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Jewish Words of Greeting... and Parting

06/03/2022 08:11:17 AM


Rabbi Berk

The Jewish people are a people who love greetings. You’ve heard the pithy joke – maybe from me on the Bima, that supposedly Eskimos have one hundred words for “snow,” and that we, the Jewish people, have so many ways of greeting one another.

 The everyday, most classic, and perhaps most widely-known Hebrew word is “Shalom,” meaning “Hello” (of course also meaning “Goodbye” and “peace”); the more formal “Shalom Lechah” or “Shalom Aleichem,” meaning “Greetings,” “Good day,” or literally “Peace be upon you,” to all of which one can reply “Alechah Shalom” or “Alecheim Shalom.” There’s “Baruch Habah,” “Welcome” (or literally, “Blessed be the one who comes”). There are roughly ten – ten! – more in Hebrew, with variations of: “Blessed be the one (already) present;” “Blessed be the one who is sitting;” “Peace, blessing and (all) good (to you);” “Be strong and blessed;” “May your strength increase;” “Be strong and of good courage;” and “(May you live) until the age of 120.”

 Then there are those that are particular greetings to the day or week: from Wednesday evening through Saturday afternoon: “Shabbat Shalom,” “Good Sabbath / Sabbath of Peace;” on Saturday evening, “Shavua Tov,” “A good week.” And there are greetings on new moons and of course greetings particular to holidays (of which we also have no shortage): “Shana Tova,” “A good year (to you);” the Yiddish “Gut Yuntif,” “A good holiday (to you)” (which is a corrupted version of “Yom Tov,” the Hebrew for “holiday” or literally “Good day”). There are more for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: “Le’shanah tovah,” “To a good year;” “Le’shanah tovah tikkatevu (ve’tehatemu),” “May you be inscribed (and sealed) for a good year;” “Ketivah tovah,” “A good inscription (in the Book of Life);” “Hatimah tovah” and “Gemar hatimah tovah,” “A sealing for good (to you),” or “A favorable final sealing (to you) (in the Book of Life).” And there are even more than that! But what about when we part from one another?

Naturally we can say “Shalom,” “Goodbye,” but in Hebrew that conveys a more concrete finality, as in: “Farewell” or “Fare-the-well.” Of course there are times when that is appropriate. But in all other circumstances when there is a certainty or even just the hope of seeing one another again, the more appropriate and commonly used Hebrew expression is this: “Le’hitraot.” As the reflexive form of the verb “to see,” it means “to see (oneself or one another)” and is the hopeful, optimistic way of expressing: “see you,” “see you again,” or “I’ll be seeing you.”

There’s even a friendly version of a much shortened form, simply: “Le’heet!” As in “See ya’!” And what’s more: “Shalom” and “Le’hitraot” can even work together as “Shalom u’le’hitraot,” meaning “goodbye and be seeing you.” And maybe that’s what I’m looking for, as a way to express the finality of my leaving while also conveying the hope that we see each other again. And that is both my reality as well as my hope: this is indeed “Shalom,” “Goodbye…” and because I still won’t let go of hoping to see one another again, it is also “Le’hitraot,” “See you again.” Shalom u’le’hitraot,” “goodbye and be seeing you.” Be seeing you. I hope.

Mon, June 24 2024 18 Sivan 5784