The One Day A Year We Avoid Shalom…?
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein
Perhaps the most difficult halacha to remember on the day of Tisha B’Av is the rule that we are not allowed to greet others throughout the day. For most of, saying, “Hi, how are you?” is so natural and habitual that it is almost like second nature when meeting an acquaintance or friend. At the same time, the constant stopping of oneself from such a normal action serves as a powerful reminder of the tone of the day. Even though this is the time of the year that we actively work on our bein adam lichaveiro and interpersonal interactions, the mourning of the day transcends these niceties and requires us to conduct ourselves as mourners. I wanted to briefly examine some of the halachos of the prohibition of “she’eilas Shalom” on Tisha B’Av.
– The Shulchan Aruch writes that on this day, one is prohibited from offering a greeting of “Shalom” to anyone else. The Mishna Berura includes saying “good morning” or the like.
– The later poskim explain that this includes any type of normal greeting or salutation, like “hello” or “how are you?” or any other form of accepted greeting phrase.
– Even greeting someone with a nod of the head, or other form of acknowledgement, is prohibited.
– When one answers the phone on Tisha B’Av, one should not say “hello.” One may answer by saying, “Rosenstein family,” or “Moshe speaking,” or something of that nature. [It is a good idea to substitute your name in the phrase, however, so people won’t get confused.]
– If someone who is not aware of the halacha opens with a greeting, it is permissible to answer, so as not to be rude. However, one should answer in a subdued fashion.
– The Mishna Berura writes that giving a gift on Tisha B’Av is also prohibited, as it is also a form of wishing a person well in this way.
– Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l held that one is allowed to genuinely ask how someone else is doing or feeling on Tisha B’Av. Meaning, saying “how are you?” as a greeting is prohibited, as it has more or less become an accepted greeting statement, but asking someone how they are, not as a greeting, is permissible.
– These halachos apply throughout the day of Tisha B’Av, until after the time the fast ends. [Incidentally, as there is sometimes confusion regarding this, the only halacha that changes at chatzot hayom, midday, is the requirement to sit on a low stool. After midday, one is allowed to sit on a regular seat or chair. All other halachos of the day – eating, drinking, washing, shoes, marital relations and saying hello – apply throughout the day.]
I will end with a tefillah to Hashem that we should not have to know these halachos this year, and Hashem should bring us all home and end our individual and collective tzaros once and for all, together with the rest of Klal Yisroel, amen!