Thursday, March 3, 2011


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Pikudei/Shekalim

27 Adar I 5771/March 4, 2011

Did you ever say the right thing and mean it with the best of intentions, only to realize – to your dismay – that your words were understood totally in the wrong way, or were taken out of context?

A friend told me that when he was in elementary school he had an elderly teacher, Mr. Z., who was somewhat senile and couldn’t hear well. My friend recounted that on occasion he would be thrown out of class. Then, after standing out in the hall for about ten minutes the teacher would come outside and ask him what he was doing out of class.

One Friday as he was leaving class to catch his bus my friend cheerfully called out, “Have a wonderful Shabbos, Mr. Z.” Mr. Z. snapped back angrily, “Now you don’t tell me what to do, young man!”

Our Sages teach us that the holy day of Shabbos is inextricably bound with promoting peace and love. This not only refers to peace of mind but also to engender warmth and closeness with our fellow Jews. And so amongst our holy nation we have a prevalent custom to bless each other that our Shabbos be special and elevated. But there are different versions of the time-honored greeting. Some people are accustomed to saying “Gut Shabbos” (or “Good Shabbos”), while others prefer saying, “Shabbat Shalom”. Whichever version one chooses the point is to promote feelings of camaraderie on the holy day.

But there are always individuals who have the ability to misconstrue even the most beautiful of customs. I had one particular congregant who was a living example. When he would come to shake my hand after davening on Friday night I would smile and wish him ‘Good Shabbos’, to which he invariably replied with a hearty, “Shabbat Shalom’. So one week I wised up and wished him ‘Shabbat Shalom’. He looked at me, smiled, and replied, “Good Shabbos’. Sometimes you just can’t win!

Although that congregant meant it as a joke there have been times when I have wished someone one version of the Shabbos blessing, to which they replied with the alternate version in a cold and almost spiteful manner. It was as if I willfully insulted them by not using the greeting they were used to.

It was because of this ‘issue’ that I (only half-jokingly) resolved to begin my Shabbos morning drashos by wishing everyone, “Good Shabbos; Shabbat Shalom”. [I conclude this weekly writing in a similar vein.] No doubt someone out there will still find reason to complain. However, I can rest assured knowing that I have done my effort to convey to you my sincerest desire that you merit a -

Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

R’ Dani and Chani Staum