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Parshas Noach - Greetings     5 Cheshvan 5781

10/22/2020 08:42:33 PM


Ah Gut Your, Ah Kesiva Vachasima Tova, Gmar Chasima Tov, Ah Gut Kvittel, Ah Gut Yom Tov, Ah Gutten Vinter, Ah Lichtiga Chanuka, Ah Freilichin Purim, Ah Zeesen Kasherin Pesach, Ah Gutten Zummer, Ah Gutten Shabbos, and, of course, Shabbat Shalom are Jewish greetings used as we progress through the year. These greetings are reflective of the holiday and season that we are currently in, just passed, or are moving into. The greetings are infused with blessings relevant and pertinent for that time of year, some religious and others secular, some just for fun and others serious. These universal Jewish greetings go beyond a simple ‘good morning’ and the like. Rather, each greeting demonstrates a connection to being Jewish whether we know the person to whom we’re speaking or not.

For the average person, every greeting and introduction is an opportunity to demonstrate respect for others and to create a favorable impression of yourself to others. When you greet someone, you acknowledge their presence. Most people do this automatically, barely noticing they are doing it. Nevertheless, it is an especially important component of society that provides opportunity to understand one another, breaking down barriers that otherwise might distance one from another. Surely, Jews say good morning and give greetings throughout the year just as everyone else does. Is the idea of greetings something consistent with Torah thought or not?

What is the Halachik/Jewish law opinion on the matter of greetings? To answer, I would look at the laws of mourning. On Tisha B’Av we refrain from greeting people in the morning whom we typically might greet daily. This practice is followed in a house of mourning whereby no greetings or goodbyes are used when entering or departing the mourner and the house. A visitor just walks into the ‘Shiva house’ without knocking and sits down facing those in mourning. Before leaving, the visitor gives words of comfort and then just leaves. We can deduce that if I am forbidden from greeting at certain times and places during the year, it must be a good thing, if not mandatory, to greet someone upon seeing them.

A few months ago, I wrote about the inability to show a smile to someone due to mask-wearing requirements. Although it may take extra effort to speak while wearing a mask,, this  makes it all the more important to give an extraordinary greeting in order to make up for the lost visual of the smile. These kinds of greetings should not be limited to a ‘good morning’ to someone you see every day. Rather, go out of your way to give that extra effort to greet  everyone with whom you come into contact with throughout the day. Every day presents  opportunities to brighten up someone’s day and lift their spirits with a good greeting.   Whether you are waiting in line at the bank, checking out at the grocery store, waiting on some line or in an office waiting for an appointment, you can improve the world around you by extending this simple gesture of good will as we wend our way through the waves of anxiety throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe statistics support that we are closer to a vaccine and that the mortality rate is currently dropping. Treatments are improving as the medical and scientific worlds learn more about the intricacies of this virus. We are hopeful that we will slowly emerge from this pandemic and begin the process of restitching the shattered lives of so many who have lost loved ones while rebuilding the devastation done to the economy. For now, however, we must focus on doing what must be done to protect ourselves and those dependent upon our leadership

That was not the case going back two thousand one hundred six years ago when Noach and his family emerged from the Teivah/ark. There too, a complete destruction of the world, barring the fish, the  eight human beings quarantined in the ark, and the animals they ceaselessly fed and cared for. When they were told to step out of the ark, there was no one around to greet except themselves. Perhaps they even anticipated knowing there would not be anyone to greet and felt reluctant to even leave the ark. Did Noach and his family want to exit from the Teivah or not?

In this week’s Parshas Noach the Torah states in Bereishis 8:16  "צא מין התבה אתה ואשתך ובניך ונשי-בניך אתך"  “God spoke to Noach saying, ‘Leave the ark --you, along with your wife, your sons, and your son’s wives”. The Netzi”v, Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, in his commentary Haamek Davar, comments that in the very next verse it says, ‘take out with you…’ from the ark all the living creatures. The subtle difference between ‘leave’ and ‘take out’ is coming to teach us that they delayed and remained in the ark to seek out the blessing. Of course, you ask, ”What blessing is it referring to?” Fast forward to Bereishis 9:10: “God said to Noach, ‘I am making a covenant with you and with your offspring after you. It will also include every living creature that is with you among the birds, the livestock, and all the beasts of the earth with you – all who left the ark, including every animal on earth. The animals carefully made sure (by remaining in the ark) to be included in the blessing that Hashem gave to future offspring and only those who left with Noach. But had they left immediately, then they would not have been a part of this blessing. The Netzi”v later on explains that the animals stood there next to Noach to receive the bris/covenant. It would also be a segula, a good merit, to receive a blessing, tor be part of a covenant when it is in front of you and not from behind.

I would like to suggest that Hashem, commanding all of the passengers on the Teivah to go out, was really extending an invitation, a greeting, to come back into the world. Noach and his family had no one to greet and perhaps I can suggest that this is why they were reluctant to leave, not knowing where to go. It took that ‘welcome’ from Hashem to motivate them to come out. The guarantee through the words Hashem spoke with Noach was a bris/covenant, and a bracha/blessing. This message was conveyed through the ‘greeting’ of welcome to Noach and his family to come out and rebuild the world. If you spell the word Teivah with a Yud and rearrange the letters you get Bayit, house. Every morning, afternoon and evening we walk out of our homes the same way 2106 years ago Noach emerged from his house. His purpose, his goal, was to rebuild the world;  our mandate is the same. We have the mission, the purpose, to go out from our homes to recreate a better world every single day of our lives. That will be the ultimate blessing and the covenant that not only will destruction not rain down upon the world, but  that only blessings will shower upon us through our greetings, wishing everyone a special, unique, dedicated blessing for that time and place.     


Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Tue, October 19 2021 13 Cheshvan 5782