Last week’s stretch of the week was: Go out of your way to approach a situation more modestly, so as not to inadvertently shame someone.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
PIRKAY AVOS--ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS
And Greet Everyone Gladly
והוי מקבל את כל האדם בשמחה
V’Hevay M'Kabel Es Kol Ha’Adam B’Simcha
Perek Gimmul, Mishna Tes Zayin
Story: (based on a true story)
I’ve always struggled with being terribly shy. It didn’t help when several years ago my husband and I moved our family from my home town to a small Jewish community in an unfamiliar city. For the first few months I stayed pretty much to myself, simply because it was easier with my shyness to stay within my comfort zone than to reach out. A lot of people introduced themselves to me, and I reciprocated as minimally as necessary and then reverted right back into my shell. The block we lived on was predominately frum, and over time I’d noticed how everyone seemed so easy going and they acted in such a friendly manner to each other—something inside me longed to join in.
Often I would leave in the morning to drive my children to school and then head off to work and I’d see everyone else on the block doing the same, however as everyone would be exchanging “Good morning’s” to each other, I usually made little eye contact as a way of keeping to myself because of my issue, so not many people noticed me. I started to realize that I did this at grocery stores and clothing stores as well. Making little eye contact and not so much as a thank you or a kind word had not only separated me, but it had cut off a certain kindness in me.
I continued to watch other people in my community as they interacted socially, and then one day, I gathered up enough courage and I decided to join in the morning greeting everyone. I realized later as I drove away, that not only did my greeting make others smile, it actually made me smile. In turn, I noticed my mood had lightened when I dropped my children off at school. All throughout my day I kept pushing myself to greet people I didn’t know with smiles and chit chat, and I was rewarded with such uplifting responses. With each attempt it got easier. It was as if a shell I’d created around me was cracking apart and it felt good.
Then the next week, I had to drop off a prescription at a pharmacy that we’d been using since we’d moved into our neighborhood. The pharmacist was a woman who, like most Gentiles, wore immodest style clothing; pants and short sleeved shirts. Nonetheless, following my new way of greeting people, I smiled and warmly said hello as I handed in my prescription to her. She seemed surprised at my change in personality.
“You seem happy today! It’s nice to see!” she exclaimed as she bustled around filling my prescription.
“Yes,” I said. “It’s been a nice day.”
“You know,” she began. “You’ve always seemed a little hard to approach, so I never said anything, but now that it’s just you and me and you’re in such a good mood, I wanted to let you know,” she paused. “Well, I’m Jewish too you know!” she laughed.
“Wow! How nice, I didn’t know!” I was really surprised. I went there really often and I had no idea. I never really even took the time to notice her.
“Yeah, and I’m actually starting to attend Shabbat services at the Chabad over on the East side now too. I thought, well, with you being frum you’d find that interesting…”
“How wonderful!” I exclaimed. From there we spent a good twenty minutes having a terrific conversation about life and Shabbos. When some other costumers came, we even exchanged phone numbers to continue our conversation. I really liked her!
That following Shabbos I attended a shiur for women at my shul, and as everyone mingled afterwards, I convinced myself to do something extra brave for someone with shyness issues—I approached the speaker and thanked her for her meaningful words of divrai Torah. She was so touched by my compliment she hugged me! The emotional rush that gave me, was worth all the anxiety it took for me to do these hard emotional challenges!
I’ve since thought about the power of greeting people kindly. It touches everyone involved on so many levels! To think I might never have met the pharmacist personally, or made that connection with the speaker, or been friendly with my neighbors, had I not taken the chance to break out of my bubble. It really is nicer to smile and greet all kinds of people nicely, than to show little emotion and have people misinterpret that for being unfriendly!
"רבי ישמעאל אומר: ...והוי מקבל את כל האדם בשמחה."
"Rabi Yishmael omer: … v’hevay m'kabel es kol ha’adam b’simcha. "
"Rabi Yishmael says: … and greet everyone gladly. "(Perek Gimmul, Tes Zayin).
R’ Yishmael tells us, “greet everyone gladly”--everyone, young and old, who are mentioned earlier in the mishna. This is more far-reaching than the requirement stated by Shammai the Elder to greet people with a polite demeanor (Pirkai Avos 1:15). R’ Yishmael demands that people be greeted not only with a pleasant exterior, but an actual feeling of gladness, which can result in a true bond.
We must gladly greet “everyone”-- each human being. And the Hebrew for everyone can also be translated as “the entirety of a person” – the whole of a human being, with both his good and bad points. Although not everyone possesses this natural ability to empathize with others, it can be acquired, “until gladness becomes part of one’s nature” (Rabbeinu Yitzchak ben R’ Shlomo).
R’ Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, rabbi of the land of Israel in the first half of the twentieth century, was criticized for his warm outreach to Jews who had rejected the authority of the commandments. R’ Kook replied, “… I would rather err in loving too much than in hating too much.”
The term Kol ha’adam, every person, suggests that just as we are obligated to accept others joyously, so too, we must learn to accept ourselves joyously, despite our foibles and idiosyncrasies.
(Reproduced from Rav Lau on Pirkei Avos and from Pirkei Avos with Ideas and Insights of the Sfas Emes and other Chassidic Masters, with permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll / Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)
Discussion Question Options:
What are situations when it’s hard for you to break out of your “bubble” or comfort zone and greet people kindly?
Is there ever a time when it is not okay to greet someone kindly or with a smile?
Is it possible to “gladly greet everyone” and still protect our family from negative influences they might have?
Stretch of the Week:
Go out of your way to greet someone gladly and with kindness that you normally ignore.