The Mishnah in Pirkei Avos tells us that we should be greeting others first and not waiting for them to greet us. The reason the Mishnah stresses this is because our natural inclination is to keep quiet and let others say hello to us. But we’ve all had the experience of being ignored and know how hurtful it is. We may wonder whether we have done something to upset them or whether we are not worthy of their notice. We might read a lot into it even though what actually happened was that the person was preoccupied or in a rush. Making it a practice to greet others prevents anyone from feeling slighted.
We can take this concept further and see how willingness to reach out to others can improve relationships and foster closeness between people. Communication can often come to a halt because neither side reaches out with a friendly word, even though both sides want a closer relationship.
The Sages in Pirkei Avos don’t just tell us when to greet people, they also tell us who we should extend a greeting to. This presentation stresses that just greeting your friends and acquaintances isn’t enough. We should be especially careful not to ignore people who are often invisible.
Learn from the examples of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai and a great European rabbi how crucial it is to get past your natural tendency to stay quiet and greet everyone warmly.