Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Greeting People on Tisha B'av

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Among the Tisha B'av restrictions is that of greeting other people, referred to as the prohibition of "Sheilat Shalom". [1] This, as most other Tisha B'av restrictions, are in order to replicate the laws which apply to a mourner during the shiva period,[2] as on Tisha B'av, all Jews are in mourning for the Beit Hamikdash. One who is greeted on Tisha B'av by one who may not know the halacha, should not completely ignore the greeting lest doing so embarrass the other person, but should offer a return greeting in a mournful manner. While some authorities include the saying of "good morning" or "hello" in the prohibition of Sheilat Shalom,[3] it is not entirely clear if such a greeting was intended to be included in the prohibition.[4]

In order to properly understand the prohibition of greeting others on Tisha B'av and what it entails, one must understand what the definition and essence of "Sheilat Shalom" truly is. When one Jew meets another he traditionally greets him with "Shalom Aleichem," and the other returns the greeting with "Aleichem Shalom." Greeting a fellow Jew in this way allows one to do so with one of God's names, as "Shalom" is one of the names of God.[5] Shalom does not merely mean "hello" as it is commonly used in everyday Hebrew, but rather a greeting of "Shalom Aleichem" extends to a person not merely a simple greeting, but rather it is wishes that the person be blessed with and that the name of God rest upon them.

Click here to read moreAs such, a number of halachic authorities have distinguished between the traditional greeting of "Shalom Aleichem" and modern-day expressions of greetings, acknowledgement, or recognition. While it seems quite reasonable that using God's name when in mourning may be inappropriate, saying "hello" should be no worse than any of the other mundane conversation which take place on Tisha B'av, or in a house or mourning, for that matter. When one picks up the telephone the first word is always a "hello" which is not truly a greeting at all, but rather an expression of readiness to engage in conversation. There is no prohibition on conversation on Tisha B'av or in a house of mourning.

Offering another Jew a "Shalom Aleichem" is more of a religious act than a greeting. Common expressions of "hello", "good morning", and the like, are simply not in the same league as is "Shalom Aleichem" in neither depth, structure, nor status.[6] Specifically, that which is forbidden to a mourner or by all on Tisha B'av is a greeting which includes the name of God. Somewhat related to this is the prohibition on greeting another person any day of the year prior to having prayed the Shacharit service.[7] Here too, the prohibition is specifically greeting a person with God' name – the "Shalom Aleichem", and not merely a "hello" or "good morning".[8]

While it may just be that those who choose to be strict and not offer any greeting whatsoever when in mourning or on Tisha B'av are following a preferred course, it cannot be suggested that a simple social acknowledgment is in violation of halacha. Those who feel that it is rude or uncomfortable to pass others without an acknowledgement of some sort should feel free to offer a somber "hello" without reservation.[9] Often merely saluting another person in a somewhat formal manner and tone of voice ("Mr. Levine") accomplishes the same thing as well.


[1] O.C. 554:20
[2] Y.D. 385:1
[3] Mishna Berura 554:41
[4] Rema Y.D. 385:1
[5] Shabbat 10b
[6] Be'er Heitev Y.D. 385:1
[7] O.C. 89:2
[8] O.C. 89:2
[9] Be'er Moshe 4:106

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