Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.
The man woke from his sleep at the sounds of movement around him. I’ll call him Louis. In a moment, he realized he was in a hospital bed and he remembered his wife’s unexpected call for an ambulance the night before. A nurse’s assistant introduced himself and then took Louis’s blood pressure.
Louis asked when his doctor would be coming in to see him. The man replied, “That will cost you $50 for me to answer.” He smiled and the both of them shared a laugh. He was joking with him and it worked – the tension for Louis of being in a strange bed and being prodded and poked was considerably lifted with this note of levity. Later, when Louis asked for a pitcher of water, the nurse’s assistant got it for him. “Isn’t that going to cost me $50?” Louis asked. “No,” he replied. “For basic needs it’s free.”
The power of humor and joy can go a long way in helping an ill person feel better and making a real contribution to the cure. Literature for an upcoming conference in Manhattan called “The Joyful Heart – Bikur Cholim Tools to Uplift the Spirit” states that “Jewish wisdom teaches us that there are many pathways to healing that can have a profound impact on those we visit. Among these pathways is joy.”
The conference, sponsored by the Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services (JBFCS), will explore the role of humor and joy in coping with adversity, along with how-to applications and information on how these tools offer healing for both the visitor and the one being visited.
Two powerful advocates for this approach are Maimonides and Rabbi Nachman of Breslev.
“One should strengthen the patient’s physical vitality with nourishing food,” wrote Maimonides, “and spiritual powers with fragrant scents, music, by telling happy stories that expand the heart, and by distracting the mind with things that cause them and their friends to laugh.”
Rabbi Nachman said, “The mitzvah of visiting the sick is to show the patient a (smiling) face of radiant kindness. Rather than staying buried in our own homes and hiding our faces, we must visit, attend to their needs and speak to their heart.”
One way of speaking to the heart of ill individuals is to make a connection with them where they are willing to put aside thinking of their illness and instead focus on the happy and interesting stories and conversation you are providing, along with well-placed humor. I will be giving a talk at the conference on “Filling in the Gaps – Visiting with Seniors,” in which I will discuss meaningful interactions with people suffering from dementia and age-related memory loss.
I use anecdotes, role-playing and readings from my plays to help people identify better strategies in working and connecting with people who seem hard to reach. I will attempt – when reading and discussing excerpts from my play “Where Am I?” – to show how a 90-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s and a young caregiver end up, through empathetic listening, helping each other.
Other workshops at the conference include “Constructing an Effective Synagogue Visiting Program,” “Basics of Mitzvah Clowning,” “Shame and Illness – How does the Visitor Respond?” and “Using the Telephone for Visiting.” Morning and afternoon speakers are Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, a leader in the Jewish healing movement, and Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, author of Up, Up and Oy Vey.
Two humor resources people can use in making bikur cholim visits or phone calls are the books Jewish Humor: What the Best Jewish Jokes Say About the Jews by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin and The Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor – From Biblical Times to the Modern Age by Henry D. Spalding.
For more information on JBFCS’s 23rd Annual Conference on Visiting the Sick, which will be held Sunday, November 14 from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at UJA-Federation of New York, 130 E. 59th St., New York, contact Rechel Schoenfeld at 212-632-4730 or email@example.com. The cost is $36 with some reductions offered. Breakfast and lunch (OU certification) will be served. My workshop is from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bikur Cholim of Boro Park offers an ongoing free leisure program that deals with the specific needs of men who are Holocaust survivors. “The Afternoon Chevra” is for retired men and meets on Monday afternoons at 1:30 at Sara Schenirer Hall, 4622 14th Avenue. It is wheelchair accessible. One of the goals of the program is to get to know the people of the community and offer assistance in other aspects of their lives. For more information, contact Rabbi Baruch Krupnik at 718-249-3415.
A Daf Yomi shiur open to the community is given by Rabbi Chaskel Scharf at Scharf’s Ateret Avot Senior Residence, 1410 E. 10th Street, Midwood, Brooklyn. It meets at 2:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and 11:15 a.m. on Friday. Call 718-998-5400 for more information.
There is a Mah-jongg class that meets at the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, 78-02 Bay Parkway, on Thursdays from noon to 2:45 p.m. For more information on this free group for people 60 or over, call Diane or Lisa at 718-943-6311. A Tai-Chi, stress releasing stretching class, is also offered on Wednesdays from 2-3 p.m. (Free; call before coming.)
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
As optimistic as Menachem Rosenberg is – and he said he is going to Uman – he’s sure that this year, most of the travelers will not tour other religious sites or places in Ukraine.
Three sets of three-day Yomim Tovim can seem overwhelming – especially when we are trying to stay healthy.
Is a missed opportunity to do a mitzvah considered a sin?
Everyone has a weakness. For some people it is the inability to walk past a sales rack without dropping a few hundred dollars. For others, it’s the inability to keep their house organized.
Not enjoying saying no, I often succumbed to requests viewing them as demands I couldn’t refuse.
His entire life was dedicated to Torah and he became a pivotal figure in the transmittal of the Oral Torah to the next generation.
When you don’t have anyone else to turn to… that’s when you’re tied to Hashem the closest.
While we all go to restaurants for a good meal, it is dessert, that final taste that lingers in your mouth, that is the crown jewel of any dining experience and Six Thirteen’s offerings did not disappoint.
Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.
There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.
In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.
The simple act of kindness should be the reward itself. Anything more in the form of a reward is gravy.
Patience seems to be in such short supply these days, yet it can make a world of difference. This is particularly so in certain kinds of stressful situations whereby we think we only have time to act in a knee-jerk way instead of acting thoughtfully.
I recently heard a Pirkei Avos shiur in which the speaker said that our spiritual DNA derives from our patriarchs and matriarchs. The great tests they withstood and for which they gained ever greater prominence was witnessed by the Jews who followed them, many of whom succeeded in overcoming great challenges as well. It seems that an individual’s great effort helps the spiritual strength kick in.
The first and only time I said I was a rabbi was also the first and only time I had a gun pointed at me. What led me to that moment was my need to stay on the Upper West Side for a Shabbos and a hospitality committee that arranged for me to stay with a man who lived in the former janitor’s apartment on the fifth floor of a synagogue.
It is very important for Jews to first help family, then other Jews close to us, then Jews not as close. Next, if possible and appropriate, Jews should help those of any race or creed.
The five-year-old boy was in a church in Puerto Rico with his parents. As they and his grandparents were Catholics, that made him Catholic – as far as his young mind could figure.
I was preparing a shiur to honor the memory of my father, Paul Magill, a”h, on the 20th anniversary of his passing, and I was looking at that week’s sedrah, Parshas Re’eh. I was struck by the words, “See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing: that you hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, that I command you today. And the curse: if you do not hearken to the commandments of Hashem, your God, and you stray from the path that I command you today, to follow gods of others, that you did not know.”
Feeling more alone than at any time since arriving in New York, I looked inside myself for anything that could anchor me to bring me back to who I was, to move away from illusions of romance to my central sticking point. Suddenly and unexpectedly, being a Jew meant more to me than anything else in the world.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/the-power-of-joy-in-bikur-cholim/2010/11/03/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: