Visiting the Sick: Bikkur Holim

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Another traditional form of assistance to the sick is to offer prayers on their behalf. Visitors may pray for the patient’s recovery, and it is a near-universal custom to offer a special prayer (known by its generic opening words, mi she-berakh -- “[May] the One who blessed…”). In a departure from the more usual [in traditional circles] patronymic style of reference, the subjects of these prayers are referred to in many communities by first name and matronymic): e.g., “Dinah daughter of Leah” or “Joseph son of Rachel.”

In many pre-modern Jewish communities, a special Bikkur Holim Society provided for the needs of the ill. In some Western countries and in Eastern European communities, this tradition of medical self-help within the Jewish community was a source for the development of private hospitals under Jewish communal sponsorship. In synagogue communities today, the rabbi is often expected to visit sick congregants, while some have committees that make sure other members come to visit. 

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