web analytics
October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Orthodoxy and Physical Contact between the Sexes

Racheli Ibenboim

Racheli Ibenboim

It happened again. A religious Jew has made public that he refuses to shake a woman’s hand. From Matzav:

Shneur Zalman Odze, a prospective MEP for the North West of England, has told party members his Orthodox Judaism forbids him from physical contact with women other than his wife.

This is not entirely accurate. There are exceptions in Halacha based on differing interpretations of the Shulchan Aruch. And the exceptions vary among different segments.

Halacha forbids physical contact between the sexes. But unlike Mr. Odze’s assertion Halacha permits contact not only between a husband and wife – it permits it between a parent and child, too. This is accepted by all segments of Orthodoxy. But as one examines the legitimate practices of other segments of Orthodoxy – one will find other exceptions.

For example most Poskin allow physical contact between brothers and sisters, too. There are also some Poskim that freely permit platonic (none sexual) physical contact between all men and women. I have been told by members of the German/Jewish community that their Poskim had always allowed even social kissing!

Most of the Yeshiva world where many customs are based on the traditions of Lithuanian Jewry – have a different exception. It’s kind of a compromise between the two extremes. They too do not permit physical contact of any kind – even platonic. But they do permit something like a handshake – and even encourage it – if not doing so would embarrass someone. The practice that is usually followed is that if someone of the opposite sex extends their hand in a friendly handshake, you take it so as not to embarrass them. Especially if this is in public. I believe this was the stated position of Gedolim like R’ Yaakov Kamenetsky.

Chasidim are the most rigid. They make no exceptions at all. Satmar Ger, Chabad and other Chasidic groups do not permit ever shaking the hand of a member of the opposite sex under any circumstances. So that even if a someone innocently extends their hand – they will just leave it hanging there – which can embarrass that person. Now it’s true that they might explain that the reason they refuse to do so is not personal. That their religion forbids any physical contact between a man and a woman unless they are married – as did Mr. Odze. But in some cases the damage is done anyway. Especially if the person ‘left hanging’ has been in similar circumstances where a religious Jew did shake their hand.

Now before I am accused of bashing Chasidim again. I am not. I am simply stating the facts – which have been played out again here. But at the same time, I must admit that I do not understand why they are Machmir on something that may cause a Chilul HaShem if practiced.

In defense of Mr. Odze, however, there should not have been any embarrassment by anyone. It seems he made clear up front that this is a religious belief and nothing more so as to prevent any future embarrassing circumstances. There were no prior embarrassing moments. The political leadership of his party backed him up. But that did not stop a few members of his party from making an issue out of it.

What is the matter with those people? Can’t they understand what their political leaders clearly understand? I can only conclude that there is a bias against any religion that counters their beliefs about male female equality, regardless of the reason. And that supersedes any sense of religious tolerance.

In an interesting contrast, Racheli Ibenboim, a member of the Ger (sometimes referred to as Gur) Chasidic community adopted the policy of the Yeshiva world. If there is any Chasidus that is obsessed with male female interaction, Ger is it. The extent to which this community goes is so extreme that husbands and wives do not walk together in public. The husband will always be a few paces ahead of his wife. And there’s more. From an article by Tuvia Tenenbom in the Forward:

The Gur people, for one reason or another, are ever busy with ever more rules forbidding more and more “sexual temptations” of whatever kind. For example, not long ago a new prohibition was announced: A father shall not dance with his little kids at public events. Kids, apparently, have been declared to be sexual temptations. In the old days, only women were the “temptation”

Having met Mrs. Ibenboim, Tenenbom relates the following:

A man, God has said long ago — in case you didn’t know — shall never talk with a woman who is not his wife or mother. In addition: A woman, as every child of God knows, never shakes hands with men, unless he is her husband and she is not on her period. Yet, when we meet and I offer Ibenboim my hand, she takes it.

She explained her reasons which pretty much amount to the same reasons the Yeshiva world makes these exceptions. It is truly an amazing bit of courage for someone who comes from a society where the subject of sex is so taboo that women only learn how to make babies shortly before they are married. Until then all talk of sex is forbidden and never spoken about. This was illustrated by Judy Brown who explained this custom through the experiences of the fictional main character of her book, ‘Hush’. Judy Brown was raised in the Ger community.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

3 Responses to “Orthodoxy and Physical Contact between the Sexes”

  1. Dan Silagi says:

    My religion is Judaism. Hasidism isn't Judaism.

  2. Berell Kohn says:

    I'm not agree with gur rabbi. I was young child. My father was play with me for fun. Alike top shoulder or hold hand to walk on the street. Make love my parent.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
Facebook post from man believed to be Canadian convert to Islam who rammed soldiers with his car in possible terrorist attack, Oct. 20, 2014.
‘Radicalized’ Convert to Islam Attempted to Murder Canadian Soldiers [video]
Latest Blogs Stories
256px-Israel-Palestine_flags.svg

Polls indicate that the Palestinians are much more against a two state solution than the Israelis.

Doug Goldstein

Has the Jewish world adapted to the times? Hear the answer with Doug and his guest, Rabbi Berel Wein.

NY rally against Met Opera's 'Death of Klinghoffer' opera. Sept. 22, 2014.

Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters: “‘Klinghoffer’ is justified as ‘a work of art’…This is an outrage.”

eg

Kids bring in the light and let out the darkness through breathing exercises; it changes people.

If I make a million dollars in 2 weeks, how can I observe something like this and sit by quietly?”

Sometimes collective action against the heinous acts of the majority is not enough. The world should not only support the blockade of Gaza; it must enforce the dismantling of Hamas.

How long will it take for Israel and the Jewish World to admit that we are in very serious danger?

How do changes in technology affect the human life and our interactions with each other?

Palestinians (and Jordanians) often use the term “provocation” regarding Israeli action in Jerusalem

The zealots who engineered the ban have been publicly disgraced.

I am sick and tired of this one way street boycott! Time to boycott all products developed or invented in the Palestinian controlled areas! Let’s start with……umm….

Such an incredible miracle to have Israel, it’s crazy that every Jew isn’t clamoring to live here!

Driving is cultural. I come from a place with incredibly polite and safe drivers, unlike Israel.

My difficulties persisted until I met a beggar outside a restaurant after Tisha B’Av 12 years ago.

I’m more worried about the dangers of the Palestine virus than the Ebola one.

“Nonsense” seems to be the New York Times sense of balanced and accurate coverage.

More Articles from Harry Maryles
eg

Kids bring in the light and let out the darkness through breathing exercises; it changes people.

Mir

If I make a million dollars in 2 weeks, how can I observe something like this and sit by quietly?”

“Shuls that are full on Friday night were fuller than normal, looking more like Yom Kippur”

I can’t blame these people for seeing women that way, it’s how they are raised-I blame the Hashkafa

Though the Talmud doesn’t give instructions, Metzitza has always been done B’Peh – by oral suction.

If not scared by God be scared by man; Hopefully ethics will integrate into lives for proper reasons

Smear campaigns by people with agendas other than justice do not faze him; He does what is right.

There’s much confusion about the definition of Daas Torah; simply put it means the wisdom of Torah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/orthodoxy-and-physical-contact-between-the-sexes/2014/02/20/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: