The world over, God’s name is evoked in greetings. The Spanish hello – ‘Olah’ – originated in Arab Spain from the term “O’Allah” – Allah of course being the Arab appellation of God. In Bavarian German they say ‘Gruss God’. In Hebrew, the common response when asked how you are doing is ‘Baruch Hashem’ – Praise God, or Thank God. The Hebrew greeting ‘Shalom’ is actually a name of God. In English, we still follow this custom when we part from someone and say “God speed” or “God be with you.”
In a wonderful and mysterious passage, the wisdom masters talk of a special decree made nearly three thousand years ago. It was taught that one should greet his friend with the name of God. Although the third commandment proscribes such ‘idle use’ of God’s name, this new law legislated special permission to use the divine name in casual greeting. The source for the decree is said to be the verse, “In a time to do for the Name (God) you may override the Torah.”
The idea underlying the decree is very powerful.
To greet a person, we are allowed to use the sacred name of God, which is never taken in vain, because to greet a person is to recognize them, to perceive them. Perception is healing through love.
Minimally however, the wisdom masters write that we must greet each other with the Name. The simple and correct reading of the text indicates that they are referring to the name of God. But on some deeper level, the name they refer to is none other then the name of the person being greeted. In this powerful re-reading the new decree is that no person should remain anonymous. Every person should be called by their name. Never allow yourself to be served by someone without knowing their name. In knowing the name of the waiter serving you there is a fixing and healing of God’s name.
It is a time to fix divinity. To create God. God is created by revealing the infinite divine in every person. God’s name is emptied when people live without having their names recognized; without being called by name. So the wisdom masters decree, “Greet every man with the Name.” The name of God and the name of the blessed and beautiful individual before you. One and the same. This is the message we convey in greeting. Shalom really means “I receive your name as being infinitely unique and special. I receive your name as the name of God.”