Probably the most important part of any bikkur holim visit is that it gives the person you are visiting the feeling of not being forgotten and of being cared for. The very act of offering a visit, even if declined by the person, communicates that you care. You cared enough that you were willing to make time in your schedule to visit. This alone can mean a lot to someone who is sick.

Students who are training to be chaplains learn early on that, even when an offer to visit was declined or they were asked to leave, the offer can still have a positive impact. To give someone the power to decide whether or not to accept a visit restores the individual’s level of personal autonomy, something the person might otherwise not have because of circumstances—especially in hospitals or nursing homes, where days are regulated by schedules, and medical care personnel are coming and going at any time.

The specific circumstances for a visit may determine the appropriate “protocol.” A volunteer may be visiting to provide logistical support, such as help with chores or meals. In other cases, the volunteer is visiting to provide emotional and spiritual support and may offer empathy and blessings. In addition, different cultures have different concepts of what is expected during a visit and how to negotiate private and personal space. These can also differ between individuals. How close you are with the person you are visiting also influences some aspects of your visit. Keep in mind, though, that even though you might be on very friendly terms with someone, he or she might now need a higher level of privacy.

Visiting someone you know who’s seriously ill can be daunting, as can visiting someone you either don’t know or don’t know very well. As you walk into the person’s room or ring the doorbell at the person’s home, anxious thoughts might fill your mind.“Will I be welcome?” “I don’t want to intrude on this person’s privacy.” “What do I do? What do I say?”

This unit will address a few of those concerns with specific recommendations to help you “get through the door.” We will learn from traditional Jewish sources what the Rabbis considered to be the appropriate etiquette for visiting the sick and how these rules can be understood in our time and age, as well as some general guidelines.

You might be surprised to see the similarity in how some considerations of ministering to the sick have been addressed in two widely separated eras: the current and the talmudic. Our focus in this unit will be on four practical topics: who should visit, when to visit, how to present yourself, and where to stand or sit during the visit.

First, Imagine How It Feels

Before looking at either contemporary or talmudic advice on these subjects, you can learn a lot about how to conduct a visit by imagining yourself doing so, and also imagining yourself in the holah’s place. This will help you develop both your confidence and your empathy for the people you visit.

Image of a head with a question mark inside.Imagine what you would like your visitor to look like and act like if you were the person being visited. The answer might depend on who the visitor is: a close personal friend or relative, a good friend, or someone you don’t know that well or not at all. It may also depend on the age of the person who is visiting or that person’s style of interacting with others. Ask yourself:

  • Would you prefer your visitor to come dressed in shorts and flip-flops, or “business casual”?
  • What relationship do you have with the visitor? And how might that relationship affect your visit? Think about when familiarity with someone might be an obstacle rather than a positive factor.
  • Where would you like your visitor to be in the room? Should he or she stand or sit, and where in relation to you? How close? What posture? What would make you comfortable or uncomfortable? Relaxed versus alert?

Image of a pad and pencilRole-Playing Assignment

Sometimes it is hard to imagine these things, and it helps to simply act them out with your study partners in a short role-playing session. We often “know it when we see it.” If possible, videotape the interaction to get a more objective view of it.

One study partner play the person to be visited; choose whether to stand, sit, or even lie down.

One study partner play the visitor.

Create a short scenario; for example: You had previously agreed on a visit on that day at this particular time. Identify the circumstances of the visit (hospital? home?), the type of illness involved, level of health and mobility, and so on.

Visitor: How do you proceed? Do you knock at the entrance or not? Introduce yourself and ask whether this is a good time to visit. How fast do you approach the “patient”? Do you shake hands or not? What then? Where do you place yourself and how?

Both: Pay close attention to how the visitor’s choices feel to you and whether you pick up some clues about what to do from the other person.

Afterward: Compare how each of you experienced this simulated visit: Identify exact moments and how each of you reacted, and describe how it made you feel. Try to come to an understanding about why the other person might have felt or reacted a certain way. For example, having one’s hands in one’s pockets might be a person’s way of gaining a slight sense of security in an otherwise stressful situation and dealing with self-consciousness.

Reverse the roles and repeat the exercise.

Now let’s turn to those contemporary and traditional sources mentioned at the beginning of the unit.

Who should visit?

שולחן ערוך, יורה דעה שלה:א

Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah, 335:1

מצוה לבקר חולים הקרובים והחברים נכנסים מיד; והרחוקים, אחר ג’ ימים. ואם קפץ עליו החולי, אלו ואלו נכנסים מיד

It is a religious obligation to visit the sick. Relatives and friends visit immediately, others after three days. But if the sick desires their presence, all may visit immediately.

You might remember from the gemara on Nedarim 39b that Rabbi Aha, son of Rabbi Hanina, said that each visitor takes away one-sixtieth of the illness, with a certain proviso.

What or who is a ben gilo?

That proviso is that the visitor be a ben gilo. The English translation says “a person of the same affinity,” but that doesn’t really explain it. And the term ben gilo is widely debated among the classical rabbinic commentators. Some, like Rav Asher and Rabbeinu Nissim, thought that it refers to someone born under the same astrological sign. Rashi and others believed it simply means someone of approximately the same age. There are also other sources who explain that a ben gilo is someone who looks like and behaves in ways similar to the patient.

Although some of it might sound strange, in essence it means that having or being able to establish a connection with the sick person is important and can have a positive impact.

That this might be the correct understanding of the term ben gilo can be seen from the following midrash, which parallels the account from our gemara:

ויקרא רבה (וילנא) פרשת בהר פרשה לד

Leviticus Rabbah, Parashat Behar, parashah 34

רב הונא אמר זה שמבקר את החולה דאמר רב ה ונא כל מי שמבקר את החולה פוחתים לו אחד מששים בחוליו אותיביה לרבה ונא אם כן יעלו ששים וירד עמהם לשוק אמר להם ששים ובלבד שיה ואוהבין אותו כנפשו אעפ”כ מרויחין לו.

R. Huna said it refers to one who visits the sick. For, said R. Huna, if a person visits the sick, a reduction of one-sixtieth part of his illness is thereby effected. They pointed out an objection to R. Huna: If that is so, let 60 people come in and enable him to go down into the street! He answered them: Sixty could accomplish this, but only if they loved him like themselves. But in any case they would afford him relief.

You might notice that according to Rav Huna, 60 people could actually remove the illness from a person, something that the discussion in our gemara in Nedarim explained was to be understood metaphorically. But the main point Rav Huna is making here is that those 60 visitors need to be people who “loved him like themselves.” A ben gilo is someone who has or can establish a deep connection with the person he or she is visiting. A deeply empathetic relationship can penetrate the feeling of loneliness. It can convey to the sick that the visitor can understand the person’s suffering and could be someone in whom it might be possible to confide and share what is on the sick person’s mind. This might indeed contribute to a lessening of the illness, at least of the emotional suffering. It sometimes can have positive effects on the physical recovery, too.

When to Visit

Image of 3 book spines Remember the last section of tractate Nedarim 40a, which we read in unit 4? The Gemara gave us, already, a few pointers about appropriate behavior of a visitor.

תלמוד בבלי נדרים מ.

BT Nedarim 40a

אמר רב שישא בריה דרב אידי לא ליסעוד איניש קצירא לא בתלת שעי קדמייתא ולא בתלת שעי בתרייתא דיומא כי היכי דלא ליסח דעתיה מן רחמי

Rav Shisha, son of Rav Idi, said: “One should not visit the sick during the first three or the last three hours [of the day], lest he thereby omit to pray for him.

תלת שעי קדמייתא רווחא דעתיה בתרייתא תקיף חולשיה

“During the first three hours of the day, his [the invalid’s] illness is alleviated; in the last three hours his sickness is most virulent.”

As we saw earlier in the sugya in Nedarim, Rav Dimi said that visiting or not visiting the sick will cause the sick person to live or die, and the Gemara explained that it is the act of praying for a person’s recovery that will affect the outcome of the illness:

יצא ר’ עקיבא ודרש כל מי שאין מבקר חולים כאילו שופך דמים.

Rabbi Akiva went and taught: “Everyone who does not visit the sick can be compared to one who sheds blood.”

כי אתא רב דימי אמר כל המבקר את החולה גורם לו שיחיה וכל שאינו מבקר את החולה גורם לו שימות

When Rav Dimi came, he said: “Everyone who visits the sick causes them to live, and everyone who doesn’t visit the sick causes them to die.”
Image of 3 book spines Nedarim 40a is closely reflected in the Shulhan Arukh (“The Set Table”). The Shulhan Arukh is the major Code of Jewish Law, written by Rabbi Joseph Caro in 1563. It also includes a large number of commentaries that followed in the centuries after, and today it is the most widely accepted compilation of Jewish Law ever written.

שולחן ערוך, יורה דעה שלה:ד

Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah, 335:4

אין מבקרין החולה בגשעות ראשונות של יום מפני שכל חולהמיקל עליו חליו בבקר ולא יחוש לבקש עליו רחמים ולא בגשעות אחרונות של יום שאז מכביד עליו חליו ויתייאש מלבקש עליו רחמים

We do not visit a sick person during the first three hours of the day because the illness is less pronounced in the morning and one might be tempted not to pray for him; and not during the last three hours of the day because the illness is more severe then and one might be discouraged from praying for mercy.

So the Shulhan Arukh follows the line of reasoning seen in the sugya in Nedarim: To pray on behalf of a sick person is of utter importance, and therefore the appropriate time of visit plays a role.

The manifestation of an illness shifts during the course of the day. Coming during the time of day when a person feels relatively well (often in the morning, after a night’s rest) might give the impression that the person is looking well and that prayer isn’t really needed. Coming late in the evening, when the body is tired and the symptoms are most virulent, might give the impression that the patient is much worse that what the person’s actual condition is. The Shulhan Arukh believes that under certain circumstances, the symptoms can be so bad that a visitor might assume the patient is beyond help and that prayer is no longer efficacious. (The role of prayer and how it relates to our modern sensibilities will be discussed in unit 9, “Praying for Healing.”)

Image of a head with a question mark inside. We see that the emphasis in both the sugya in Nedarim and the Shulhan Arukh is that the visitor should not be discouraged from praying on behalf of the sick person. How do you relate to this reasoning? And are there other reasons that come to your mind for not visiting during the early hours and late hours of the day?
Image of 3 book spines Below is the corresponding section from Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah.

רמב”ם הלכות אבל פרק יד

Maimonides, Laws of Mourning 14:5

אין מבקרין את החולה אלא מיום שלישי והלאה, ואם קפץ עליו החולי והכביד מבקרין אותו מיד, ואין מבקרין את החולה לא בשלש שעות ראשונות ביום, ולא בשלש אחרונות, מפני שהן מתעסקין בצרכי החולה, ואין מבקרין לא חולי מעיים ולא חולי העין, ולא מחושי הראש, מפני שהבקור קשה להן. 

We do not visit the sick except from the third day onward. If, however, a person became ill suddenly and his illness became very severe, he should be visited immediately.

We do not visit the sick during the first three hours of the day, nor in the last three hours, because his attendants are tending to the sick person’s needs. We do not visit patients with stomach illnesses, eye illnesses, or headaches because the visits are difficult for them.

Image of a head with a question mark inside.When Maimonides writes not to visit someone with stomach illnesses, eye illnesses, or headaches “because the visits are difficult for them,” what did he have in mind, and how would that apply to our times?

Listen to a short explanation of this segment.


 

Image of 3 book spines In Nedarim no further justification is given for the limitation of visiting someone only from the third day onward, but we are told that Rava was opposed to making his illness public out of a belief that it might impair his luck. To understand why Rambam thinks it is first appropriate after three days, we need to look again at the Talmud, which provides the source:

תלמוד בבלי בבא מציעה נו.

BT, Bava Metzia 86b

וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה’ בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח־הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם. 

“And the Lord appeared unto him [Abraham] in the plains of Mamre, and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day” (Gen. 18:1).

מאי כחום היום? אמר רבי חמא ברבי חנינא: אותו היום יום שלישי של מילה של אברהם היה, ובא הקדוש ברוך הוא לשאול באברהם.

What is meant by “in the heat of the day”? Rabbi Hama, son of Rabbi Hanina, said: “It was the third day from Abraham’s circumcision, and the Holy One, blessed be He, came to enquire after Abraham’s health.

We have now learned that one should be mindful of the time of visit and whether it might interfere with the sick person having his or her needs attended to. We have also learned about the practice of waiting a while until visiting. Not only would it place too much of a burden on the volunteers and clergy to come and visit as soon as someone falls ill, in many cases an immediate visit is neither necessary nor wanted. An exception would be if there is a definite need—for example, if the person needs help with getting medication or food or with carrying out household tasks. We also learned that this is not a hard-and-fast rule. If the sick person prefers, one may visit immediately.

A bit of additional, contemporary advice:

  • Do not wake up a sleeping patient. Rather, leave a note.
  • Do not interrupt if the person is currently being attended to by a doctor, nurse, or other medical provider. If appropriate, the medical provider will indicate that it is okay to stay.

How to Present Yourself

There are two issues here: how to dress, and what to do as you begin the visit.

How to Dress

Contemporary counseling theory advises us to “look the part”: dress appropriately to show respect to the person you visit.

Another point: What signals and assumptions are we conveying through the way we dress when making a visit? The way we dress always expresses a level of respect and professionalism—especially important when visiting a person who is in a vulnerable state.

Remember, from Nedarim 40a, the story of Rabbi Akiva, who went to visit his student who was sick? To honor the status of Rabbi Akiva, the house of the student was cleaned and sprinkled; it might be safe to assume that Rabbi Akiva made his visit in the talmudic equivalent of “business casual” attire.

But our ancient sources tell us there’s more to it than looking professional. We turn to Nedarim 40a again:

תלמוד בבלי נדרים מ.

BT Nedarim 40a

הנכנס לבקר את החולה לא ישב לא על גבי מטה ולא ע”ג ספסל ולא על גבי כסא אלא מתעטף ויושב ע”ג קרקע מפני שהשכינה שרויה למעלה ממטתו של חולה שנאמר יי’יסעדנו על ערש דוי

“He who visits the sick must not sit upon the bed, or on a stool or a chair, but must robe himself and sit upon the ground, because the Divine Presence rests above an invalid’s bed, as it is written, ‘The Lord seats himself upon the bed of languishing.’”
Image of 3 book spines Again, we will look at the appropriate se’if in the Shulhan Arukh for an explanation of the rabbinic reasoning behind this rule.

שולחן ערוך, יורה דעה, שלה:ג

Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah, 335:3

המבקר את החולה לא ישב ע”ג מטה, ולא ע”ג כסא ולא ע”ג ספסל, אלא מתעטף ויושב לפניו, שהשכינה למעלה מראשותיו

The visitor to the patient should not sit on the bed, and not on a chair, or on a bench.

Rather, he should wrap himself and sit in front of him because the Shekhinah will be above his head.

What does “wrap himself” mean?

In ancient times an outer garment (cloak, toga, tallit) was worn by any respectable person (male or female), and only the very poor or slaves would walk outside their homes without a cloak or tallit. This might indicate to us already the importance that the Talmud and the Shulhan Arukh place on the issue of appropriate dress code. From a theological perspective, a visitor will be in the presence of the Shekhinah and therefore should be dressed for the occasion.

How to Begin the Visit

The traditional texts have less to say about this. Perhaps it’s because the Rabbis who wrote them were living in a much “smaller” and less technological world and more homogeneous Jewish community than what we encounter today, so a person’s situation was more immediately understood when visiting.

Contemporary medical ethics, though, has recognized the need for proper etiquette, and this is now being taught to medical students.

Image of a nut (hardware not legume)The following checklist is based on one that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine[i]; here it’s revised to fit bikkur holim:

  1. Ask permission to enter the room or home; wait for an answer before entering.
  2. Introduce yourself if you are not known, or reintroduce yourself if in doubt. Show your ID badge, if applicable.
  3. Shake hands (wear gloves if needed).
  4. Sit down. Smile if appropriate.
  5. Briefly explain your role. Even though your synagogue might have told the person that someone from the bikkur holim committee will come and visit, don’t assume that the person understands what your visit is about.
  6. If this is visit in a hospital or other facility, ask the person how he or she is feeling about being there.

Where to Stand or Sit

Again we turn to Nedarim 40a:

תלמוד בבלי נדרים מ.

BT Nedarim 40a

אמר רבין אמר רב מניין שהקב”ה זן את החולה שנאמר (תהלים מא, ד) יי’ יסעדנו על ערש דוי וגו’

Rabin said, in Rav’s name: “From where do we know that the Almighty sustains the sick? From the verse ‘The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing’ (Ps. 41:4).”

ואמר רבין אמר רב מניין שהשכינה שרויה למעלה ממטתו של חולה שנאמר יי’ יסעדנו על ערש דוי

Rabin also said in Rav’s name: “Whence do we know that the Divine Presence rests above an invalid’s bed? From the verse ‘The Lord sets Himself upon the bed of languishing.’”

תניא נמי הכי

It was taught likewise:

הנכנס לבקר את החולה לא ישב לא על גבי מטה ולא ע”ג ספסל ולא על גבי כסא אלא מתעטף ויושב ע”ג קרקע מפני שהשכינה שרויה למעלה ממטתו של חולה שנאמר יי’

יסעדנו על ערש דוי

“He who visits the sick must not sit upon the bed, or on a stool or a chair, but must robe himself and sit upon the ground, because the Divine Presence rests above an invalid’s bed, as it is written, ‘The Lord seats himself upon the bed of languishing.’”

“. . . sit in front of him,” meaning: at the feet, not at the head. Why? Because, the Shekhinah, the divine Presence, rests at the head.

We still have not learned why we should not sit on the bed, a chair, or a bench.

Image of 3 book spinesLook again at the section (se’if) from the Shulhan Arukh. 

 Although both the Gemara and the Shulhan Arukh emphasize this rule, neither provides us with an explanation. Rabbi Moses Isserles (16th-century Ashkenazi commentator on the Shulhan Arukh, also known as the Rema) comes and explains:

שולחן ערוך, יורה דעה, שלה:ג

Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah, 335:3

הגה: ודוקא כשהחולה שוכב על הארץ, דהיושב גבוה ממנו, אבל כששוכב על המטה מותר לישב על כסא וספסל, )וכן נוהגין.(

Comment of the Rema: Especially if the patient lies on the ground, the visitor would be higher than him, but if he lies on a bed it is permitted to sit on a chair or bench (and that is the current practice).

It is interesting to note that the Rema does not explain this rule with any theological reasoning; instead he describes the physical arrangement: In a situation where someone is lying on a low bed or even on mattresses on the floor (as the custom was), sitting on a chair or bench would position the visitor above the patient.

Image of a head with a question mark inside.Please discuss what possible reasons the Rema had for specifying the regulation regarding sitting on a chair or bench. What is problematic with being positioned above or higher than the patient?

In fact, the Rema was making an astute psychological observation. In contemporary counseling theory, we are told: Do not remain standing next to somebody who is lying in bed or seated. It gives the impression that you are in a rush and on your way out. It also creates a power differential between the visitor, who is looking down, and the patient, who is forced to look up.

To illustrate that last point, consider examples where difference in height of positioning is used consciously—in architecture, for instance:

  • Courtrooms, where the judge is seated at a raised spot
  • Religious and political architecture: “going up” to the bimah (in a synagogue) or an altar (in a church)
  • Approaching the royal throne
  • Walking up the stairs to the Capitol or Parliament building

What is missing?

If you pay close attention to the wording of the Shulhan Arukh and then look at the Rema’s comment, you will realize that one specific prohibition in the Shulhan Arukh was not addressed by the Rema and hence still stands.

Can you identify that one specific issue? (If you need help, look at the footnote[ii].) Please discuss that final prohibition and why it exists with your hevruta.

Once again, contemporary counseling theory agrees with the ancient authorities, advising: Do not sit down on the patient’s bed. Doing so assumes a level of intimacy that might not be welcome. (Keep this in mind especially if you are emotionally close with the person. Even if with a close friend, the nature of the illness might make him or her uncomfortable with such intimacy.)

Yes, the Shulhan Arukh also specifically forbids sitting on the bed of the patient. And the Rema, in his commentary, explains that under certain circumstances it is okay to sit on a chair or bench and the like, but he does not mention sitting on the bed at all. It therefore remains forbidden.

Here’s further advice from contemporary sources:

  • Choose a more natural space to sit, such as on the side, near the patient’s feet; that position allows visitor and patient to look at each other without straining their necks. (Be advised, though, that in Judaism there is a belief that the malakh hamavet [angel of death] is standing at the feet of the sick, and some people familiar with this might be uncomfortable seeing someone standing at the foot of their bed.)
  • Sit at a slight angle so that you and the person you’re visiting can avoid each other’s gaze on occasion without it becoming awkward.
  • Avoid staring at medical equipment attached to the person, or at scars, wounds, and so on. It might be helpful to prepare yourself in advance of the visit for what you might see.

The Gestalt of Visitation

To compress the wisdom offered by our various sources, we conclude this unit with a very different ancient source’s broad view of etiquette toward the ill, and a recap of the guidelines from contemporary counseling theory.

Proper attitude and behavior toward patients was already important in an early era—as can be seen in this short description:

The physician ought also to be confidential, very chaste, sober, not a wine-bibber, and he ought to be fastidious in everything, for this is what the profession demands. He ought to have an appearance and approach that is distinguished. Everything ought to be in moderation, for these things are advantageous, so it is said. Be solicitous in your approach to the patient, not with head thrown back (arrogantly) or hesitantly with lowered glance, but with head inclined slightly as the art demands. He ought to hold his head humbly and evenly; his hair should not be too much smoothed down, nor his beard curled like that of a degenerate youth. Gravity signifies breadth of experience. He should approach the patient with moderate steps, not noisily, gazing calmly at the sick bed. He should endure peacefully the insults of the patients since those suffering from melancholic or frenetic ailments are likely to hurl evil words at physicians.

—From the Hippocratic Corpus,
written in the sixth to fourth centuries BCE[iii]

Summary of Practical Applications of Contemporary Counseling Theory

Image of a nut (hardware not legume)Contemporary theories on therapy and counseling give recommendations about how to conduct oneself and the use of physical space during a consultation or visit that are similar to the guidelines we have just encountered in our classical sources.

  • Look the part: dress appropriately to show respect to the person you visit.
  • Do not enter a room uninvited; knock before entering.
  • Do not wake a sleeping patient. Rather, leave a note.
  • Do not interrupt if the person is being attended to by a doctor, nurse, or other medical provider. If appropriate, the medical provider will indicate that it is okay to stay.
  • Greet and introduce yourself to all present in the room. Shake hands if appropriate and if it is safe in terms of infections or wounds.
  • Do not remain standing next to somebody who is lying in bed or seated. As mentioned earlier, it gives the impression that you are in a rush and on your way out. It also creates a power differential between the visitor, who is looking down, and the patient, who is forced to look up.
  • Do not sit down on the patient’s bed. Doing so assumes a level of intimacy that might not be welcome. (Keep this in mind especially if you are emotionally close with the person. Even if with a close friend, the nature of the illness might make him or her uncomfortable with such intimacy.)
  • Choose a more natural space to sit, such as on the side, near the patient’s feet; that position allows visitor and patient to look at each other without straining their necks. Be advised, though, that in Judaism there is a belief that the malakh hamavet (angel of death) is standing at the feet of the sick, and some people familiar with this might be uncomfortable seeing someone standing at the foot of their bed.
  • Sit at a slight angle so that both you and the person you’re visiting can avoid each other’s gaze on occasion without it becoming awkward.
  • Avoid staring at medical equipment attached to the person, or at scars, wounds, and so on. It might be helpful to prepare yourself in advance of the visit for what you might see.

All of these recommendations, both contemporary and classical, have one thing in common: they restore or uphold a level of dignity to the patient, who is in a state of vulnerability because of illness. They also allow the visitor to pay close attention to verbal and nonverbal cues (e.g., from body language, facial expressions, and physical surroundings) to help be more attuned with the patient’s concerns and needs.

Imagine Again How It Feels

Image of a pad and pencil With the insights of both traditional and contemporary sources fresh in your mind, repeat the role-playing exercise you did at the beginning of the unit. Notice whether your level of ease in making a visit has changed and how, and discuss with your study group.

[i] M. W. Kahn, “Etiquette-Based Medicine,” New England Journal of Medicine 358, no. 19 (May 8, 2008), 1988–1989.

[ii] The Shulhan Arukh also specifically forbids sitting on the bed of the patient. The Rema, in his commentary, explains that under certain circumstances it is okay to sit on a chair or bench or the like, but he does not mention sitting on the bed at all in his commentary. It therefore remains forbidden.

[iii] In Ann G. Carmichael and Richard M. Ratzan, editors. A Treasury of Art and Literature. (New York: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 1991), 53–54.

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