Bikur Cholim at an Opportune Time
Q. When is the best time to visit the sick?
A. Bikur cholim is a constant obligation, 24 hours a day. The Or Zarua writes that a brocho is not recited on mitzvos that are constant such as bikur cholim, comforting mourners, honoring parents, giving charity, and loving and fearing Hashem.
Though the mitzvah of bikur cholim is constant, it should only be performed when it is beneficial. For that reason, Shulchan Aruch (YD 335:4) writes that it is preferable to not visit the choleh (sick person) during the first three hours or last three hours of the day. The preferred time is the middle six hours. In the early morning, the choleh may appear healthier than he or she really is, and the visitor may not attend to their needs or daven on their behalf. During the last hours of the day, the choleh may be tired and exhausted and not have the strength to entertain a visitor. In addition, the choleh may appear hopelessly ill and the visitor might feel there is no longer any point to daven for them.
While there are preferred times to visit, Shulchan Aruch (YD 335:2) writes that when necessary, one should visit the sick multiple times throughout the day. The Gemara (Nedarim 39b) states in the name of Rava that one can fulfill the mitzvah of bikur cholim even a hundred times in one day. Nonetheless, the visitor must be certain that his presence is not a burden. It is said that Rav Chaim Brisker was once ill. Hundreds of well-wishers came to visit him, and as a result, he could not get any rest. Such visits are not commendable. Based on a gemarah, Rav Chaim calculated that an average visit of bikur cholim should not last more than six minutes. Of course, one must judge each case independently.
The Gerald & Karin Feldhamer OU Kosher Halacha Yomis is dedicated to the memory of Rav Yisroel Belsky, zt"l, who served as halachic consultant for OU Kosher for more than 28 years; many of the responses in Halacha Yomis are based on the rulings of Rabbi Belsky. Subscribe to the Halacha Yomis daily email here.