Shabbat Shalom. At the very beginning of my portion, God appears to Abraham, and the first thing that the commentators ask was, why does God choose to visit him right at that time?
If you look at the end of the prior portion, you’ll find out why. He had just had his circumcision and God was trying to comfort him and help him through his recovery. Hey, if you were 99 and had just circumcised yourself, you would need comforting too!
It’s important to note that Bikur Holim, visiting the sick, is a major mitzvah, and the first time it is mentioned in the entire Torah is right here. In fact, God is modeling it.
According to Midrash Leviticus Rabbah, a single visit removes 1/60 of the patient’s suffering. So just showing up really makes a difference.
I’ve gotten to see how important this mitzvah is first-hand.
As some of you may know 😊, my dad is a doctor. From time to time, I go with him to visit patients and I draw pictures for some of them to cheer them up. One patient is a big Knicks and Giants fan, so I drew him a portrait of one of the players. Judging from the smiles on the faces of the people I’ve given pictures to, it seems like far more than 1/60th of their pain was removed.
It so happens that one of my favorite books, “Because of Mr. Terupt,” is all about visiting the sick. In the book, a student accidentally hits his teacher with an ice ball, putting him into a coma. After that, all of the students visit the teacher frequently, for weeks and weeks and those visits help each of them to recover from the shock and changes their lives, and eventually, he wakes up from his coma. So here again, how we deal with a tragedy involving illness helps to foster real healing for all concerned.
My mitzvah project relates to this same theme. A while back, my friend Emmet became ill and was hospitalized for many months. During this time he showed an amazing display of courage and strength. We Face timed a couple of times, and even though he had been going through tough times, he always asked how we were doing. This shows what an amazing person he was. I don’t know if my virtual visits removed 1/60th of the illness but I hope I made his day a little brighter.
Sadly, he passed away in late September. Since my bar mitzvah is one of the first ones to take place since then, I want to dedicate my mitzvah project to him. In some ways, I feel like I am standing here, representing him. So, for my Mitzvah project, I’ve chosen two charities that were important to him and his family throughout his illness: Be the Match, which runs the national Bone Marrow Registry, and Ronald McDonald House, an organization that provides free housing to families and patients who are receiving care at nearby hospitals. With the help of the amazing community, we have raised over 2,700 dollars for Be the Match and collected around 2,000 pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald house. You can see the collection out in the lobby. I am amazed at how many people donated, from my summer camp division head in Maryland to my parents’ colleagues and friends. Each tab you donated showed your care and compassion towards me and my cause. You also donated items on Ronald McDonald House’s wish-list which will help families set up their temporary apartments. You can see just some of the many donated items in my bimah baskets. I look forward to delivering the items and tabs to the Ronald McDonald House in New Have next weekend. Your support was immensely important to me, and I am so grateful for your help.
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