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The best-known Jewish greeting is: ‘Shalom alekhem’ (‘Peace to you’) to which the reply is: ‘Alekhem Shalom’, ‘To you be peace’. In modern Hebrew the form is usually simply Shalom. Greetings are known as sheilat shalom (‘asking peace’ or ‘requesting welfare’), after the biblical verse (Exodus 18: 7): ‘Moses went out to meet his father-in-law; he bowed low and kissed him; each asked after the other's welfare.’ Since Shalom is said to be a divine name, this form of greeting is not used in the communal bath-house where people are naked. On the Sabbath people greet one another with: ‘Good Sabbath’ and on a festival with: ‘Good Yom Tov’. In modern Israel the usual greeting for the Sabbath is ‘Shabbat Shalom’ and on a festival, ‘Hag Sameah’, ‘A joyous festival’. ‘Mazal tov’ (literally ‘A good star’) is the standard form of congratulation. The greeting to one embarking on a journey by ship or plane is ‘Nesiah tovah’, ‘A good journey’. Every community has its own form of greetings for special occasions in addition to the above. For instance, English Jews greet a person who has lost a near relative with: ‘I wish you long life’, a form found nowhere else in the Jewish world.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.

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