Friendly outreach, chesed in Hebrew, is a fundamental part of Jewish living. Shaare Torah Congregation prides itself on being engaged in the needs the community. Shaare Torah sponsors many chesed events, including ongoing food drives for the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, blood drives, and community improvement projects. Shaare Torah members also participate in a wide variety of volunteer work throughout Pittsburgh.
During times of difficulty, particularly those associated with death and sickness, members of our shul community should know that our chesed committee will help with errands, chores, meals, companionship, and other volunteer services.
If a member of our shul community is going through a difficult time, please let us know by e-mailing email@example.com with the word “chesed” in the subject line or calling the shul office. When you make that contact, let us know what kind of help is desired and tell how and when our chesed committee can contact you if we need further details.
If you don’t currently need chesed, but would like to provide it, here is some basic information for visiting the sick and comforting mourners:
Visiting the Sick – Bikur Cholim
Remember that sick people are uncomfortable and worried. While it is kind of you to visit a patient, you should do it only in ways that do not cause additional discomfort or worry. Realize that if someone is ill and in need of rest and you show-up with disease symptoms, a crowd of people, or a time-consuming project, you are probably worrying the patient and making him or her uncomfortable.
Knowing that the patient might be sleepy or in pain, look around during your visit to see if you can adjust something (lighting, the location of the remote control or the phone, pillows, wrinkled sheets, etc.) that might make the patient more comfortable and then ask if you should make that adjustment.
If the patient only wants to talk about being sick, go along with that, but arrive prepared to talk about other topics since the patient might want to have a break from thinking about sickness.
To read about etiquette for patient visits, see http://www.bikurcholimcc.org/visiting2.html.
To list a patient on a brucha blog, see http://www.dovslist.org/
To read inspirational thoughts about times of sickness, see http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/274355/jewish/From-Under-The-Covers.htm
Comforting Mourners – Shiva
Mourners need time and understanding in the days following a death as they review their memories and begin to experience their loss. When you visit a mourner be reverent and polite by following the mourner’s interpersonal leads. If he or she does not feel like talking, then you shouldn’t talk. If he or she looks tired, don’t stay long. If he or she expresses loneliness, make yourself more available.
Our tradition dictates that for the first week after a death mourners should not see reflections of their faces or deal with mundane activities. As a member of the shul community, you might offer to wash dishes, walk a dog, take out garbage, or otherwise handle some of the tasks that a mourner should not need to think about when he or she wants to think about family.
To read about preparing a shiva house, making a shiva call, or creating an online shiva registry, see http://shivaconnect.com/page/home/
To learn the etiquette and expectations associated with shiva calls, see http://www.myjewishlearning.com/life/Life_Events/Death_and_Mourning/Burial_and_Mourning/Shiva/How_to_Make_a_Shiva_Call.shtml
Read basic facts about Jewish mourning practices at http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/281586/jewish/The-Mourner-and-the-Mourned.htm