Traditionally, prayer has been an integral part of a bikur cholim visit, with two main purposes:
- Comforting the sick
- Helping them experience, in a tangible way, a connection with the Jewish community
Jewish sources cite specific prayers to be offered at the bedside of the sick. The Shulchan Aruch (16th century Code of Jewish Law) prescribes prayers to be recited both with and for the patient. Including the prayer emphasizes the connection of the patient with the entire Jewish community, “May G-d have compassion upon you among the sick of Israel”. Even the simple “May G-d grant you a refuah shlemah” (full recovery) or even merely saying “shalom” can have the power to impart concern, caring, and a community connection.
Bikur cholim visitors and patients will feel varying degrees of comfort with prayer. Ask “May I say a Prayer?” “Would you like a prayer said for you? It is customary if you like.” If unfamiliar with the tradition, a patient may even become frightened or confused by such recitations; e.g. mistakenly assuming they mean that he/she is gravely ill or about to die. Since prayers delivered perfunctorily or self-consciously may not bring solace to a patient the visitor needs to know their own comfort level with prayer and let that be a guiding factor.
As is true with any aspect of bikur cholim, the true mitzvah lies not the recitation of prayer alone, but in the degree to which it is in tune with the patient’s needs.
This is often considered the most traditional prayer for one who is ill. It is usually recited during the Torah service at synagogue. Offering to say it at someone’s bedside is also very comforting and healing. The individual’s Hebrew name is often included in this blessing. The name is inserted in the blanks provided and it usually includes the person’s mother’s Hebrew name, as well.
May the One who blessed our forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and our foremothers Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, bless and heal this person, ____________ the son/daughter of ____________. May the Holy One, blessed be God, be merciful and strengthen and heal him/her. Grant him/her a complete and speedy recovery—healing of body and healing of soul. And let us say: Amen.
Prayer for Healing
God of wholeness,
God of healing,
Hear our words,
Accept our prayers; Send a special blessing
To (name) son/daughter of
among all those of Your children
who are in need of
Your healing blessing.Rebbi Nachman of Breslov, 18th Century Jewish Mystic
Prayer for the visitor
Prayer can be used to gather our strength and to focus before or after a visit.
Blessing for Bikkur Cholim Volunteers
An original prayer composed for the closing the 14th Annual Bikur Cholim Conference, NYC, by Rabbi Sara O’Donnell Adler, MetroWest Jewish Health and Healing Center. November 18, 2001
Eloheinu V’Elohei Avoteinu V’Imoteinu,
God of our ancestors,
We are grateful to You for having given us
The opportunity to gather today in peace and safety–
To explore, share and nurture our ideas and our dreams
Of caring for a broken world.
We thank You for wisdom, for the experiences of others,
And for the anticipation of greeting new challenges.
We thank You for giving us the mitzvah of bikkur cholim,
For giving us hands for reaching and hearts for listening.
We thank You for giving us eyes that gaze into others’ souls,
And we thank You for the presence of Your Shechinah
That hovers in the many places we visit.
Elohei HaShamayim, Most High G-d,
Shine forth Your blessing to the community
Of caregivers gathered here today.
Give us courage and renewed energy
During these challenging times
To do our holy work of caring in good faith.
Make us worthy to look upon every sufferer
With clear eyes and open hearts. May we be
Agents of compassion, representatives of hope,
Messengers of laughter and light.
May our own lives be blessed with wellness and security
So that we may continue to bring to others the gift of ourselves.
And let us say: Amen.
We offer these several prayers from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov to inspire you as you continue to search your heart for effective means of communicating.
G-d of wisdom,
Teach me the right words.
Teach me the very words
That will touch the hearts
And souls of others.
When a friend needs
My understanding ear,
Teach me the words to say
That will strengthen,
That will encourage,
That will express
Only my love
And concernRebbe Nachman of Breslov, 18th Century Jewish Mystic
Teach me, Dear G-d,
The most effective words
Are no words at all.
Teach me how and when
With that most potent gift
Of silenceRebbe Nachman of Breslov, 18th Century Jewish Mystic
Jewish tradition offers guidelines for Bikur Cholim
Please contact us at 212.632.4730 or BikurCholimCC@jbfcs.org if we can assist you or your group in better performing the mitzvah of bikur cholim. There are also many meaningful opportunities locally for visitors or volunteers throughout the service programs of The Jewish Board.