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GREETINGS AND SALUTATIONS

by Benyamin Cohen & Michael Alterman    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you" (Numbers 6:25, the second verse of the Priestly Blessings).

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May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you" (Numbers 6:25, the second verse of the Priestly Blessings). Our rabbis teach us that every one of us was created "b'tzelem Elokim -- in the image of G-d." Keeping this in mind, we are therefore required to emulate His attributes in every way possible. If that is so, we should take a close look at the above verse to determine how we can relate it's teachings to our own actions.

To begin with, the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) states that Shammai taught, "Receive everyone with a cheerful face" (1:15). From this simple message, volumes of interpersonal disciplines can be learned. On a basic level, this statement requires us to greet a friend, spouse, or colleague with a friendly smile and a cheerful hello. This applies at all times of the day -- from the harried rush of the morning to the exhausted hours of the evening. This is so important that we see in the Talmud (Tractate Berachot 17a) a story about the great Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai which tells us about his incredibly cordial behavior towards others. The Talmud relates that he always took the initiative to greet others first, not allowing them to get the first word in. Even the lowliest peasant in the marketplace did not stand a chance of avoiding a spirited salutation from the Torah sage.

Let's examine the domino effect that can result from a simple hello. When we bump into someone, we are presented with the greatest opportunity to not only make an improvement in their day, but also to unknowingly effect the behaviors and feelings of literally dozens of people. The electric transferal of happiness from the initial party to the recipient can drastically change his mood, igniting an unbelievable chain reaction. As a result, countless other encounters and events will be affected by the original greeting. Phrases such as "Job well done!" and "Wow, you look nice today!" can make a world of difference in a person's outlook on the day's events.

It is so easy to give out complements to other people, yet so often we selfishly hold back. Why? Are we in a rush? Are we too busy and too important that we can't stop for a moment and recognize the image of G-d in other people as well? If we saw Hashem on the street, would we not stop to at least say hello and ask Him how He's doing? We should all realize the critical importance of offering a kind gesture to our neighbor. Try it and see how it works.

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Benyamin Cohen & Michael Alterman are editors of Torah from Dixie.

You are invited to read more Parshat Naso articles.

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