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    “Vayeira eilov HaShem….”

    “HaShem appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, while he was sitting at the entrance of the tent…”

    (Bereishis 18:1)

    This week’s parshah, Vayeira, opens with Avraham Avinu, our Father Abraham, recuperating from his bris milah.

    “HaShem appeared to him… he was sitting at the entrance of the tent”. Avraham Avinu, patriarch of the Jewish people, isn’t mentioned by name, but by the terms “him” and “he”. My mother, the Rebbetzin a”h, shared an insightful dvar Torah, as to why this is so.

    Perhaps, if Avraham’s name was recorded, we might erroneously conclude that only the “Avrahams” of the world, the tzadikim, the righteous ones, the leaders, the VIPs, and the influential personalities amongst us, are deemed worthy of a bikur cholim visit. But the Torah tells us that HaShem appeared to him, for each and every one of us is created betzelem Elokim, in the image of G-d, and deserving of a get-well visit, if needed.

    It was a Tuesday morning. I was teaching Parshas Vayeira to a most wonderful group of women. Women who became true chavrusos, Torah study partners and friends.

    I shared the dvar Torah as to why Avraham’s name was missing from the opening passage of the parshah. “There are many ‘Mr. Anonymous’ in the world, lonely people in need of a get-well visit,” I told them. Karen, one of the women quietly called out “My husband is a ‘Mr. Anonymous’. He could use a visit. He is quite ill and wheelchair-bound. He doesn’t get to leave the apartment that much. We moved here not long ago, relocating for medical reasons. He doesn’t know anyone in New York.”

    There was a heavy silence in the room. Everyone’s heart went out to our fellow Torah partner.

    I had an idea…

    “Karen, if you’d like, next week’s Torah class will take place in your home. We will all study there together, and your husband can join us.”

    “Oh, but you don’t know my husband”, Karen interjected, “although he is Jewish, he lives the life of an Ethical Culturist. He wouldn’t open up a Chumash.”

    “But he’s still a Jew”, I told Karen. “If it’s okay with you, we are all happy to have class in your home, and visit with your husband.”

    Karen was excited, and a week later, our study group met at the usual time at the Hineni building. Armed with Chumashim, we took the subway to Karen’s apartment, where we studied the weekly Torah portion.

    Karen’s husband joined us, and participated in the discussion. We all stayed on, and offered him our heartfelt wishes and prayers.

    That week, shortly after Shabbos came to a close, Karen called. Her husband left this world on Shabbos Day. We cried together, and she had some measure of consolation knowing that he was able to stand before his Creator and say, “I studied Torah, I held the Chumash.”

    Parshas Vayeira gives us much insight into how to go about the mitzvah of bikur cholim, visiting the sick. While the Chumash tells us that HaShem appeared to Avraham, nowhere does it tell us what HaShem said. The Torah is conveying an important message. We don’t always have to make conversation. At times, when we visit someone who is ill, sitting quietly works better than talk and chatter. For some, the best medicine is to just give a smile, to rest your hand on their shoulder, and say a silent prayer. To just “be there” for them. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a long visit, just stay a short while, and show that you care. “HaShem appeared….” – HaShem is showing us the way, that at times just being there is sufficient.

    The word “bikur” means much more than to visit. It also means to assess – to check out. To find out what are the needs of the person being visited. What can you do for them, and what assistance can you offer to their family.

    I remember being with my father, HaRav Meshulem ben HaRav Osher Anshel Halevi zt”l, in the hospital when he was so sick. I tried to make conversation, the air in the room was so heavy. But my father wasn’t up to speaking. “Abba, do you want me to read the parshah to you?” “Ah, that would be good” Abba responded.

    How important it is to ask the patient what can you do for them. What would they like.

    “Bikur” also has the same root as the word “boker”, meaning morning,” for visiting the sick is like bringing a ray of sunshine into their day.

    We all know people who are ill, who are homebound. Let’s remember the importance of bikur cholim. Let’s visit or call and offer hope and prayers, and convey a true sense of caring that brings them rays of sunshine.