Bikkur Cholim

Caring for the sick

“Visiting the sick has no limits – even the great must visit the humble, even one hundred times a day. Talmud Nedarim 39b

Bikkur Cholim is one of the most important obligations in Judaism and our daily prayers include this mitzvah as one which promises continued reward. It implies the value of actively caring for another person, as opposed merely to the intention to care.

The physical consequences of STIs can range from irritating such as, itchiness or sores, to devastating such as, infertility or death. The Jewish community needs to be aware of the illnesses that exist and their symptoms so that we can help and heal people who suffer from them. Just to treat our community is not enough, we must learn to be non-judgmental in our treatment and to accept that we all lead differing lives but we are still from the same Jewish family.

Often the consequences of STIs reach not only to the person who contracts them or their partner, but also to their family and friends. Bikkur Cholim here would be supporting those close to the person who is suffering from an STI so that they will have the strength to do their work.

HIV/AIDS can be a particularly isolating condition. Too often it is accompanied by a physical, emotional and social rejection – by families, friends and colleagues. People can also be rejected by a family’s denial that a person has HIV/AIDS or by the difficulty they experience in speaking about it. Sometimes, if they feel scared or ashamed to speak about their condition, people with HIV/AIDS will isolate themselves. This social and emotional isolation is further increased by the person’s physical helplessness, reduced control over their own body, and by a loss of hope.

All of these factors can combine to create a physical and emotional environment in which Bikkur Cholim – actively caring for people, physically, emotionally and socially, may be the most significant act of intervention from which a person with HIV/AIDS can benefit. When others care for a person living with HIV/AIDS it will generate feelings of stability and safety for them. For that person, as well as their family members and friends the dependability on others who support them can often be of vital importance.

When we do Bikkur Cholim we demonstrate that HIV/AIDS has not isolated a person from the circle of their own community. We demonstrate clearly that we will not allow a person with HIV/AIDS to feel ostracised from our community and that we hold them as close to our hearts as any other member of our community. This manifestation of Bikkur Cholim, at a high level fulfils our obligation as individuals and as the Jewish people to imitate G-d in his caring and compassionate nature.

The mitzvah of Bikkur Cholim obligates the community to take care of the worldly concerns of the patient and to provide essential peace of mind.” – Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah 335

As with all mitzvot, Bikkur Cholim is not only a one-off good deed. The true reward for performing any mitzvah is the opportunity to do another. For the person with HIV/AIDS, the ability to rely on Bikkur Cholim as a continuing example of Jewish activism can result in them having a healing sense of belonging to a unique and loving family: Am Kedushah, the holy Jewish people.

How does JAT do Bikkur Cholim?

  • We support people living with STIs in the UK Jewish community
  • We give financial, social, emotional and practical support to people living specifically with HIV/AIDS
  • We are on the end of a phone for anyone who needs help, with where to go or what to do

How can you do Bikkur Cholim?

  • You can support us in our work by fundraising
  • You can gain knowledge and raise your own and other people’s awareness of STIs
  • You can protect yourself with knowledge so that you, your friends and family can be safe