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Vayeira 5772

Vayeira (Genesis 18-22 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Have you ever fantasized on being a hero by saving someone's life?  Ever imagined running into a burning building to save a child or diving into a river to rescue a drowning person?  Chances are that in most of our lifetimes we'll never be presented with one of those situations.  However, there is a way that you can possibly help save someone's life -- visit a sick person!

One may scoff that visiting a sick person can possibly save a life.  Nonetheless, a person who doesn't have visitors may lack the necessary care required to get well or may feel depressed that no one cares.  Not getting proper food, medicine or attention will hinder a person getting better; the sick person's attitude and optimism also impacts the healing process.

The Talmud (Sotah 14a) tells us that we learn the obligation to visit the sick from the commandment to emulate the Almighty.  Just as the Almighty visited Avraham on the third day following his circumcision, we must visit the sick.  Even though everything is dependent on God's will, we must do our part to aid a sick person and alleviate his suffering.  If we do so, it is considered as if we have saved his life (Sefer Hayoshor, ch. 13).

The Shulchan Aruch, Code of Jewish Law, teaches that it is an obligation to visit the sick (Yorah Daiah 335:1).  The great sage, the Chofetz Chaim, wrote that visiting the sick may be a matter of life and death.  By visiting a person who is ill, you might be able to advise him of a doctor to consult or a medicine that might be worth investigating.

It is especially important to visit a sick person who has no one else to take care of him.  Similarly, it is important to take care of an out-of-town visitor who has taken ill.  It is incumbent upon every Jewish community to have a Bikur Cholim society -- an organization to care and look out for the sick.

The Shulchan Aruch actually sets out that close friends and relatives should visit someone as soon as he becomes ill; others should wait until three days have passed.  If, however, the person is ill, even the latter should come to visit him immediately (Yorah Daiah 335:1).  If you can't visit, then at least you should call him.

It is preferable not to visit a sick person the first and last three hours of the day.  If, however, you find this difficult, you may visit him any time during the day as long as it is convenient for the person (Yorah Daiah 335:4).

There is no limit to the number of times you should visit someone who is ill.  It is beneficial to visit as often as possible if your visits are welcomed and will not be a burden to the patient or cause discomfort.

It is important that the sick person enjoy the visit, so one should discuss cheerful topics.  One can easily appreciate that talking about other people's illnesses, operations and deaths would be less than cheerful.

Think about what would bring joy to the sick person -- a tasty treat, a book, a game, an article he'd enjoy.  Make sure that his room is neat and clean.  The illustrious Rabbi Akiva visited a disciple and found the room in need of cleaning; he scrubbed the floors himself.  The student attributed Rabbi Akiva's visit to saving his life!

An essential part of visiting the sick is to pray for the person's recovery.  Rabbi Yosef Karo, the redactor of the Shulchan Aruch actually writes (Yorah Daiah 335) that one does not fulfill the mitzvah of visiting the sick if he does not also pray for the person's recovery.  It is a mitzvah to get others to pray for a sick person.  You can send your prayer requests to to have a group of 2,200 pray for someone!

There is one last benefit of your visit to a sick person.  In visiting the sick, you may see how fragile and short is your own life. You may then make changes: exercising and eating more healthfully -- and in the spiritual realm: examining your own deeds and character traits and correcting them.  The merit of these changes tremendously benefits the sick person.

(adapted from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin's Love Your Neighbor)


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Torah Portion of the Week

Avraham, on the third day after his brit mila, sits outside his tent looking for guests to extend his hospitality.  While talking with the Almighty, he sees three visitors (actually angels of the Almighty).  Avraham interrupts his conversation with the Almighty to invite them to a meal.  One angel informs him that in a year's time, Sarah, his wife, will give birth to a son, Yitzhak (Isaac).

God tells Avraham that He is going to destroy Sodom because of its absolute evil (the city is the source of the word sodomy).  Avraham argues with God to spare Sodom if there can be found ten righteous people in Sodom.  Avraham loses for the lack of a quorum.  Lot escapes the destruction with his two daughters.

Other incidents: Avimelech, King of the Philistines, wants to marry Sarah (Avraham's wife), the birth of Yitzhak, the eviction of Hagar (Avraham's concubine) and Ishmael.  Avimelech and Avraham make a treaty at Beersheva.  Avraham is commanded to take up his son, Isaac, as an offering "on one of the mountains" (Akeidat Yitzhak).  Lastly, the announcement of the birth of Rivka (Rebecca), the future wife of Yitzhak.

Do you want to know the reward for listening to the command of the Almighty?  This is what the Almighty told Avraham: "... I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your descendants like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy.  And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice."

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And (Avraham) lifted up his eyes and he saw.  And behold three men were standing near him and he saw and he ran to greet them from the entrance of the tent" (Genesis 18:2).

From verse 2 until verse 8, the Torah details each specific act of Avraham's hospitality towards his guests -- "he lifted up his eyes," "he saw," "he ran to greet them."  Why does the Torah spend seven verses describing the details of Avraham's kindness?

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz commented on this with an analogy.  When a person inherits a house, he will usually just say, "I have a house."  He will not elaborate on all of the details since he received everything at one time.  However, a person who builds a house for himself will talk about every detail from the beginning until the end.  He will describe how he purchased the land for the site of the house, how he bought the material that went into building the house, and so on.  Each aspect is very dear to him.  The more effort he put into the house, the more he will talk about it.

Similarly, said Rav Yeruchem, the actions and behavior of the righteous are like a building.  With each action, a righteous person is building a great edifice.  For this reason, the Torah tells us about each detail of Avraham's chesed (kindness).  Every movement was another stage in the building of a righteous person.

When you view yourself as building a great person, every detail of what you do is invested with meaning and importance.  Every positive action you do is creating a great human being.  Keep this in mind when you do an act of kindness for others.  Every movement you make is a necessary part of the entire construction. Don't wait for the end to appreciate what you are doing.  Rather, feel the joy of growth in even the smallest act of kindness that you do.


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With Deep Appreciation to

Jerry & Helen Stern

Portland, Ore.



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