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Gesher Hachaim: The Laws of Visiting the Sick

The 25th of Tevet is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yechiel Michel Tukatchinsky [Tikochinsky], mashgiach of Slabodka in Bnai Brak, and founder of Yeshivas Mekor Chaim in Yerushalayim.

In 1925, he published a sefer called Tekufas Hachamoh Uvirchosoh, in preparation for the bracha made when the sun returns to the point at which it began upon Creation.

He wrote a sefer called Bein Hashmoshos, published in 1929, which dealt with the International Date Line. In 1941, he changed his mind altogether, as documented in his sefer, Hayomam Bekadur Haaretz.

In his classic work Gesher HaChaim, he wrote that everyone should write an ethical will in addition to writing a will concerning how to distribute one’s assets after death.

The Mitzvah of visiting the ill is a great Mitzvah. Rabbeinu Yonah holds that it is a Biblical Mitzvah. The Rambam (Hilchot Eivel, Chapter 14) holds that it is Rabbinic.

It is certainly hinted at in the verse, “You shall make known to them the path in which they should walk,” this is the Mitzvah of visiting the sick. (Bava Kamma 100a, Bava Metzia 30b) Rabbi Chama bar Chaninah said, “You shall walk after God,” just as God visits the sick, so shall you visit the sick. (Sotah 14a)

It is one of the six Mitzvot that a person eats the fruit of his reward in this world, but the reward remains full in the World to Come. (Shabbat 127a)

There are two aspects to the Mitzvah: 1) A person must find out what the sick person needs and do all he can to help, and 2) to pray for the person who is suffering.

The Shelah Hakodesh teaches that this is a Mitzvah we can keep with body body – taking care of physical needs – and soul – prayer.

The Ma’avor Yabok explains that we call this Mitzvah “Bikkur,” which means to examine, for we must carefully look and see to all his needs.

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