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A Preparatory Ritual for a Virtual Bikkur Holim

handsome white man wearing mask lying in hospital bed holding phone and smiling

R. Huna says: “One who visits the sick lessens one sixtieth of the illness.” (Midrash Leviticus Rabba 34:1)

During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have had to replace in-person bikkur holim (visiting the sick) to members of our communities with tele-visits.

How do we prepare ourselves to reach out to those who may be enduring maladies of body, mind and soul? How can we hope to replicate in-person visits when we cannot be physically present?

This ritual invites us to prepare ourselves for reaching out via phone or Zoom in a holy, intentional way, holding awareness that we are representatives of the Jewish community engaging in the mitzvah of gemilut hasadim, the offering of loving-kindness.

You will need:

  • Candle (can be a battery-operated candle)
  • Water for hand washing. If you are in an office and there is no access to water, use hand sanitizer.
  • Essential oil or flowers (if you are not scent-sensitive) or a plant that you designate for the purpose of preparation for bikkur holim.
  • Designate a word or phrase to chant or say in preparation, such as “Hineini” (I am present)

Ritual before making a Bikkur Holim call:

1. Wash/sanitize your hands as an indication of pure intention. Touch your lips as a reminder of the power of words and of your intention to listen more than you speak.

2. Light your candle as a separation from the ordinary so that you can hold the potential of holiness in this encounter. 

3. Anoint your hands with a drop of essential oil. Make a scent tent with your hands and inhale for a few moments. And/Or touch your vase of flowers or plant as a way of focusing your intention on growing through this encounter.

4. Say or chant your word or intention/ preparation. Touch your earlobes for the intention of holy listening.

5. Be still. Hold a few moments of silence. Silently express your intention to bring your authentic self in holiness to this encounter.

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