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?
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