Hiddur (Hebrew for "beautify") is the concept of enhancement of a mitzvah through beautification. Conventionally, hiddur applies to the ritualistic aspects of religious observance: the ornamented kiddush cup, the special holiday tablecloth.
In our context, hiddur means carrying out the mitzvah of bikur cholim in a sensitive and thoughtful manner. By educating ourselves to act knowledgeably in the performance of this mitzvah, we bring the spirit of the Jewish community to those who need comfort and connection.
Bikur cholim can be performed effectively as a caring individual. But there are advantages to organizing in a group. This allows tasks to be shared, gives support to each member and increases training possibilities. The value of studying, discussing and performing the mitzvah of bikur cholim in a group setting is manifold. The group forms a body of support and resources as the visitors listen to each others problems, share ideas and offer helpful suggestions.
Over time, they may find in each other a source of strength, mutual esteem and build a community of caring.
Jewish Tradition and Bikur Cholim
The Talmud Nedarim 39b teaches us the importance of bikur cholim through a story:
Rabbi Akiva is teaching the importance of a visit and the fact that no one is too prominent to do what is needed, even menial tasks, and of the necessity of using the visit as an opportunity to assess those practical needs.
The Babylonian Talmud Brakhot 5b tells another story:
The story affirms the importance of reaching out and helping someone with their affliction. No matter how powerful or learned they may be, people need help as they deal with their illness.
There is greater need for communal concern and action to sustain people with chronic health problems and isolated living situations as our population ages, as hospital visits become shorter and as geographic distance between family members increases.
Jewish tradition offers guidelines for visiting.
Please contact us 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 of Family and Children's Services (JBFCS).