Hello, How Are You?
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
Jacob, our forefather, favored Joseph over Joseph’s brothers and demonstrated this favoritism overtly. Jacob’s gift of the special coat he makes for Joseph is a typical manifestation of this favoritism. The disastrous consequence of Joseph’s favoritism is a lesson in and of itself. Joseph, seemingly, makes matters worse by sharing his dreams, which indicate his elevated stature abive his brothers.
Naturally, his brothers were incensed and filled with hatred towards him as the Torah openly states “And his brothers hated him …” In fact, their hatred was such that the Torah testifies “and they were not able to say ‘Shalom(Hello)’ to him.” Yes, they could not bring themselves to greet him and inquire as to his welfare. They would not say “Hello, how are you?” The Torah seems to be indicating the disgrace of the brothers. They reached such extreme levels of hatred that they were not even able to casually greet Joseph. Rashi writes that the intention of the Torah is not to degrade the brothers for their extreme hatred, but rather to indicate their possession of a virtuous character trait. The brothers “were not one thing in their hearts and a different thing in their minds.” In other words, they were not false and exhibited honesty. They despised Joseph and refused to utter the words “Hello, how are you?” which they did not feel in their hearts.
The great value of honesty and integrity comes through very strongly from the above. I was thinking that perhaps there is another lesson we can glean. The words “How are you?” have in many ways become devoid of any real substance. They are often more like an insincere greeting than anything else. When the brothers of Joseph said “Hello, how are you?” they really meant it from the depths of their being. Therefore, they could not bring themselves to utter these words as a casual, meaningless greeting. This would be completely false and insincere for them, and their integrity would not allow for this. This is a great lesson for us all. Let us not just utter a meaningless polite greeting for the sake of it. This creates a superficial, uncaring societal modus operandi. When we say to someone “Hello, how are you?” let us focus on saying these words with real care and concern. This will transform us into people of genuine care and integrity.