How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick

  • Review
By – May 13, 2013

Bikkur cholim, vis­it­ing the sick, is one of the mitzvot which, accord­ing to our tra­di­tion, is a way of emu­lat­ing God. It is by no means an easy mitz­vah to ful­fill. Vis­it­ing or emo­tion­al­ly sup­port­ing a seri­ous­ly ill per­son opens a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties in terms of help­ing the heal­ing process. As Let­ty Cot­tin Pogre­bin points out, how­ev­er, it also opens a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties in terms of doing or say­ing the wrong thing. 

Begin­ning with her per­son­al expe­ri­ence while bat­tling can­cer, the author explored her own friends’ and rel­a­tives’ respons­es (as well as her own) to the ill­ness. From there, she expand­ed her research, inter­view­ing fel­low patients, recall­ing per­son­al expe­ri­ences with ill peo­ple, and care­ful­ly record­ing what she read and heard in the world around her. The result is a deeply per­son­al reflec­tion on the best way to sup­port peo­ple who are fac­ing ill­ness. The rec­om­men­da­tions in the book are not always sim­ple. Often the best way to be a friend to a friend who’s sick” will vary from per­son to per­son, and the author rec­og­nizes that fact. This book is sure to be (and should be) on read­ing lists of pro­fes­sion­als who deal with ill indi­vid­u­als (rab­bis, med­ical pro­fes­sion­als, men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als) as well as with adult dis­cus­sion and read­ing groups. Appen­dix, index.

Rab­bi Arnold D. Sam­lan is a Jew­ish edu­ca­tor and rab­bi liv­ing in Mia­mi, Flori­da. He serves as exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Orloff Cen­tral Agency for Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion of Broward County.

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