For so many of us, we show our love for those is in need of comfort with warm, physical embrace. When we are required to be six feet away from all but the closest loved ones and neighbors, how can we comfort those who are sick, depressed, or mourning?

(כד) וְאַ֨בְרָהָ֔ם בֶּן־תִּשְׁעִ֥ים וָתֵ֖שַׁע שָׁנָ֑ה בְּהִמֹּל֖וֹ בְּשַׂ֥ר עָרְלָתֽוֹ׃ (כה) וְיִשְׁמָעֵ֣אל בְּנ֔וֹ בֶּן־שְׁלֹ֥שׁ עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה שָׁנָ֑ה בְּהִ֨מֹּל֔וֹ אֵ֖ת בְּשַׂ֥ר עָרְלָתֽוֹ׃ (כו) בְּעֶ֙צֶם֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה נִמּ֖וֹל אַבְרָהָ֑ם וְיִשְׁמָעֵ֖אל בְּנֽוֹ׃ (כז) וְכָל־אַנְשֵׁ֤י בֵיתוֹ֙ יְלִ֣יד בָּ֔יִת וּמִקְנַת־כֶּ֖סֶף מֵאֵ֣ת בֶּן־נֵכָ֑ר נִמֹּ֖לוּ אִתּֽוֹ׃ (פ) (א) וַיֵּרָ֤א אֵלָיו֙ יְהוָ֔ה בְּאֵלֹנֵ֖י מַמְרֵ֑א וְה֛וּא יֹשֵׁ֥ב פֶּֽתַח־הָאֹ֖הֶל כְּחֹ֥ם הַיּֽוֹם׃ (ב) וַיִּשָּׂ֤א עֵינָיו֙ וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּה֙ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה אֲנָשִׁ֔ים נִצָּבִ֖ים עָלָ֑יו וַיַּ֗רְא וַיָּ֤רָץ לִקְרָאתָם֙ מִפֶּ֣תַח הָאֹ֔הֶל וַיִּשְׁתַּ֖חוּ אָֽרְצָה׃
(24) Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he circumcised the flesh of his foreskin, (25) and his son Ishmael was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. (26) Thus Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised on that very day; (27) and all his household, his homeborn slaves and those that had been bought from outsiders, were circumcised with him. (1) The LORD appeared to him by the terebinths of Mamre; he was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot. (2) Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground,
וירא אליו. לְבַקֵּר אֶת הַחוֹלֶה. אָמַר רַבִּי חָמָא בַּר חֲנִינָא, יוֹם שְׁלִישִׁי לְמִילָתוֹ הָיָה, וּבָא הַקָּבָּ"ה וְשָׁאַל בִּשְׁלוֹמוֹ (בבא מציעא פ"ו):

וירא אליו AND THE LORD APPEARED UNTO HIM to visit the sick man. R. Hama the son of Hanina said: it was the third day after his circumcision and the Holy One, blessed be He, came and enquired after the state of his health (Bava Metzia 86b)

Because God appears to Abraham right after the narrative of his circumcision, the sages suggest the God was visiting the sick (i.e. God visited Abraham as he was recovering from his surgery). The Talmud imagines that God asked Abraham about his well-being, but the Torah does not put any words in God's mouth. The simple reading of the Torah text here is instructive: to comfort someone in pain, the most important thing to do is to simply show up. It's not about the words we use, or the hands we hold. Those may be helpful (though not always), but the necessary action - and one we can still take, even in a pandemic - is to help the person we are comforting feel our loving presence, as God did with Abraham, with or without words or touch. Such a presence is most often done in-person, but with accessible phones, many of which have video capabilities, even virtual comforting makes a difference.

Learn More with these Sefaria Sheets:

Comfort (or Reconsider?) My People - Central Synagogue Text Study, by Nicole Auerbach

Nachamu Nachamu - Where Can We Find Comfort?, by Yoni Dahlen

Torah as a Source of Comfort, by Suzanne Brody