Saying “Hi” to Strangers

Parshas Emor

Shlomis bas Divri was the mother of the Blasphemer. We are not informed of his own personal name; the Torah restricts itself to informing us that he had an Egyptian father and Jewish mother who bore the nickname of Shlomis bas Divri. These labels were not of a laudable nature. Shlomis, a redaction of the word Shalom, refers to the point that she would be chattering and greeting everybody “Peace be on you” “Shalom to you”. Bas Divri alludes to the fact that she was also a blabber mouth – Divri – jabbering with everyone.

Question

Having a motor-mouth is certainly not praiseworthy. Talking freely with just anyone will lead you to a prolonged interaction with the lower echelons of society. Conversation with these low people should be polite and brief. But what could be wrong with greeting everyone? Saying hello, uplifts people and makes them feel respected. Aren’t we exhorted to “Greet everyone”? One of the reasons Rabbi Yochchan, of Talmudic fame, merited a long life, is because no one managed to best him in greeting, he would always initiate, Jew and non-Jew alike.

Answer

Greeting people, and making them feel wanted is admirable. Inquiring into their social welfare gives a sense of belonging. This is a trait that requires vigilance and constant encouragement, as people tend to ignore befriending the stranger and only connect with their familiar friends. Shlomis bas Divri’s personality was that of a chatterer, opening conversation indiscriminately. This free attitude eventually caused her trouble and brought her to being abused by the Egyptian. Her greetings were not for the purpose of making people feel good or basic decency. “Shalom” from Shlomis was a means of initiating conversation, schmoozing with people for the sake of yapping and engaging them. Such an approach earned her the sobriquet Shlomis – the Greeter.

Lesson

Most of us need to greet for the right reason, but it is possible to greet for the wrong one.

Story

Rabbi Zvi Kamenetsky grandson of the famous Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky (1891- 1986) was once trying to get in touch with a friend who was staying at the Carribean Hotel, Miami Beach. Rabbi Kamenetsky called the front desk, identified his friend, and asked to be connected. The operator rang the room and there was no answer.

“Wood’ja like ta leave a message?” she asked, to which Rabbi Kamenetsky replied,”Please tell my friend that Kamenetsky called.” The operator said to him,”Rah-bbi Kam-en-etsky? Ah ya related to th’ famous Rah-bbi Kam-en-etsky?” He responded, “Yes he was my grandfather.” In warm tones, the operator announced, “He wuz yer grandpa! He wuz a good frien’ o’ mine, Rah-bbi Kam-en-etsky!”.

She went on to explain that when Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky came to the hotel. He gave “some kinda Bible class” every morning in the lobby of the hotel. “Every single mornin’ befo’e he give d’class, he’d a come by my desk, gimme a nod, and say ‘Good mornin’!’. When he finished the class he’d a walk by my desk agin and say ‘Have a good day!’ That Rah-bbi Kamenetsky, he mighta been a great rah-bbi, but he certainly was a great man!”

Weekly Halachah

When greeting people on Shabbos, one should change from the greeting used on weekdays (Mishna Berura 307:5).

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