In my latest reading of Joseph Telushkin’s A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 2: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Telushkin talks about such issues as what to do when you are a guest, what to say when you visit a sick person, and death.
For the first issue, being a guest, some stuff on page 58 was especially meaningful to me. Telushkin says that we should not have an exaggerated sensitivity that leads us to say that we’re not hungry when we really are, something that many of us do because we don’t want to appear as if we came just for the food. Telushkin cites Kallah Rabbati 9. Telushkin also says that, if we are reserved, we should take special care to be sociable—-to listen to the people who have invited us and to talk with them, beyond giving them one-word answers. Telushkin tells a story about a rabbi and a friend who ate with a talkative woman, and the friend focused on studying his holy book while ignoring the woman who invited him. The rabbi told him that he basically stole the meal from the woman, since she invited him expecting for him to converse with her.
On visiting the sick, we are to say a prayer for the person when we get to the sick person’s room. We are also to try to talk with the person about things other than his illness (which is not an iron-clad rule, but rather it’s an acknowledgement that many sick people would like to think about things other than their sickness, every once in a while). One point that Telushkin made was that people at hospitals and nursing homes tend to enter people’s rooms without permission, something they would not dream of doing were it somebody’s house. This stood out to me because I used to work at a nursing home, and, as I look back, I probably should have knocked at the residents’ door more and asked them if they wanted company, rather than just plowing into the room and talking with them (as much as they appreciated my visits).
Regarding death, Telushkin talks about a shomer, someone who takes care of a dying person. According to Telushkin, the shomer is exempt from positive commandments, such as the commands about prayer and tefillin. Telushkin cites Babylonian Talmud Berachot 18a.