I have a question that has been on my mind for the last little while.
A girl and a boy go out a number of times and really get to know each other, and the shidduch does not work. What is proper protocol if they keep bumping into each other? Is it a problem to give a small wave or say a brief hello? Is this a lack of tznius, or can we say that they really got to know each other and it is not a big deal to say hi?
Waving in Wegman’s
On the surface, a friendly greeting to someone that one has gotten to know in the course of dating is natural human behavior. Indeed, with that in mind, why wouldn’t a person say hello in such a scenario? Is it really any different than saying hello to anyone else?
Nonetheless, it appears to me that there are three distinct aspects in need of elucidation, with regard to your question: the derech eretz aspect, the halachic aspect, and the dating aspect.
Regarding derech eretz, part of being an adult is having the ability to encounter those with whom one had a prior relationship, and conduct oneself in a calm and courteous manner.
Whether it be an employer/employee relationship that ended, a terminated business partnership, or a friendship that has fizzled out, when two people who have since parted ways happen upon one another, one must be capable of handling that encounter with mentchlechkeit.
The same is true of a shidduch that just didn’t go. Having the capacity to appreciate that the match wasn’t meant be, and not retain ill-will or resentment, is a core life-skill to develop.
As such, a kind greeting in this case would appear to be the appropriate course of action.
Looking a little bit deeper, though, and with respect to the tznius aspect, I believe it depends on the minhag hamakom. If one is living in a community where it is normal and acceptable for a man and woman to greet one another in public, there should be nothing objectionable to a polite hello in passing. On the contrary, if there is no acknowledgement in such a situation, it may be taken as a slight.
However, if the expectation in one’s community is that men and women do not interact, especially so for two unmarried individuals, it may well be considered a breach of tznius for former daters to share a greeting.
Additionally, if the norm is to not share such a greeting, it may create an uncomfortable dilemma for the person on the receiving end – leaving them unsure if they should now respond in kind, which may be embarrassing for them, or if they should just not respond at all, which may be insulting to the person who just gave what was likely thought to be a friendly and anodyne gesture.
Finally, regrading the dating aspect, one must be sure not to conflate saying hello with becoming enmeshing anew in a relationship that is over. When a shidduch concludes, after a meaningful connection was established, each person must then summon the strength to detach, so that they can establish a new connection with someone else.
As harmless and innocuous as a friendly salutation may seem, if repeated, and unchecked, an unwitting interlocutor may suddenly find themselves emotionally reattaching to the very person from whom they are presently endeavoring to disengage. When such an attachment is recreated, it can make it quite challenging to continue dating someone else, with a clear and open mind and heart.
Consequently, and given all of the above, whether or not to issue that seemingly innocent, and perfectly human, “Hi, how are you?”, is a judgement call that one must make based on their understanding of the standards of their community, how the greeting will be received on the other end, and what feelings it may engender in themselves and the person towards whom they are extending the greeting.
May The Melamed L’enosh Binah give sechel ha’yashar to all those who find themselves in such situation, and may they be able to react fittingly and with aplomb.