In 1973, Brian and Michael McCormack created World Hello Day as a reaction to the Yom Kippur War. College students at the time, the brothers started a campaign encouraging people to actively say “hello” to at least 10 people on November 21. The “holiday” has become an annual event and has garnered international attention.
Is there validity in the idea that saying hello to people can inspire peace? Actually, the significance of greeting others is often highlighted by the sages:
“Rabbi Matyah ben Cheresh used to say: Be first in greeting every man…” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers 4:20).
“Shammai said: “…receive all men with a cheerful face” (ibid 1:15).
In Hebrew, the word for hello is Shalom, which not only means peace, but is also one of the names of God. Thus it is that when people greet each other with the word shalom, they are following the custom set out by Boaz: “And they instituted that one should greet their friend with God’s name, as the verse says (Ruth 2:4), ‘And behold Boaz came from Bethlehem, and he said to the reapers, ‘May God be with you.’ And they said to him,’God bless you’” (Talmud Brachot 54a).
Saying hello with Shalom is also a modern greeting. Traditionally, Jews greeted each other by saying Shalom Aleichem (Peace unto you). The Talmud states: “Rabbi Helbo further said in the name of Rabbi Huna: If one knows that his friend is used to greeting him, let him greet him first. For it is said: Seek peace and pursue it. And if his friend greets him and he does not return the greeting he is called a robber” (ibid 6b). Perhaps that is why the traditional reply to Shalom Aleichem is Aleichem Shalom (Unto you, peace).
World Hello Day is an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves that greeting others is a true Jewish value.