Yesterday, during his second prolonged visit to the hospital, my friend (and commenter and photographer) Elli Schorr and I discussed the meaning of the term' le-vaker' in its original sense. He contends, in a convincing manner, that it really means 'to concern one's self' or 'to contemplate'. From this, the modern opposing senses of 'to visit' and 'to criticize' or have a common ancestor. Perhaps 'bikur rofim' - 'doctor's check-up' - maintains both senses. With this understanding, the FAQ about the apparent contradiction at the beginning of Psalm 27 (Le-David Hashem ori) between 'la-shevet' and 'le-vaker' fals away. le-vaker is not 'to visit', but 'to meditate upon', paralleling 'la-hazot' (to gaze upon) which also appears in the verse, as an activity that one does while dwelling in God's house.
there is an implication for the mitzvah of bikur cholim as well. Whereas the ubiquitous manner in which the mitzvah is generally performed is by actually visiting the ill, any act which manifests concern for the diseased or disabled falls under the rubric as well. This would include helping the sick person's family, but would also include virtual communication (phone, email, blog comments, facebook wall writing, etc.).
[In truth, the Schorrs helped us out once before, though without even realizing it. when our daughter Ruchama was born and spending a lot of time in the hospital (there are a few old blog posts about several aspects of this prolonged ordeal), we had a tremendous amount of help from a family who had gone through a hard time with their oldest daughter and were in position to help us cope with it. They, in turn, were helped by the Schorrs during their ordeal. The family in between has helped us out this time around as well and are also long-time readers and commenters on the blog. And the Burgers Bar was awesome ;-)]
For a while now, I have gotten the sense that this medium, the blog, this strange hobby which will soon celebrate its upsherin, has developed into something of a real community, albeit a virtual one. Sure it's about Torah, news, rants, or whatever else might occur to my ADD mind; but that obscures the fact that the conversation develops out of a real, though virtual, sense of community. Like you don't shmooz with someone at a kiddush unless the relationship is already there.
The outpouring of affection and concern that has come through as a result of my current situation has really reinforced that feeling. The virtual Bikur Cholim, which is a very real type of Bikur Cholim, has been wonderful. Clearly, the blog is only a part of it. the relationships are very real, and transcend whatever might happen because of a website. But the opportunity to share, to continue our conversation from my hospital bed, through emails, visits, phone calls, blog comments and posts on my facebook wall - especially those of you who have volunteered to get beaten like rented mules by playing Scrabble on-line with me (I'm 14-1 so far). Thanks also to the many people who have helped Pesha out with the kids. She's having the hardest time of all. It is all Bikur Cholim, plain and simple, if a bit unconventional.
Finally, whenever I hear about Bikur Cholim, this is the image that comes to mind: