We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week was: Make it a point to acknowledge, through thought or action, someone you have previously failed to appreciate.
Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute.
Greeting Others -- Sh’ailas Shalom
Sh’ailas shalom is usually translated as “greeting”, but, it actually means to inquire about someone’s well being. Thus, when we use the term “greeting” in our context, we refer to this aspect as well. The power of a warm greeting cannot be overestimated. Our Sages say that people should greet their friends and inquire after their well being using the word “shalom” – one of the divine Names of HaShem (G-d). We should not limit our greetings to close friends and neighbors, but we should be the first to greet everyone.
Judaism teaches us to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34). For example, we should always be the first one to give a passerby a warm greeting. If he happens to greet us first, we must be sure to respond in kind. Otherwise, we are considered thieves. In contrast, when we bless our friend with a warm greeting, we, too, are similarly blessed. This mitzva falls under the category of kavod, or honoring our fellow Jew.
(From The Code of Jewish Conduct by Rabbi Yitzchok Silver)
Story: (based on a true story)
When I walked into the local bank one day and saw a new teller, I noticed that she was sweet and accommodating, yet very professional. There was something else I noticed as well. Hanging around her neck was a silver Jewish star. I saw her touch it a few times as if seeking acknowledgement of the fact that she, too, was Jewish in this heavily-populated Orthodox area.
I finished my transactions and smiled as I passed her desk, acknowledging on a subliminal level that we were spiritually connected. I’ve often heard stories of people who have met non-religious Jews in shopping malls or the gym and ended up introducing them to Judaism, but I didn’t believe this was part of my destiny. It’s not that I object to reaching out to other Jews but I’m somewhat socially introverted. That being said, I knew I could manage to smile and wave at the teller and left it at that, feeling satisfied. Whenever I entered the bank, I would follow this friendly routine and the Jewish teller would return my smile.
One day, I was running errands when I saw a familiar face. “Hi! It’s me, Karen, the new teller from the bank. Do you have a second?” she asked, “I just wanted to share something with you." “Sure!” I said, not knowing what she would say.
“I recently moved to the area and started working at the bank soon after I arrived. I had no idea the neighborhood was Orthodox when I accepted the position. At first I was slightly intimidated by the fact that many of my clients were religious. I’m Jewish too, but we were less traditional growing up. When I first saw you at the bank and you waved and smiled at me, I felt so good. I know this may sound funny but somehow, until that point, I felt as if I was being judged because I wasn’t religious. Every time you passed my desk and smiled, as crazy as this may sound, it made me feel like you considered me to be one of you!”
I was blown away! “I don’t know what to say. I’m so happy to officially meet you, Karen.”
“It’s nice to meet you too!" Karen continued, “Your acknowledgement was so appreciated and I wanted to thank you. See you later!”
From this experience, I learned to never underestimate the power of a smile. It cost nothing, took no time, and was easy, even though for me it was a little bit of a stretch. Now, I try to smile at everyone I see because I realize the tremendous impact it has on others. Best of all, this experience has helped me become a more outgoing person. I eventually summoned up the courage to invite Karen for Shabbos and now she and her sister are learning with a rabbi’s wife in the community. And to think it all started with a smile and a wave!
Why do people often wait for someone to greet them before they say hello?
Did you ever initiate a greeting and receive a very positive response in return, which then led you to realize the power of sh’ailas shalom?
How would you gain by greeting others more cheerfully?
Stretch of the Week:
Make an effort to be the first to smile at someone (and notice their reply).