R. Huna says: “One who visits the sick lessens one sixtieth of the illness.” (MidrashA rabbinic method of interpreting text, often through the telling of stories. Leviticus Rabba 34:1)
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have had to replace in-person bikkur holim (visiting the sick) to members of our communities with tele-visits.
How do we prepare ourselves to reach out to those who may be enduring maladies of body, mind and soul? How can we hope to replicate in-person visits when we cannot be physically present?
This ritual invites us to prepare ourselves for reaching out via phone or Zoom in a holy, intentional way, holding awareness that we are representatives of the Jewish community engaging in the mitzvahLit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed." of gemilut hasadimLit. acts of loving kindness. Often mentioned in reference to the famous Jewish saying, “On three things the world stands: on Torah, on Avodah, and on Gemilut Chasadim.” (Pirkei Avot 1:2), the offering of loving-kindness.
You will need:
- Candle (can be a battery-operated candle)
- Water for hand washing. If you are in an office and there is no access to water, use hand sanitizer.
- Essential oil or flowers (if you are not scent-sensitive) or a plant that you designate for the purpose of preparation for bikkur holim.
- Designate a word or phrase to chant or say in preparation, such as “Hineini” (I am present)
Ritual before making a Bikkur Holim call:
1. Wash/sanitize your hands as an indication of pure intention. Touch your lips as a reminder of the power of words and of your intention to listen more than you speak.
2. Light your candle as a separation from the ordinary so that you can hold the potential of holiness in this encounter.
3. Anoint your hands with a drop of essential oil. Make a scent tent with your hands and inhale for a few moments. And/Or touch your vase of flowers or plant as a way of focusing your intention on growing through this encounter.
4. Say or chant your word or intention/ preparation. Touch your earlobes for the intention of holy listening.
5. Be still. Hold a few moments of silence. Silently express your intention to bring your authentic self in holiness to this encounter.