Thought for the Day: Tisha B’Av 2022
“The absence of something makes us appreciate it more.”
That’s the way all Thoughts For The Day commence. A polite greeting of these same two words, which are usually taken for granted.
This Sunday, in Jewish communities across the world, people will be trying their best not to say, “Good morning.” In fact, over a period of 25 hours, we’ll be avoiding all greetings.
This extraordinary custom will be part of our observance of the Fast of Av, which is the anniversary of many harrowing moments in Jewish history, including the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290 and from Spain in 1492.
The Fast of Av is a day of fasting, prayer and mourning. Wrapped in collective grief, we avoid pleasurable and joyous activities, one of which is greeting others as we usually do.
Our recent pandemic experiences reminded us that the absence of something makes one appreciate it more. And that’s exactly what happens on the Fast of Av. We have an annual reminder of the centrality of greetings in our daily lives.
There are countless academic studies, books and websites dedicated to the power of a simple greeting, with numerous anecdotes of how a friendly ‘hello’ has saved people’s lives.
For this reason, the Talmud teaches that one should always try to be the first to extend a greeting and one should receive all people with a smile on one’s face, for a smile is a universal ‘hello’ that transcends all languages.
However, it’s not only the recipient of a greeting who benefits. A few years ago, an American journalist, Steve Calechman, engaged in a simple experiment. He gave a commitment that he would say hello to at least ten people every day for ten days. Previously, Calechman would only greet people if he needed to.
The result of his experiment was remarkable. His attitude towards others immediately became more positive. Those around him became three dimensional and interesting. There was warmth in his community and he felt more connected to it. Calechman commented, “I felt happier. It’s simple and it happens to work. It doesn’t cost anything and it could save your life.”
For this very reason, the Fast of Av powerfully reminds us that to extend a greeting is a joyful, life-enriching act.
Hearing a hearty “Good morning” can definitely make someone’s day. And, by always extending a friendly “Good morning” to others, your life, too, is bound to be significantly enhanced.
So, for this particular Thought for the Day, allow me please to conclude as well with a heartfelt, “Good morning.”