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Every once in a while, as I go about my business in the secular world, a non-Jewish passerby notices my kippa and approaches, then offers the greeting that is somewhat well-known in popular culture as the one Jews prefer: "Shalom." I appreciate this cross-cultural gesture, and I always respond with my own cordial "Shalom," but I feel like something's missing.

I recently saw the movie Black Panther, and noticed that when people from the nation of Wakanda portrayed therein greet each other with the traditional "Wakanda forever!" they have a really cool salute to go with it. That made me think that there must be a really cool gesture in Jewish tradition that goes with the "Shalom" greeting, that I just don't know about yet.

This gap in my knowledge makes me sad. Here I am, going around visibly representing an ancient body of tradition, and when someone notices and engages in our traditional greeting, I don't know the impressive ancient move to make when responding, so that my greeter can leave the meeting satisfied that they've not only exchanged greetings with an authentic Jew, but that it was an awesome encounter with an ancient tribe.

So, what is the traditional gesture to make when extending the Shalom greeting? What details should one make sure to include so that it comes off as authentically awesome?


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  • TBH it would be really cool if we actually had such a thing. Maybe we should start one. – DonielF Mar 14 at 17:48
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    @DonielF The answer box is open! – Isaac Moses Mar 14 at 19:57
  • well don't you know that the real jews were actually black so the wakanda salute is good enough – ezra Mar 15 at 3:02
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    That's easy! A confused look on your face as you suddenly look behind you, trying to figure out if someone is calling your name or you failed to recognize an acquaintance. I do it all the time. – Shalom Mar 15 at 3:26
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Make a scooping motion as you press your middle three fingers against your palm.

(Your hand will end up making a sign-language letter Y.) As the verse reads:

VeKamatz HaKohen min haMincha es AzkarasaH

The kohen shall fingerscoop the generous heretic, along with the azkara.

  • All Jews are kohanim, as the verse says:

Mamleches Kohanim VeGoy Kadosh

  • The Gemara explains that the finger-scoop is done with the three middle fingers against the palm.

  • The non-Jew shouting "Shalom!" to you is a generous heretic

  • "Azkara" means the name of G-d, and as we all know, "Shalom" is a name of G-d.

Therefore the verse reads:

All Jews should do a three-finger scoop motion to the generous heretic, as they shout "Shalom!"

QED.

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    Thanks for this answer, G-d! – Y     e     z Mar 15 at 14:12
  • And then you scrape your pinky finger against the side. – DonielF 2 days ago
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The Vulcan salute would be most accurate, here. It consists of a raised hand with the palm forward and the thumb extended, while the fingers are parted between the middle and ring finger.

Its origins are closely related, too. As Wikipedia teaches us:

In his autobiography I Am Not Spock, Nimoy wrote that he based it on the Priestly Blessing performed by Jewish Kohanim with both hands, thumb to thumb in this same position, representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש), which has three upward strokes similar to the position of the thumb and fingers in the gesture. The letter Shin here stands for El Shaddai, meaning "Almighty (God)", as well as for Shekinah and Shalom. Nimoy wrote that when he was a child, his grandfather took him to an Orthodox synagogue, where he saw the blessing performed and was impressed by it.

The best part is, you can try it right at the keyboard with this emoji.

  • Careful to do this with only one hand. You know, not everyone can do this; shouldn’t it be something that all Jews are able to do? – DonielF Mar 14 at 17:50
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    @DonielF who can't do it? – Double AA Mar 14 at 18:30
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    @DoubleAA I mean, physically can’t do it, not halachically – DonielF Mar 14 at 21:04
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    @DonielF I'm not sure who physically can't do it. I have no problem and I'm not a Cohen. – DanF Mar 15 at 2:25
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    This would go well with doing your very best Leonard Nimoy impression as you say " And upon you ... Shalom." – Isaac Moses Mar 15 at 13:00
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Dr. Shmuel mentioned the Vulcan Salute - a good option. But, I have heard that since that gesture came from Leonard Nimoy a"h, who claims that he saw the Cohanim use this gesture while they were blessing the people, and he wasn't supposed to look, it indicates that he may have disobeyed the halacha and used that disobedience to promote the idea on a famous TV series. Sounds like a case of "mitvah haba me'aveirah."

I'd suggest a better idea. Mork from Orc's "Nano nano" gesture, made famous by Robin Williams a"h

Mork & Mindy showing the Nano Nano gesture

It is similar to the Vulcan salute, but the hand is held horizontally, and is used most often as a handshake, but occasionally as a salute. The main difference is that the thumb is close to the hand.

It also helps to talk fast and with a slight falsetto when you greet people while using this gesture.(No copyright infringement intended. Found via Google Images.)

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    I think you omitted a letter; you probably meant to type "nano nanoo", indicating one-billionth of a nanoo. – Codes with Hammer Mar 15 at 13:42
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    @CodeswithHammer Very cute. I can't vouch for how he spelled things. I can probably bet that a huge percentage of our readers have no clue who Mork was, anyway. – DanF Mar 15 at 14:04
  • You're probably right. More's the pity. – Codes with Hammer Mar 18 at 14:46
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Melikah. Motion like you're holding a bird and trying to kill it with your thumb.

The explanation why is an exercise left for the reader.

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