web analytics
July 2, 2015 / 15 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Halacha and…Shaking Hands (Part I)


Shaking hands

Question: Is there any halachic rationale for men to shake hands with women?

Answer: It is well known that the common practice of the East European, hasidic and yeshiva worlds is to refrain from shaking hands with women. As a youth I recall it said in the name of Rav Eliezer Silver, zt”l, that he frequently told women that Orthodox rabbis consider shaking hands with them a form of ungracious behavior. “The proper Jewish way,” he said, “is to bow before them in a courtly manner.”

Yet, it is reputed that German Jewry freely engaged in shaking hands with women. In America, too, quite a large number of observant Jews shake hands and consider those who refrain from doing so to be excessively and inappropriately pious (“frumeh shtik”).

Who is right? Are they both “right,” in the tradition of “elu v’elu divrei Elokim chayim”?

The Torah states that a sotah must bring a special korban. Before offering it, a kohen must place his hands under the hands of the sotah and lift and wave the korban together with her. Commenting on this process, the Yerushalmi (Sotah 13b; also Bavli, Tosafot 19a) asks, “Is this not mechu’er (repulsive, improper)?” The Talmud responds that the kohen uses a napkin so that he does not actually touch the sotah (see Pnei Moshe).

The Talmud then proceeds to ask, “Is this not an interference?” In other words, since the napkin is not technically part of the service, it is presumably a “chatzitzah,” an object that intervenes unnecessarily between the hand of the kohen and the sotah. To this, the Talmud responds: “They bring an old kohen.” In other words, an old kohen performs the service and since he’s old, it is unlikely for sexual thoughts to arise in his mind.

The Talmud then offers an alternative answer, namely, that a regular kohen can perform the service, and we are not concerned about him touching her because the inclination to sin does not pertain in such a short period of time (see Pnei Moshe).

According to the second response of the Jerusalem Talmud, there appears to be nothing wrong in touching a married woman’s hand for a brief period of time. Thus, shaking women’s hands would be permissible since a handshake takes only a second or two. It certainly takes no longer than it did for the kohen to perform the service together with the sotah. I personally recall many years ago hearing that Rav Ahron Soloveichik, zt”l, paskened from this Yerushalmi that it is permissible to shake hands with women.

We may ask, though: The Jerusalem Talmud offers two answers. According to the first answer (that an old kohen performs the service), it would seem that only older men may briefly touch a woman’s hand; younger men, however, may not. And since the Talmud offers two answers without deciding in favor of one of them, it would seem that the final halacha is in doubt. And when we encounter doubts concerning biblical violations, we err on the side of caution (safek d’oraita l’chumra).

(To be continued)

Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, has written several books on Jewish law. His latest, “Shabbat The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), is available at Judaica stores and Amazon.com.

About the Author: Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient, is the author of eight sefarim on Jewish law. His latest, “Jewish Prayer the Right Way” (Urim Publications), is available at Amazon.com and select Judaica stores.


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.

No Responses to “Halacha and…Shaking Hands (Part I)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
ISIS leads captured Egyptian Copts in death march.
Analysis: ISIS Will Go Down to Defeat in Egypt
Latest Judaism Stories
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

To my dismay, I’ve seen that shidduch candidates with money become ALL desirable traits for marriage

800px-Gustav_Jaeger_Bileam_Engel

Bil’am’s character is complex and nuanced; neither purely good nor purely evil.

Staum-062615

Amalek, our ultimate foe, understood that when unified, we are invincible and indestructible.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Perhaps on a deeper level, the mitzvah of parah adumah at this junction was not just to purify the body, but the spirit as well.

Halacha isn’t random; it’s a mechanism guiding individuals and society to a higher ethical plateau.

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Less clear, however, is whether the concept applies to the area of civil law such as the law of transfer of property.

The greatest of men, Moshe, had to wait for Hashem to sprinkle purifying waters on Bnei Yisrael to mark the conclusion of the period of death.

My Plate, My Food
‘My Loaf Is Forbidden To You’
(Nedarim 34b)

Of Chukkim “Satan and the nations of the world made fun.” They may appear irrational & superstitious

I realized from this story that I was sent as a messenger from above. Hashem has many helpers in this world to help do his work.

Tosafos answers that nevertheless the sprinkling is a part of his taharah process.

“What difference does that make?” replied Shraga. “What counts is the agreement that we made. I said two hundred fifty and you accepted.”

Zaidie’s legacy of smiles and loving words was all but buried with him, now the family fights over $

Israel’s complaining frustrated Moshe, making it increasingly hard for him to lead effectively

More Articles from Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha-NEW

Once this took place, no Beit Din could annul its practice but for an entirely different reason. A minhag accepted by klal Yisrael becomes an obligation that must be practiced.

Cohen-080814-Sign

Is God apologizing for taking away my Father? Is God telling me that He is sorry?

Question: At Birkat Kohanim, who says the phrase, “Am k’doshecha ka’amur”?

Question: How can one determine whether someone is a true disciple of a rav, Rebbe, or rosh yeshiva?

Question: Does halacha agree with the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade permitting women to have abortions?

Question: When someone puts on a talit to lead services, should he recite a berachah?

Question: A number of synagogues feature bar mitzvah celebrations for elderly Jews. Is this proper?

Hashem understood their complaint and therefore selected the ritual mitzvah of sukkah to test them.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/shaking-hands-part-i/2012/02/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: