Wednesday, Feb 21, 2024

Taanis 14: The Greatness of a Greeting

On this daf, we find a halacha about giving greetings.

One of the hardest habits to acquire is always greeting one’s fellow Jew with a radiant smile. Rav Avrohom Grodzinsky, a great gaon and baal mussar, worked two full years to acquire this middah. Even in the ghetto during the Holocaust, his face was always shining.

Despite the challenges, it is not surprising that Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld also mastered this trait and greeted everyone with a smile. He was exceedingly careful to fulfill every detail of halacha or middas chassidus with great joy, so why should this be different? Even at a very advanced age, when the rov was already quite frail, he would go to any lengths to act in accordance with what he understood to be Hashem’s will. The rov was always very careful to greet everyone he met, friend or self-proclaimed foe.

On the last Motzoei Shabbos of a year during which Rosh Hashannah came out in the middle of the week, Rav Sonnenfeld was on his way home when he encountered a neighbor who wished him “gut voch.”

The rov responded warmly in Yiddish by wishing him a good year: “Gut yohr.”

The man had hardly continued on when the rov called him back. “Our sages say that if one receives a blessing, he should give an even greater brocha back. The custom is to respond to those who wish us a good week with ‘a good year,’ since that is a bigger blessing. This particular week is the exception to the rule, since Rosh Hashanah is on Tuesday and the week extends until Motzoei Shabbos. So my blessing was less than yours.” He looked at the man with his shining, happy countenance and proceeded to heap blessings on the gratified man until he was satisfied that he had fulfilled his duty (Alei Shur; Hanhagos Upesakim L’haGrich Sonnenfeld; Ikvei Chaim).

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