Knock, Knock, Who’s There
It is basic courtesy to knock on a closed door and wait to be admitted by those inside. Did you know that this simple matter of etiquette was discussed by the sages and has far greater ramifications than merely being polite?
“Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai observed:…the Holy One, blessed be He, hates…the man who enters his (own) house suddenly and much more so [if he so enters] his friend’s house…”(Niddah 16b).
Entering someone’s home without knocking or announcing one’s presence, is considered ill-mannered in almost all societies, but few people consider it necessary to do so in their own homes. And yet, entering unannounced is considered loathesome to God, even in one’s own home!
The commentators suggest that two different verses from the Torah provide examples of how God Himself upholds this level of decorous behavior. “God called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting” (Leviticus 1:1). Before speaking to Moses in the Tent of Meeting, which, it should be noted was not even a private home, God called out to Moses first.
In the previous example, at least, God was approaching Moses in the middle of the camp of the Israelites. But even in the closest thing to God’s own home, the Garden of Eden, God “stood at the gate of the garden, and called to Adam [Gen. 3:9]: ‘And the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where are you?’”(Tractate Derech Eretz 5).
Knocking is far more than just being polite. Knocking, or announcing one’s presence prevents embarrassing situations, and allows others time to compose themselves and thus be prepared to properly greet you.
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