming ill.)

If, however, the disease is highly contagious to the point that it is almost certain that any visitors will get affected (as is sometimes the case R”L that patients need to be isolated in a sterile room) there is no obligation to go and visit, as the Torah does not require one to put himself in clear danger to fulfill the Mitzvah. (See Mishna Berura Siman 329:19 where he writes that one shouldnt be overly cautious either.)

Of course, other aspects of Bikur Cholim that do not require physical contact (such as davening for them, calling them on the phone etc.) still apply.


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