web analytics
October 2, 2014 / 8 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
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.



Shaking Hands With Women (Part II)


Shaking hands

Shaking hands
Photo Credit: Wikimedia

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

Answer: Last week we noted that Rav Eliezer Silver would remark to women that a courtly bow, rather than a handshake, is the proper method of greeting a woman.

We also cited the Yerushalmi (Sotah 13b) which discusses the Torah’s requirement for a kohen to place his hands under those of a sotah offering her special korban. The Gemara suggests that an elderly kohen (who presumably will not have improper sexual thoughts) performs this function. The Gemara also suggests that a young kohen could perhaps perform this function and we are not concerned about him having improper sexual thoughts since he is only touching the sotah’s hands for a very short period of time.

Based on this second suggestion, it would seem that shaking a woman’s hand should be permitted. Indeed Rav Ahron Soloveichik ruled accordingly. However, according to the Gemara’s first suggestion it would seem to be prohibited (except for older men). Since the Gemara offers two suggestions, it appears that the matter is in doubt.

* * * * *

In Hilchot Sotah 3:15, the Rambam writes that “the kohen places his hand under [the sotah’s] and lifts [the korban] up.” He mentions nothing about the kohen being older. The Torah Temimah contends that the Rambam is simply followed his general tendency to favor second opinions mentioned in the Gemara. Thus, any kohen may perform the service since he is only touching the sotah’s hands for a brief period of time.

This position also seems logical since how would we judge when a kohen becomes “old”? At what age would a kohen not have improper sexual thoughts? It makes much more sense to adopt the Gemara’s other answer so as to avoid this kind of subjective analysis.

It is interesting that the Gemara only offers two suggestions for why a kohen may touch a sotah, but doesn’t offer a third logical answer: namely, that a kohen may touch her because he is busy fulfilling a mitzvah and a person doesn’t have improper thoughts at such a time. Indeed, this is why the Shach permits a doctor to examine the body of a niddah. His mind is focused on medical concerns. This is also why people involved in raising cattle may breed animals. They are concentrating on their professions; thus, they wont have improper thoughts.

The Gemara, however, does not offer this suggestion. Hence, the fact that the kohen may touch the sotah has nothing to do with him concentrating on doing a mitzvah. Rather, it has to do with the fact that he is only touching her for a brief period of time. Hence, shaking a woman’s hand would also be permitted.

We find support for interpreting the Gemara in this manner by examining its original question. The Gemara asked, “Isn’t is repugnant for a kohen to touch a sotah?” It didn’t ask, “Isn’t it sinful?” In other words, the Gemara does not even suggest that it is prohibited for a kohen to touch a sotah in this context. The Torah commanded that he wave the korban with her and therefore it is a mitzvah to do so whether we appreciate the process or not.

The Gemara was concerned, however, for the subjective feelings of the kohen: Isn’t touching a sotah repugnant to him? To this the Gemara responds that the process is not even repugnant; there is nothing wrong at all. Why? Since the encounter is brief, improper thoughts will not arise.

A number of rabbis have told me that they do not initiate a handshake with a woman, but if a woman extends her hand to them, they won’t refuse to shake it. They reason that once a woman extends her hand, an additional factor comes into the equation: kavod habriyot. It is prohibited to shame a woman by refusing to shake her hand. This position, however, only has merit if one maintains that shaking hands with women is a rabbinic prohibition. Kavod habriyot may trump a rabbinical, but not a biblical prohibition.

The above analysis is a form of limud zechut, providing a halachic basis for those who shake hands with women and consider themselves to be shomrei torah u’mitzvot. It also is an attempt to bolster the halachic ruling of Rav Ahron Soloveichik.

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 “Shaking Hands With Women (Part II)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Tapuach Junction. (archive)
Border Police Stop Terrorists at Tapuach Junction
Latest Judaism Stories
Parsha-Perspectives-NEW

Often in life we become stuck – stuck in the morass of our habits and the rote of our comfort level.

PTI-100314

There is one day of the year on which the Satan has no power: Yom Kippur.

Neihaus-100314

During shmittah we refrain from agricultural activities and collection of loans, and on Yom Kippur we refrain from all physical pleasures.

Daf-Yomi-logo

A Miraculous Visual Treat
‘They Lifted It Up To Show…’
(Chagiga 26b)

Question: I recently loaned money to a friend who has been able to repay only part of it. This was an interest-free loan. We exchanged a signed IOU, not a proper shtar with witnesses, since I have always trusted her integrity and only wanted a document that confirms what was loaned and what was repaid. Now that shemittah is approaching, what should I do? Should I forgive the loan? And if my friend is not able to repay it, may I deduct the unpaid money from my ma’aser requirement?

Name Withheld

What right do I, sinner, have to approach Hashem and request forgiveness?

Throughout the war, Akiva had several brief furloughs home, and each time exchanged whichever mishnayos volume he had finished for the next in the series.

Imagine a man who, after having a few too many drinks, gets into his car and begins driving. It takes a while before he is pulled over, but finally the police arrest him, and he stands trial for driving while intoxicated.

Mr. Fisher contacted Rabbi Dayan. “Am I allowed to use money of ma’aser kesafim to pay the shul for an aliyah that I bought?” he asked.

In addition to Yom Kippur, there is at least one other instance when a person may fast on Shabbat – the case of a ta’anit chalom, in which a person wishes to fast to prevent an ominous dream from becoming reality.

Others suggest that one cannot separate Shabbos from Yom Kippur by accepting Shabbos early.

The call of the shofar is eternal. It is not musical. Its magnetic allurement cannot be explained.

Ba’al Shem Tov: “Hashem, too, is crying; as much as He is looking for us, we rarely look for Him.”

When we cry from the heart, someone listens; When we cry on Yom Kippur, God hears us.

Contrary to popular belief, the Talmud never explicitly limits the ban on footwear to leather shoes.

More Articles from Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen
Cohen-080814-Sign

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

Cohen-Rabbi-J-Simcha-NEW

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.

Question: Why is Shavuot celebrated as a two-day Yom Tov?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/shaking-hands-with-women-part-ii/2012/02/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: