Bikur Cholim

At Albany Med I’m almost always in “D” wing, it seems. That’s nice, because when I come out of the elevator on the first floor I’m by the chapel. It’s quiet and dim and I go there to sit for a few minutes. My hospital visits almost always evoke strong emotion. Part of that is just how I am (or choose to be): emotionally open to the realities of birth and death, growth and decay, sickness and health. Another part is that, as the rabbi, I get to ask the questions/address the issues that others are uncertain whether or not it’s polite to bring up. So our conversations often touch on deep issues, or scary ones. That’s the nature of accident and illness.

So I come here, to the chapel. There’s a Jewish mural on one side, and I always end up sitting facing it. Today I was drawn to the opposite side by the sound of the water falling down the wall. Soothing.

Behind me is the Jesus painting. On the wall by the Jewish mural is a small sign pointing, as best it can on a diagonal, toward the Ka’baa. Prayer rugs are folded neatly nearby. Kneelers are lined up against the wall.

There’s usually never anyone here with me, but a young woman just came in, knelt, prayed (I assume), left.

As you come in there’s what looks like an altar ahead of you, spotlighted. On it is a book Albany Med chapelwhere people write their prayers, like another woman who just left did. Most of the prayers, whether of petition (the majority) or thanks, are addressed “Lord.” Must be a different tradition; seems just a tad too public to me. I understand the impulse, but it seems weird to me: the only place I would leave a prayer is in the Western Wall, and it wouldn’t be there for anyone else to read. And while this is a sacred space, it’s not holy to me.

I never stay here long, though I often think I will or I should. Just enough to ground the energy I’ve raised.