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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Bikur Cholim on Shabbos

By Rabbi Sender Haber

The ???? in ??? ?? writes that it was with difficulty that we were permitted to do the ???? of ???? ????? on ???. Bikur Cholim is usually translated as ‘visiting the sick, but it is probably more accurately described as an ’inspection of the sick’ - making sure that all of his or her needs are taken care of (i.e. the house is clean).

The ???? quotes a ??????:
??? ??? ??? ????? ?? ????? ???? ???? ??? ????? ?? ?????? ??? ?????? ?? ???????? ???? ??? ?? ?????? ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ???? ?????? ????? ???? ?????? ????? ???? ???? ??? ???? ???? ??? ??????:

Rashi explains that ??? ????’s concern was ???. The Torah says ????? ???? ????: ????? ???? ??? ????. We are commanded not to cause ourselves anguish on ???, and ??? ???? was concerned that by visiting a sick person or a mourner we will be driven to tears: “???? ?????? ?? ????????”. (Of course none of this would apply to ???? ??? ?? ????; in cases such as these it would even be permissible to be ???? ??? for ????? ?????).

An alternate but similar explanation is that given by ???? ????? and the ??”?. We are told in the ??????? that we are to stay away from ?????? which involve personal requests on ???. In fact the reason why we do not say ????? on ??? is so that we will not be driven to sad thoughts and tears. These ?????? write that the issue of Bikur Cholim on Shabbos involves not only ???, but ???? as well.

We are concerned that upon encountering a situation such as a ???? or an ??? we will be driven to worry excessively and with tears.

The ???? continues with some practical guidelines:
??? ???? ????? ???? ?? ????? ???? “??? ??? ????? ?????? ????? ???” ???? ???? ???? ????? ??? ?????
???? ??? ??????? ??????? ???? ???? ???????? ???? “??? ??? ????? ?????? ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ????? ?????”

We are advised to announce, to ourselves and to the sick, that today is Shabbos and we may not daven for a ????. At the same time we remind the ???? that a cure will come soon. Furthermore, the cure may come as a reward for honoring the ??? and not showing excessive ??? or ????. It would appear that ???? is merely expanding on the words of the ??? ???.
In summary, ??”? and possibly the ??”?, are telling us that the prohibition of ???? ????? on ??? is because of the pain it causes and that this prohibition can be avoided by replacing the regular “????? ?????” with “??? ??? ????? ?????? ????? ???”.

This approach seems problematic when seen within the context of the original ?????? between ??? ??? and ??? ????. The ??????  began: ??? ?????? ?? ???????? ???? ??? ?? ?????? ????? ??? ?????? ??????. These are hardly examples of situations that would be prohibited because of ???.  In fact ??”?  himself writes that the prohibition in question was ???? ????? ???? ???, dealing with mundane issues on Shabbos. Since these are situations that involve financial arrangements ??? ???? held that they should not be done on ???. ??? ??? argued on the basis that these were not mundane matters but holy ones. It would follow that the next part of the ??????: “???? ?????? ????? ???? ?????? ????? ????” would be regarding a concern for weekday activities and not regarding an entirely different issue of ???.

In short: ??”? writes that the concern with ???? ????? is one of ???, while logic would dictate that it is more an issues of ???? ????? ???? ???. (Based on the order of the Rashi’s it is possible that Rashi’s version of the Braisa was not exactly the same as our version).

Indeed the ???”? writes in ??? ?”?:
?? ????? ??? ?????? ????, ?? ?? ?? ????? ????? ??????, ????? ?????? ???? ?????; ????? ?? ?????--???? ????? “?? ???? ???? ????, ???? ????? ???? ?????”, ????? “??????? ????? ?????, ????? ???? ???? ???”.  ????? ???? ???? ???? ?????? ????, ?????? ???? ???, ???? ????? ?? ????? ?? ????? ???? ?? ?? ????, ?? ???? ???? ??? ??, ???? ?? ????? ??? ????? ?????--?? ?? ?????? ??, ????:  ????? “???? ???”, ????? ????; ?????? ????.
He continues a few paragraphs later:
???? ???? ???? ???? ????, ???? ????? ???? ?????, ?? ???? ?????; ??????? ??????? ?? ????, ??????? ????? ?? ????, ???? ???? ???? ?? ?? ??????, ?? ??? ???? ?? ???? ?????.  ??????? ???? ??????.  ??????? ???? ??????? ????? ??????, ?????? ???????? ??????? ?? ?????, ???? ?? ???? ???? ????.  ??????? ?? ??????? ????, ??? ?????? ????? ??? ?????? ??????.  ??????? ?????, ??????? ??????; ?????? ???? ?? ?????, ???? ??? ??? ??????, ?????? ????? ????.

Clearly, the Rambam is taking the ?????? at face value and understanding that the issue was not one of ??? at all but rather of ????? ?????. This issue can be avoided by differentiating with our words and mentioning that the day is Shabbos and that our ???? ????? is being done in a ???’???? way.

This can be taken one step further by explaining that the ???”? and ??”? argue about whether there is an actual ???? of ???? ?????.

According to ??”?, ???? ????? is a biblical commandment to follow Hashem’s example. We learn it from the ???? of “????? ??????”. This could hardly be included in “??????? ????? ?????, ????? ???? ???? ???” . ???? ????? cannot be ?????, because it is done to emulate Hashem – it is ???? ????.

According to the ???”?, Bikur Cholim is just another form of ????? ???? ????. It is the ‘care and maintenance’ of a fellow Jew. It is quite conceivable that it might not be appropriate on Shabbos. (Taken a step further, the Rambam may agree that on Shabbos the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim does take on the understanding of “????? ??????”. It still would not be a Mitzvah.)

We are left with several Halachic points:

1. The ????? ???? rules that one may visit he sick on Shabbos but they must say “??? ??? ????? ?????? ????? ??? ?????? ?????? ????? ?????”. The ??”? points out that our ???? is like the ???”? to say only “??? ??? ????? ?????? ????? ???”. (The ??”?, like Rashi, understood that ???? was elaborating on the words of the ?”? and that the aim was to comfort everyone involved. The Rambam was only concerned with differentiating between Shabbos and Chol and thus was not particular about the words added by ????. On the contrary, the fact that ???? did not make his statement until he left, indicate the he was not concerned with the prohibition of ???? ?????. (Gra))

2. The ??”? ??? writes that while we may say a ????? for ????? on ???, it is proper to substitute the regular words with the words “??? ??? ????? ?????? ????? ???”. This is the Minhag in Chabad. It is our minhag to use both the words ????? ???? and the words “??? ??? ?????...”. (The Aruch Hashulchan commnts on the incongruity of this minhag, although according to Rashi’s understanding of the word ?????, the contradiction is not so blatant). The only exception to this ???? ??? ????? where customs differ (based on Tosfos and the Mateh Efraim).

3.If at all possible we should not put off visiting a sick person until Shabbos if we can do it during the week.

4.We do not visit mourners on Shabbos, although it is the minhag among many ?????? in ??????? to do so.

5. It is unclear whether we should replace the regular ????? ????… with “??? ??? ????? ????? ????? ??? “. Our Minhag is to replace the wording (although many have the practice of condolence in shul on Shabbos day). As a congregation we do not console the ??? after ????? ??? ???? ????.

One question remains: What is so terrible about praying for a ????? on ???? The ?????? ???? explains that during the week we come close to Hashem by sharing with Him our innermost feelings, worries, and desires. Three times a day we actually talk to Hashem and articulate these issues that are on our minds. This signifies a very close relationship between man and G-d, just as it would between two people or a husband and wife.  On Shabbos we come even closer: we no longer need to articulate our thoughts because Hashem knows what our issues are. we can skip the process of requesting things from Hashem. To beg for mercy on Shabbos is an offense to this close relationship, just as it would be in human one. When we see a person in need on Shabbos we don’t need to pray for him, we simply remind him – and ourselves – that Hashem is in tune with all of our desires. By honoring Shabbos in this way we strengthen his and our relationship with Hashem; Hashem in turn anticipates our needs and fills them. This is the most effective form of Bikur Cholim and another step on the path toward recovery.
???? ???? ???? ????? ??? ?????

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