Archive for the ‘Bikkur Cholim/Visiting the Sick’ Category

Visit the Sick—For Your Own Good: Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim

As we continue on our path along Eilu D’varim – the obligations without measure, we find these responsibilities becoming increasingly more challenging. This month we explore Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim which can be a difficult mitzvah to perform. Certainly bringing a pot of soup, a few magazines or a potted plant to someone who has a cold or who may have a broken arm is simple enough. However, what happens when someone is seriously ill and needs much more time and attention? What happens when an illness strikes that requires weeks of dinners, assistance with doctor visits and perhaps some in-home care as well?

Such was the case a few years ago when I was diagnosed with a meningioma (a tumor located on the brain) and required immediate surgery.  Needless to say, neither I nor my family was expecting such a sudden medical crisis. Fortunately, I had a large community of family, friends and colleagues- even people I did not know-willing to help us out with everything from cooking meals to sitting with me in the hospital to sending cards, books and letters of encouragement. My Temple’s Caring Community brought a hand-knit “Healing Shawl” which I still put on occasionally when I feel the need.  As my family and I focused on getting me well, our everyday worries, like getting dinner ready, were taken care of by people we knew and trusted. While I did my best to say thanks to everyone who helped us during those stressful days, there will never be enough words. My family and I try our best to “pay it forward” by helping out whenever we hear of someone in need. The soup pot starts boiling, the cookies begin baking, and we sign up for a dinner.

The following books can be helpful as you and your family explores the mitzvah of Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Written by Philip C. Stead. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead, ©2010. Roaring Brook Press.  Ages 3-6.  In this exquisite, Caldecott Award winning book, Amos McGee, a fabulous zookeeper, arrives on time every day to take care of all the wonderful animals. He makes sure to drop by his particular friends to make sure they receive some special attention. However, one morning he wakes up sick and does not come to work. That day, Amos receives some special attention of his own.

The Sniffles for Bear. Written By Bonny Becker. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, © 2011. Candlewick Press. Ages 3-6. Certain that “no one had ever been as sick as he,” Bear awaits his end. Even a visit from his overly cheerful friend mouse cannot sem to turn the tide, until while writing his will…

Say Hello, Lily. Written by Deborah Lakritz.  Illustrated By Martha Avilés, ©2010. Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 5-8.  Lily wants to go with her mom to visit her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Rosenbaum, who has just moved into Shalom House, the local nursing home. However, when Lily walks into the lobby, she is overwhelmed by the number of new faces who all want to get to know her at the same time. She suddenly turns very shy. It does not take too many visits before she learns everyone’s names and stories. Soon she has a surprise for all her new friends.

The Princess of Borscht. Written by Leda Schubert. Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen, ©2011. Roraring Brook Press. Ages5-8. Ruthie’s grandma is in the hospital. When Ruthie goes to visit, Grandma tells her that the hospital food is terrible. Ruthie hears that if her grandmother does not get a bowl of borscht by 5:00 PM she is going to die of starvation.  Ruthie has never made borscht, so she seeks out the neighbors’ help. The result is hilarious, think Top Chef meets Nickelodeon.

Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold. Written By Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard, © 2002. Harcourt, Inc. Ages 7-10. Mr. Putter catches a cold when he goes outside on a wintery day without his hat.  With the help of his friendly neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry and her wonderful dog Zeke, it turns out to be the best cold Mr. Potter ever caught.


The Lemonade Club. Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, © 2007. Philomel Books. Ages 8-11.  “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is the motto of Miss Wichelman’s fifth-grade class. Make sure you have your tissue boxes on hand as you read this true-life story about friends helping friends through some difficult times.

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie. Written by Jordan Sonnenblick, © 2004. Scholastic Press, Inc. Ages 10-15. Steven is a fairly normal 13-year-old boy in middle school. He is a gifted jazz drummer, dreams about the prettiest girl in school and gets decent grades. Until his 5-year-old brother is diagnosed with leukemia and his entire life is turned upside down.

Fever, 1793. Written by Laurie Halse Anderson, © 2000. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 12-16. When a yellow fever epidemic hits Philadelphia, Matilda Cook finds herself alone in having to face a city in terror. Based on real events.

God is in the Pancakes. Written by Robin Epstein, © 2010. Dial Books. Ages 14 -18. Fifteen-year-old Grace Manning loves being a candy striper at her local nursing home. She especially loves assisting her patient Mr. Sands, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. They joke around as he teaches her to play and cheat at poker. Then one day he asks her to “help him die.”

As you read these books, discuss them with your children using the “Speak Volumes” guide. The questions and activities will provide you with many opportunities to become comfortable with Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim in a variety of settings. Whether you find you are most at ease in the home of an ailing friend, in a nursing home visiting an elderly relative or in the trauma ward of your local hospital, Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim is an important mitzvah/good deed that plays a significant role in repairing the world. Find where you are most comfortable and make a visit. It will do you and those you visit a world of good.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2012 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from publishers as review copies, my personal collection and my local public library.
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