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Once again I'd like to say Shabbat shalom. Shanah Tovah. Well wait a second is it l'shana tova tikatevu? Or is it good yom tov. Oh, it's so confusing.

Now, when I lived in Israel, you start hearing people wish you shall have a round a month before Rosh Hashanah. There's a little bit of flexibility in the modern Hebrew speaking country, because there are other greetings that we have like chag sameach that technically should only be used for a chag and a chag is a technical thing in our tradition.

It is not a chag if it is something that is not written in Torah. So the chagim in the Torah, where we would usually say chag sameach are going to be Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, Smmini Atzeret , Simchat Torah even though it's not technically in the Torah different story altogether.

But in Israel you hear people all the time say chag sameach on Purim chag sameach on chanukah. It's kind of okay because it's the evolution of the greeting. But it's nice to preferably put in there chag chanukah sameach or chag purim sameach.

And are you starting to get nervous now? Are you feeling like maybe we don't know the right thing to say? Because what do we do on the High Holidays because Shana Tova turns into something different, right?

When we get to Yom Kippur War, you hear other things like gamar tov, which is a shortened version of g'mar hatima tova which means may you're sealing in the book of life, not the book of death, you know, before good, which kind of makes sense, but that's a lot of words. So we say gmar tov or the easier one is some Kyle Have an easy fast, which I don't like I'd like some mushroom tea have a meaningful fast or you just say in English because that is the third or fourth holy language out there have a good fast.

And we're getting real nervous right now because what's the right thing to say you know what? I think Hebrew has one of the most glorious, all around the blessings on the face of this planet and that Shalom, because it's kind of like Aloha. It's, it's Hello, it's goodbye. And it also means peace and peace in the sense of I want to wish you wholeness, which is a pretty amazing greeting when you think about it.

Now, it's not arbitrary, that this Rosh Hashanah I am contemplating Greetings, because it may have occurred to everyone out there that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and this is the last I will say on this. It's getting bad again. And this is not part of the sermon, but can we please stop going out and saying that Bill Gates is behind all this. Can we please wear our face masks and get over this dang thing as quickly as possible and not keep on going. So crazy. We will have jabs coming out soon. But can we please just be a little bit more sensible and soapbox back to sermon, which is not necessarily soapbox.

So it's not arbitrary because as part of greetings in the age of pandemic, handshakes have begun to get a bad rap. Right in the days leading up to lockdown as we knew something was coming, and we didn't really know what it was. Right here in the synagogue, we started with the elbow bump, which is kind of a less disease transmitting version of the fist bump, which if you I guess sneeze and then Okay, I know too much information. So this thing's a little bit safer, especially if there's some cloth there.

But it's interesting because the handshake is people have started thinking, well, maybe we should rethink the entire idea of the handshake. We started pulling out information on why the handshakes bad and the main information that you will hear almost everywhere I even think it's incorrectly written in Wikipedia if I'm not mistaken, not a scholarly source I know. But that the handshake goes back to Greek times. And it was meant to see if the person that you were greeting had any weapons up their sleeves.

And you see this as a tradition going through the Roman times where you would actually reach all the way up the arm to check for weapons, and then in mediaeval times that you would shake vigorously in order to see if any weapons fell out. Turns out that's not completely true, although there's probably some level of truth to it.

The first mention or visualisation of a handshake that we have in human history comes from a bas relief from the ninth century BCE, from the Assyrian king Shalmaneser. And it is a sign of goodness and trust.

Homer writes about the handshake in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and each time we see it, it is passing on relationship, and it is passing on trust. And indeed Many of the earliest visualisations of handshakes that we have, are actually in funerary rites, where we see carvings of funeral procedures where our ancestor who's passed on is reaching up from the grave, and we're shaking their hand and the meaning of that is to gain their wisdom to gain the adore of adore the from generation to generation.

So, I'm all for considering the handshake as something that we should possibly not use for a lot of reasons. But we should be honest about its origins. Its original intention was meant to pass on interconnectivity. I'm not really sure that it really does that anymore.

Yeah, let me give you the reason that I think that is true. If you want to have some fun go on YouTube. Not on yom tov. Come on, you're on screens enough as it is these days. Go on YouTube when it's not yom tov and look handshake induction hypnotism and if you actually want to stay in Great Britain, just look up Darren Brown, who is not a rabbi, but it's one of my rabbis, just one of the most entertaining but interesting guys out there. And the handshake induction, basically is this. If I reach out my hands to you and you are above a certain age, meaning you have shook enough hands in your life, what's going to happen is, as soon as my hand reaches up, yours comes out automatically. And what happens if you are falling victim to someone doing this to you? they interrupt that so as the hands reaching out, and I reach out to them then they would grab my hand and hold it up. And the brain doesn't know what to do because it's interrupted an autonomic response. That autonomic response is saying, this doesn't make sense in the brain goes What? In that heartbeat. The hypnotist can say sleep.

How is it that this greeting that was meant to pass on interconnectivity has become so automatic That it can be used, if you will against us. For someone who wishes to play with our consciousness. I think it's worth probably thinking through other greetings.

And the original idea when I had the idea of the sermon, literally months ago, was to look through all the greetings around the world that are popular in different cultures, and maybe come up with a suggestion that we could try maybe it's Sinai, maybe in the larger Jewish world of people who are watching this, it might be a little strange, but maybe it'll catch on because we're all going to be looking for something.

If you've met in groups of people, it's really awkward. Have you noticed how weird it is? To be in your bubble families once we were starting gathered together? We see our friends at the pub and we say, ha, what are we doing here? We might want to have an idea. So I found some interesting ones.

Here's my favourite right here. in Tibet. people greet each other by sticking out their tongues. Now I'm going to read the street. From the travel blog, blaming this greeting on a really bad King. It all began with monks who would stick out their tongues to show that they came in peace, interesting theme, and weren't the reincarnation of a cruel 19th century king named long Dharma, who is known for having a black tongue. Needless to say, the greeting caught on. That's pretty good.

Now, I didn't know this. But in New Zealand, apparently there's rubbing of noses and sometimes foreheads, I think we have to just discount that automatically because that is probably not going to help with not passing on future potential outbreaks.

In Zimbabwe, Mozambique, we have clapping the hands as a sort of applause when we meet someone else. I particularly liked this one, because we all are present in someone at the moment of greeting and to applaud their presence in that moment. What does it take us to get to that moment in time, that might be one of the finalists. In Malaysia, putting your hand on your heart off this one works in so many different ways. It means something this interconnectivity aspect. How important is it that I'm seeing you in this moment? Of course, in Greenland, and among the Tuvalu people in Oceana, they're sniffing of each other's faces. I think we can pass on that one. But fun nonetheless to think about and finally, reviewing our revering our elders, in different parts, and tribal cultures around the world.

In other words, you walk into a room and the first person you greet is the oldest in the room. I wouldn't have liked this 30 years ago, but the more that my white hair matches the whiteness of my Kippa, I'm thinking this is not such a bad idea. The reality is, wherever we go, greetings require that you have a fine detail of understanding what's happening.

My first job as a rabbi was at The liberal, the reformed synagogue in Geneva, Switzerland, in the French speaking part of Switzerland, it is not too It is three kisses. Right, left, right. And I think I spent more time in anxiety concerned about is this someone I kiss or not. And after a year there, I still did not really figure it out. But there's a point to that. Because greetings became instead of the habitual handshake to begin something that I actually had to think about, not that different from the handshake that I spent so many years dealing with in Germany, which is quick down quick up, we have had enough of touching that the person we are done with the handshake now, and the handshake is over, as opposed to in many parts of United States of America, where Five minutes later you are thinking, am I still shaking hands with this person? What is happening?

There are actually etiquette guides in Victorian England saying a few firm handshakes is all you need. firmly but not to them, Do not try to injure the other person several times up and down. That's the worst British accent you'll ever hear. I will never do it again. What really broke my heart when I started thinking about this was a story that I heard in a podcast about someone who's in a 12 step programme, talking about having been without their support group for the last month. And the biggest support that they needed was stepping into a room of people going through the same thing and hugging them. And I hadn't even thought of that part of it, because I thought that I was going to be so clever by coming in with some sort of universal idea.

I mean, I even went back to the oldest ways in the Torah, where Jews greet each other and I'm not even gonna talk about it. You're just gonna have to read it in chapter 24. of of Genesis, because Avraham, it's a grabbing a thighs, that's a euphemism, read that and then read the Rashi and you'll get what I mean? So I thought it was going to be really cute by coming up with something clever. What I actually realised is that we've been apart for a while now. And for some of us, the lack of human engagement and deep human touch is now beginning to reach devastating mental health implications.

And so, if I may be so bold is to suggest, I suggest two things. I suggest, first of all, a greeting that recognises the uniqueness of that moment and take whichever one you like, clapping the hand on the heart, I'm just going to give a little plug for bowing. actually know that in the Victorian guy, he was specifically meant to step away from the bowing that meant I was lower than someone else, but there's a fascinating thing in Judaism that says maybe the eastern tradition of bowing is not such a bad idea because We're not supposed to bow down to anyone but the eternal.

But according to Martin guber, there are two versions of the eternal, the eternal, that is greater than us than the eternal that we find is the spark of holiness and each other, and what if when we're greeting each other with a pipe bow looking each other in the eyes, we're actually saying I recognise that there's as much of the eternal in you. as I'd like to believe that there isn't me. What it boils down to, is intentionality. I want to go back to the handshake for a second. Because it's not just that handshakes are automatic. But who are the people whose hands we don't shake?

It's actually get right down to it for a second. When we walk into a pub or restaurant, do we shake the hands of the greeter or waiters and waitresses? Yes, for those of you that were here last year, this was one of my high holiday sermons. And the reality is shaking hands was not an equal greeting either. Because if we really think about it, How many times have we created someone in a position that at an unconscious level? We don't think is that our same societal level in that moment? And I'm going to challenge us all to be honest with that one, because we're all going to fall short. And we've got some work to do to be written in that book of life when it comes to such things. And how interesting to create a greeting that would force us to recognise the eternal in everyone we meet. Whether that is a friend or foe, whether that's someone that we have friendly arguments with or someone that we are in the process of tearing apart or being torn apart. What if societal dictates is that we have to greet someone, everyone require us to start each interaction by saying I recognise that the eternal is in you. Because I can only bow down before you turn on. How would that be? And then the second level two that is if we add hugging to that how much level of intentional Do we have to have to understand if that's okay for us and for that other person?

How much respect do we actually have to have for our relationships? If we say we're going to embrace two things, respect for everyone that we meet equally, no matter what station, we believe we are in life, and they are in life in the second one, the people that we know when we step into that support group, and oftentimes when we step into the synagogue, and yes, after we've had our jobs and after we've got past this awful moment in time that we have been surviving, it's certainly not thriving. What if we step into every greeting with every human being not with what we've done before with something so automatic that a hypnotist can use it against us until 45 minutes later? We say what animal Did you say I was sounding like on the stage or goat? Interesting. What if instead of something automatic, whose meaning passes away, as the face of the person in the name and we never think of them again? And even though they carry as much of a spark of holiness of eternal as us, what if we actually take this moment to write society? Because that's really what this danger is all about, isn't it?

From a universal standpoint, I'm seeing not a whole lot of change. And we've had a lot of opportunity to have profound change. When I see groups of people partying by the thousands. And now we're about to go and lock down again, you selfish, selfish people who have done that, and are affecting the rest of us who've tried to play by the rules. So how about we start the new way of rewriting our existence. It says, I don't take for granted that I'm meeting you. I don't take for granted who you are. I don't take for granted that you're alive. You carry as much as the eternal as I want to meet you. Going to recognise the eternal in you If I have permission, you have permission from me and we know each other that well, at we've got the job, May that come soon? We're going to embrace each other. Maybe that will have such a profound meaning.

I like to end with the words of Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis who was the first person who offered this teaching to me. I'm sure it's come from other sources, but maybe not because Robertson human rights is an incredible teacher. And yes, this comes via orthodoxy and yes, unapologetically. So because we are Jews first, and then we have our ways of exploring our Judaism seconds. I am a proud reform rabbi, but we are Jews. First. And Rebbitzen Jungreis, says why do we say in traditional Judaism, not just Shalom, shalom alechem when we meet someone else, because that's plural. As we say, affiliate say how us doing? shalom to you all. Shalom alechem . I'm just greeting one person. And our teaching is this when we within Judaism greet someone, shalom alechem and notice this is the identical greeting, in Islam in Arabic. When we step into that place, we are saying, I'm not just greeting you. I'm greeting everyone who brought you to this place. Your parents, your teachers, even your enemies who helped you grow in this moment I'm recognising I'm not just saying hello to you. I'm saying hello to the entire world that brought this moment of greeting, to existence. Greetings that become so meaningless that we can be hypnotised via them. How can we have intentionality with any relationship if we don't have intentionality with the first heartbeat of that relationship?

So I don't know what we're going to do. Maybe I'm just crazy enough that I'm going to start with the bow and see what happens. And yeah, some of us we're going to wait for that moment when we can embrace. But let's at least do it with intentionality. Let's recognise Each of us are equally imbued with a spark that is greater than us.

Shabbat Shalom, Shana Tova.