THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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1) RECEIVING MONEY FOR THE MITZVAH OF "BIKUR CHOLIM"
OPINIONS: The Gemara says that there are places where people who visit the
sick charge money for their services. The Gemara says that even in such
places it is proper to demand payment only when the visitor sits down during
the visit. If the visitor remained standing for the visit, then he should
not take any payment.
Why is it improper to take payment for standing up while visiting the sick?
(a) The ROSH (printed on 38b) writes that one should not take payment for
visiting the sick because doing so degrades the Mitzvah. Taking payment for
sitting, though, is permitted, since he is taking money for the extra time
that he spends with the sick person (and thereby must take off from his
work) and not for the fulfillment of the obligatory element of the Mitzvah
(b) TOSFOS writes that since it is a Mitzvah to visit the sick, one should
do so for free. This is based on the Gemara earlier (37a) that says that one
may not take wages for teaching Torah. This Halachah is not limited to
teaching Torah, but it applies to the performance of any Mitzvah (see
According to Tosfos, why is it permitted to take payment for sitting down
while visiting the sick? It seems that Tosfos agrees with the Rosh that one
is thereby taking money for the extra time spent with the sick person, and
not for the actual Mitzvah
The Rosh might be understanding that the restriction against taking wages
for Mitzvos applies only to Mitzvos that are explicitly written in the
Torah. Therefore, the Rosh gives a different reason than that of Tosfos for
why one should not take payment for visiting the sick.
2) THE SOURCE FOR THE MITZVAH OF "BIKUR CHOLIM"
QUESTION: Reish Lakish says that there is hint to the Mitzvah of Bikur
Cholim in the Torah in the verse in Parshas Korach, "If these die like the
death of all man, and the fate of all man is visited upon them..." (Bamidbar
16:29). The Gemara in Bava Metzia (30b) derives the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim
from the verse in Yisro, "You shall inform them of the path in which they
should go..." (Shemos 18:20). The Gemara in Sotah (14a) derives the Mitzvah
of Bikur Cholim from the verse in Parshas Re'eh, "After Hashem your G-d you
shall follow..." (Devarim 13:5), which teaches that we should emulate the
attributes of Hashem, and just like Hashem visits the sick so should we.
3) THE STATUS OF THE MITZVAH OF "BIKUR CHOLIM"
Why is it necessary to have three different sources in the Torah for the
Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim?
(a) The ROSH here says that our Sugya is looking for a more explicit
reference to the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim, and therefore it quotes the verse
from Parshas Korach which is more explicit than the verse in Parshas Yisro
and the verse in Parshas Re'eh.
(b) The RAMBAM understands that Bikur Cholim is actually part of two
different Mitzvos. In SEFER HA'MITZVOS (Mitzvah 8) the Rambam writes that
there is a Mitzvah to emulate Hashem's attributes. He writes that this is
derived from the verse in Parshas Re'eh cited in the Gemara in Sotah. It is
also learned from the verse in Parshas Yisro cited in Bava Metzia. This
Mitzvah -- of emulating the ways of Hashem -- is recorded by the Rambam in
the Mishnah Torah in Hilchos De'os (1:5-6). This is the first Mitzvah in
which Bikur Cholim is included.
Later in Sefer ha'Mitzvos (Mitzvah 206), the Rambam writes that there is a
Mitzvah for every Jew to love every other Jew and to wish for his fellow man
everything that he would want for himself. In the Mishnah Torah (Hilchos
Avel 14:1), the Rambam writes that all the Mitzvos of Gemilus Chasadim
(including visiting the sick) are included in the Mitzvah of loving one's
fellow man. The SEFER HA'CHINUCH also counts them as two separate Mitzvos
(#243 and #611).
It seems that the Rambam learned that our Gemara is looking for a source in
the Torah that the act of Bikur Cholim is part of the Mitzvah of loving
one's fellow man. The Gemara in Sotah and in Bava Metzia are sources that
Bikur Cholim is part of the Mitzvah of emulating the ways of Hashem.
There is a basic difference between the Mitzvah of loving one's fellow man
and the Mitzvah of emulating the ways of Hashem. The Mitzvah of loving one's
fellow man is a Mitzvah "Bein Adam la'Chaveiro," to care for the needs of
his friend. The Mitzvah of emulating the ways of Hashem is a Mitzvah "Bein
Adam la'Makom," to bring oneself closer to Hashem and His ways.
This idea is supported by the Sefer ha'Chinuch who writes that the purpose
behind loving others is so that there should be peace among people, whereas
the purpose of emulating Hashem is so that we live our lives in accordance
with Hashem's will.
The Gemara in Bava Metzia asks why we need a verse to teach that there is a
Mitzvah to visit the sick. The Gemara answers that even though it is known
that one who visits the sick gets part of the sickness if they share the
same Mazal (see Insights to Nedarim 40a), he nevertheless fulfills a Mitzvah
by doing so. This can be explained based on what we wrote above: if one is
required to visit the sick only as a Mitzvah Bein Adam la'Chaveiro, he is
not required to endure any personal loss to do this Mitzvah (unless one is
thereby saving his friend's life). Therefore, it is necessary to have a
source that teaches that Bikur Cholim is also part of the Mitzvah of
emulating Hashem's ways and is a Mitzvah Bein Adam la'Makom and he is
required to fulfill it even if it will cause him personal discomfort!
OPINIONS: Reish Lakish says that there is hint to the Mitzvah of Bikur
Cholim in the Torah in the verse, "If these die like the death of all man,
and the fate of all man is visited upon them..." (Bamidbar 16:29). The
Gemara in Bava Metzia (30b) and Sotah (14a) cites two other verses that
allude to the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim (see previous Insight). Does this mean
that the Mitzvah of Bikur Cholim is a Mitzvah mid'Oraisa?
(a) The BEHAG and YERA'IM count Bikur Cholim as one of the 613 Mitzvos.
(b) The RAMBAM and RAMBAN in Sefer ha'Mitzvos (Shoresh Rishon and Sheni) are
of the opinion that Bikur Cholim is not independent Mitzvah, but is included
in another, more general Mitzvah.
Regarding whether Bikur Cholim is considered a Mitzvah d'Oraisa or not, the
RAMBAM (Hilchos Evel 14:5) writes that Bikur Cholim is a Mitzvah
"mi'Divreihem," which seems to mean that it is a Mitzvah d'Rabanan. However,
he continues to list other Mitzvos (such as Nichum Aveilim) and concludes
that although these Mitzvos are "mi'Divreihem," they are part of the Mitzvah
d'Oraisa of "v'Ahavta l'Rei'acha Kamocha," loving one's fellow man like
The Rambam seems to contradict himself. If Bikur Cholim is part of the
Mitzvah d'Oraisa of loving one's fellow man, then how could it be a Mitzvah
The KIRYAS SEFER answers that the Rambam understands that there is a general
Mitzvah to love one's fellow man, but the specific ways of carrying it out
were enacted by the Rabanan. An example of this concept is the Halachah that
one who visits the sick but does not pray for the recovery of the sick
person does not fulfill the Mitzvah. While one fulfills the Mitzvah d'Oraisa
of loving his friend with any act that he does for his friend's well-being,
the Chachamim required us to visit the sick in a certain manner. If we do
not pray for the sick, then we have not fulfilled this requirement.
(The fact that the specific forms of the Mitzvah are only mid'Rabanan may be
relevant to the law of "ha'Osek b'Mitzvah Patur Min ha'Mitzvah" -- see BI'UR
HALACHAH, end of OC 72.)