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Clearly, the three things one should do for the sick – attending to their needs, showing that friends care and praying on their behalf – are best done through personal visits. Seeing your friend in pain motivates you to come to his assistance more than just hearing about it. Sometimes, however, personal visits are not possible, either because of the nature of the sickness or the inability of the visitor to get to the patient. In such cases, the next best thing is to call on the telephone or to visit by video hook-up.
According to the Ran there are certain situations in which one may pray for mercy that the sick person should die. Such is the case when there is no medical possibility of survival and the pain of the continued struggle is unbearable. Of course, halacha forbids any other action or omission to precipitate death. Such prayers for relief by death should not be offered by family members or those tending to the sick, but rather by friends.
When visiting the sick one should dress with respect, as one would when entering a synagogue. This is because, according to the Talmud, the Divine Presence resides with and sustains the sick.
When taking leave of the sick on a weekday, one should say, “Hamakom yerachem alecha betoch cholei Yisrael” – “God should have mercy on you together with the other sick persons of Israel.” And on Shabbat one should bid farewell with the words, “Shabbat he milizock urefuah kerovah lavo,” which means “Shabbat should afford you a respite from crying out in pain and you shall soon be healed.”
At the end of his visits, Dad would bend over Mr. Lizzack and with deep concentration would say, “Good Shabbos, Mr. Lizzack” – at least that is what I thought he said until, years later, I came across this passage in Talmud Shabbat. Now, I realize that in fact Dad was saying, “Shabbat he milizok.”
About the Author: Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.
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