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Jerusalem - Israeli Rabbis Clash Over Ruling Allowing Handshakes Between Men and Women

Published on: November 4, 2010 04:51 PM
By: VIN News Core Israeli Hebrew News
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Jerusalem - Just days after Israeli news source Maariv reported  that Rav Yuval Cherlow permitted returning a handshake by a member of the opposite sex, Israeli news sources report that several rabbis have spoken out condemning Rav Cherlow’s psak.  Rabbi Cherlow is Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Petach Tikva and a founder of the Tzohar Foundation which serves to build bridges between the religious and secular worlds.

Rabbi Cherlow explained that in the case where a member of the opposite sex offers their outstretched their hand in greeting, “the other party will be hurt if you don’t return the gesture.  Because of this, in a situation like this it is preferable to shake hands and not embarrass a fellow human being.”  It should be noted that this ruling refers only to a formal handshake and not one that expresses affection in any way.

Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Kohanim in Jerusalem and considered by some to be one of the leaders of the religious Zionist movement in Israel, criticized Rav Yuval sharply saying , “Both the Rambam and the Beis Yosef ruled that shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex is so serious, it falls into the category of ‘yehareg v’al yaavor’, a sin that is so severe that it is preferable to die than to transgress that sin.”

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In tomorrow’s issue of “Olam Katan”,  a bulletin released in Israeli synagogue, R’ Aviner wrote “Clearly you don’t want to offend anyone, but by shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex, you bring embarrassment upon yourself.  Rav Ovadia Yosef declined to shake hands with Prime Minister Golda Meir.  Rav Mordechai Eliyahu did not shake hands with the Queen of England.  In both cases, apologies were issued to the Rabbonim, for potentially embarrassing them by offering to shake hands.”

Rav Bentzion Mutzafi, a prominent Sefardic rabbi, condemned Rabbi Cherlow as well saying that his psak “made a mockery of our holy Torah, cheapens our mitzvos and erodes the foundations of modesty and holiness.  Anyone who can issue such a ruling clearly has no fear of G-d in his heart.”



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Read Comments (49)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 04, 2010 at 04:58 PM Jack Says:

Somehow I thought Rav Moshe also ruled that if if would cause offense to the a woman by refusing to shake her hand then a person should shake her hand to avoid embarrassing her. I know in the chareidie world Rav Moshe is not that much of a gadol but compared to Rav Aviner. I guess the words of chazal are ringing truer everyday that "Olam Hafouch ra'iisi an ibekekrete velt where elyonim are l'matah and ....................................

2

 Nov 04, 2010 at 05:08 PM Limey Says:

Tzipi Hotovely - ציפי חוטובלי היום פרסם הרב שרלו, ראש ישיבת ההסדר בפ"ת ומראשי תנועת צוהר, פסק ארוך ומנומק בעניין התרת לחיצת יד בין גברים לנשים במצבים מסוימים. על אף פסיקת ההלכה של הרב שרלו אני אמשיך לשמור נגיעה. אמנם ההלכה היהודית הכירה מאז ומתמיד בחשיבות כבוד הבריות ובחשיבות אי הלבנת פנים של גבר המושיט יד לאשה ולהיפך, ולכן חשוב להקפיד על רגישות אנ...ושית, אך יחד עם זאת חשוב לכבד את מי
שמקפיד שלא ללחוץ יד. עם מושיטי היד סליחה.... :)

4

 Nov 04, 2010 at 05:16 PM yaaak Says:

Even though Kikar Hashabat reported that Rav Mutzafi condemned Rav Sherlo, Rav Mutzafi's halachic website does not mention any rabbi by name when issuing his condemnation.

5

 Nov 04, 2010 at 05:20 PM lakewooder Says:

Wrong. Reb Moshe clearly believes it is ossur to shake a strange woman's hand. This is printed somewhere in Teshuvos.

6

 Nov 04, 2010 at 05:31 PM Xviznitzer Says:

And how about when a woman gives you a kiss on the cheek, should you return the kiss in order not to offend her?

7

 Nov 04, 2010 at 05:40 PM harvey Says:

very questionable not 123 psak

8

 Nov 04, 2010 at 05:55 PM puppydogs Says:

Reply to #5  
lakewooder Says:

Wrong. Reb Moshe clearly believes it is ossur to shake a strange woman's hand. This is printed somewhere in Teshuvos.

Are you implying he said it was ok to shake a women's hand who is not a stranger?

9

 Nov 04, 2010 at 05:57 PM brochavehatzlocha Says:

Reply to #1  
Jack Says:

Somehow I thought Rav Moshe also ruled that if if would cause offense to the a woman by refusing to shake her hand then a person should shake her hand to avoid embarrassing her. I know in the chareidie world Rav Moshe is not that much of a gadol but compared to Rav Aviner. I guess the words of chazal are ringing truer everyday that "Olam Hafouch ra'iisi an ibekekrete velt where elyonim are l'matah and ....................................

Well I agree that many rabbanim are quick to dismiss Reb Moshe's psakim, in favor of greater chumros.
In this case, however, Reb Moshe, says no such thing (i.e. that one should shake hands rather than embarrass someone). In fact, he says that people who shake hands are probably relying on the concept that it is not "derech chiba." But he adds that it is difficult to rely on this. (Kashe lismoch al zeh) Sounds kind of like he doesn't approve of the practice.
The teshuva you are referring to is (I believe) referring to an adopted child, and if he or she can permit (in a passive fashion) their adoptive parent to hug or kiss them.
There, he discusses the idea that, since the child was brought up with the other party in the role of parent, there is no concern of improper thoughts. But it would be a real stretch to extend that to other cases.

10

 Nov 04, 2010 at 05:58 PM Anonymous Says:

I have been in plenty such situations and have always said sorry I don't shake hands, it's against my religion. no one got offended.

11

 Nov 04, 2010 at 06:16 PM Yochie Says:

Could someone find me a heter for ...
I don't want to embarrass me Yetzer Horah

12

 Nov 04, 2010 at 06:22 PM Anonymous Says:

The examples brought are not impressive. A Rav refusing to shake the hand of the Israeli Prime Minister is not the same as a businessman outside of Israel refusing to shake the hand of a Gentile.

Also, in Britian, one who meets the Queen either bows or curtsies but is never allowed to shake her hand.

13

 Nov 04, 2010 at 06:28 PM Elchonon Says:

Last Friday, now Attorney General Elect of the state of Florida Pam Bondi gave me her hand to shake.. so I waved to her and she waved back lol

Its best to be polite.. like my buddy Corey who ran for State Senate knows not to touch or try shaking hands with frum women..

14

 Nov 04, 2010 at 06:30 PM Yossi Says:

I have a bigger problem shaking hand with some MEN in shul who are known ganefs and gangsters and talk all davening....

15

 Nov 04, 2010 at 06:37 PM Yonason_Herschlag Says:

When reaching out for your hand, one can show them honor by smiling back, nodding the head in honor to them, and other complimenting gestures, while at the same time enabling to recognize that it's against your religioun.

16

 Nov 04, 2010 at 06:42 PM memyself Says:

#1 "I know in the chareidie world Rav Moshe is not that much of a gadol"

where did you get THAT from? just because I carry in the eiruv doesn't mean I don't hold him in the highest regard.

17

 Nov 04, 2010 at 06:47 PM Too True to Post Says:

Reply to #1  
Jack Says:

Somehow I thought Rav Moshe also ruled that if if would cause offense to the a woman by refusing to shake her hand then a person should shake her hand to avoid embarrassing her. I know in the chareidie world Rav Moshe is not that much of a gadol but compared to Rav Aviner. I guess the words of chazal are ringing truer everyday that "Olam Hafouch ra'iisi an ibekekrete velt where elyonim are l'matah and ....................................

Before you "somehow think" things, it would do you well to verify those thoughts with the facts! R' Moshe happened to have been of the opinion that it is assur in all cases, as well as "yehoreg v'al ya'avor".

18

 Nov 04, 2010 at 06:58 PM polite Says:

When coming up to new people that might extend their hand, I keep mine behind my back and allow my body language to do the talking. 90% of the time they get the message and just nod and speak a warm welcome. When they don't get it, I don't embarrass anyone because that I what I was taught by Rabbis. If I will be in "contact" (excuse the pun) with that person again, I make sure that he is informed about the issur in a gentle way.

19

 Nov 04, 2010 at 07:00 PM Moone Says:

Reply to #6  
Xviznitzer Says:

And how about when a woman gives you a kiss on the cheek, should you return the kiss in order not to offend her?

You precisely use the example of kissing because it's accepted as an affectionate [removed]Derech Chibah). If hand shaking would be used in such manner, or if kissing wouldn't be such an affectionate expression, then yes indeed they would share the same constraint.

20

 Nov 04, 2010 at 07:02 PM Anonymous Says:

To #12 - shaking hands with a non-Jewish woman is considerably easier than with a Jewish woman for several reasons.

21

 Nov 04, 2010 at 07:13 PM raykaufm Says:

I think that those posters who claim (or think) that R' Moshe, ZTL was mattir hand shaking under some conditions are confusing it with his tshuva on inadvertant contact with a female on a crowded subway.

22

 Nov 04, 2010 at 07:46 PM Anonymous Says:

if you see a woman drowning, or fall down will you stretch a hand to help her? or if she fainted will you resuscitate her? (if you dont know what it means look it up in the dictionary). or if it happens to a man will he refuse the woman's help?

23

 Nov 04, 2010 at 08:06 PM leftover kishke Says:

Reply to #1  
Jack Says:

Somehow I thought Rav Moshe also ruled that if if would cause offense to the a woman by refusing to shake her hand then a person should shake her hand to avoid embarrassing her. I know in the chareidie world Rav Moshe is not that much of a gadol but compared to Rav Aviner. I guess the words of chazal are ringing truer everyday that "Olam Hafouch ra'iisi an ibekekrete velt where elyonim are l'matah and ....................................

Before you post your stupidity (about reb Moshe not being a gadol) open up his teshuva and check it up because you are wrong about that too, he does not give a heter and I have no clue where u got that from, but you are wrong my friend! And I really hope you don't just do things and hope and think that reb Moshe approves because if you got a shaila you either ask your rabbi or you check it up inside. Have a good one!

24

 Nov 04, 2010 at 08:14 PM jmas6 Says:

Reply to #22  
Anonymous Says:

if you see a woman drowning, or fall down will you stretch a hand to help her? or if she fainted will you resuscitate her? (if you dont know what it means look it up in the dictionary). or if it happens to a man will he refuse the woman's help?

Not if you are a Chosid shoteh you won't.

25

 Nov 04, 2010 at 08:34 PM luchinkup Says:

Judging by your fixation with this issue, I'd say you in particular cannot. You could shake hands with a woman however with no fear of hirhurim...

26

 Nov 04, 2010 at 08:45 PM bigwheeel Says:

Reply to #1  
Jack Says:

Somehow I thought Rav Moshe also ruled that if if would cause offense to the a woman by refusing to shake her hand then a person should shake her hand to avoid embarrassing her. I know in the chareidie world Rav Moshe is not that much of a gadol but compared to Rav Aviner. I guess the words of chazal are ringing truer everyday that "Olam Hafouch ra'iisi an ibekekrete velt where elyonim are l'matah and ....................................

I strongly object to your statement that "In the Chareidi world R' Moshe is not considered such a Gadol". That is absolutely incorrect. That impression might have had its origins with some of Hagaon R' Moshe Feinstein's P'sakim in his Responsa (Sheilos uT'shuvos) that were contested by other Gedolei Hatorah, which were based on unusual circumstances and were not meant to be implemented in everyday life. Some pea-brained individuals who could not (due to their low brain power and lack of character) put things in perspective, expressed their opinion to Rav Feinstein Z"L in an extremely Chutzpah-dik manner. (Like making harassing phone calls to that Tzaddik.) But the Gadlus of the Rav came shining through when he refused to hang up abruptly on those squirrel-brained individuals, giving them more courtesy than they deserved.

27

 Nov 04, 2010 at 09:10 PM BabbaG Says:

Almost all business etiquette books say a man should not extend his hand to a woman first. These books are not written by Jews for Jews, but we learn from this that the way of the world recognizes the modesty of a woman and respects this. Whenever I have explained this to gentlemen they are not embarrassed but awed by a Jewish woman's standard of Tznius. We are different and should behave differently!!

28

 Nov 04, 2010 at 09:26 PM MendyInMidwest Says:

this happened to me today
we were talking on the phone
she gave me an order (i work in a kosher food establishment)
she came to pick it up and was very happy to meet me
and she put out her hand
i politely said "i don't shake hands"
no one was offended...

30

 Nov 05, 2010 at 12:39 AM ajewishwoman Says:

Whenever I'm in such a situation, I simply look the guy in the face (I did NOT say in the eyes) and very warmly say something like, "It's such a pleasure to meet you -- really --I'm really so honored etc. etc., but I'm an orthodox Jewish woman and orthodox Jewish women do not shake hands with any man, except our husbands." Usually the response is something like, "Yeah, you're right. Why should you?" Last time I did this, this fellow was so impressed that he insisted on introducing me to all his friends as "A woman who stands up for her principals."

31

 Nov 05, 2010 at 12:43 AM Avrohomk Says:

Over the years there have been poskim who were lenient since the handshake was not in a derech chiba, see the Sefer HaYovel for Rav Dovid Zvi Hoffman. Reb Moshe was machmir as seems to be the widely accepted psak. Even though the minhag is to be machmir why can't people have a civil discussion basaed on the facts as opposed to attacking one another?

32

 Nov 05, 2010 at 06:17 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #28  
MendyInMidwest Says:

this happened to me today
we were talking on the phone
she gave me an order (i work in a kosher food establishment)
she came to pick it up and was very happy to meet me
and she put out her hand
i politely said "i don't shake hands"
no one was offended...

I hope that you explained that it was for religious purposes. She probably thinks that you are a germaphobic like Howie Mandel.

33

 Nov 05, 2010 at 06:52 AM TannaKamma Says:

Reply to #1  
Jack Says:

Somehow I thought Rav Moshe also ruled that if if would cause offense to the a woman by refusing to shake her hand then a person should shake her hand to avoid embarrassing her. I know in the chareidie world Rav Moshe is not that much of a gadol but compared to Rav Aviner. I guess the words of chazal are ringing truer everyday that "Olam Hafouch ra'iisi an ibekekrete velt where elyonim are l'matah and ....................................

Can you quote a reference other than your "thoughts"?

34

 Nov 05, 2010 at 08:17 AM Anonymous Says:

We should not kid ourselves. Many non Jewish women are greatly offended and feel humilated by such action. To say that the fact that most women keep quiet and do not make a fuss shows that they understand and respect this is wishful thinking.

35

 Nov 05, 2010 at 08:32 AM mnmys1987 Says:

“the other party will be hurt if you don’t return the gesture. Because of this, in a situation like this it is preferable to shake hands and not embarrass a fellow human being.”

It is completely false. I've made many time the experience. If you explain quietly that for religious reasons you cannot shake her hand, and that rules apply to any women, Jewish or not (because some women may think that it's because they are non-Jews that we refuse shaking their hand), they accept it and are not offended. people generally have respect for those who maintain religious and high conviction in their daily lives.

36

 Nov 05, 2010 at 08:36 AM mnmys1987 Says:

"Somehow I thought Rav Moshe also ruled that if if would cause offense to the a woman by refusing to shake her hand then a person should shake her hand to avoid embarrassing her."

It is not true at all. Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (in Igros Moshe E.H. 1:56) maintains it is difficult to say that shaking hands is not considered an expression of affection. In another teshuva (Igros Moshe O.C. 1:113) he wrote that doing so is forbidden.

37

 Nov 05, 2010 at 09:51 AM lakewooder Says:

The Steipler says in his Igros that there is no reason to take Kovod Habriyos into cheshbon because the other party is also doing something wrong. A person who will be insulted if you do not allow him or her to do something wrong, does not have a right to complain about Kovod Habriyos.
No. 31 Why do you only see the nasty comments? Most comments seem pretty civilized and respectful, albeit low intellectual level. There will always be a percentage of people who will say something nasty in these cases, but overall people seem pretty normal on this topic in this post.

38

 Nov 05, 2010 at 10:09 AM mommy says Says:

I remember the story when the rich Reichman met the Queen of England, she gave her hand and Mr Reichman said, sorry, I dont shake hands with women. She acknowledged it and was IMPRESSED.

39

 Nov 05, 2010 at 10:58 AM basmelech Says:

I don't think it offends anyone, if you respectfully and politely explain that you don't shake hands with the opposite gender for religious reasons. I also know that shaking hands can be a cause of spreading germs and causing colds. I heard that a certain odom godol declined from hand shaking with anyone for that reason. It's healthier,

40

 Nov 05, 2010 at 11:35 AM Anonymous Says:

Obviously, it is VERY important to have derech eretz and not hurt people.
That being the case, however, people have to understand that if it is osur, then you can't do it. It is not a chilul Hashem to not shake her hand. Shaking her hand is a chilul Hashem! Who knows better than Hashem what constitutes a Chilul Hashem!?

41

 Nov 05, 2010 at 11:52 AM Wiznitz Says:

Rav Yitzchok Groner ZTZ"L-the Chabad Rabbi in Melbourne-whenever he had a meeting with a female government minister, when offered her hand, he would say "the day we were married, my wife and I agreed that she would be the only female I ever touch(daughters excluded, of course). The ministers were always impressed.

42

 Nov 05, 2010 at 12:08 PM Barry521 Says:

I wonder how they feel at night? Maybe they should all be discussing the perverts, and actually do something constructive about that.

43

 Nov 05, 2010 at 01:51 PM isay Says:

You can't say nobody get offended or vise versa, every situation is different. I had situations where it became a whole explanation that I really don't wanna deal with every time I meet a women (customer). I would really look into the heter

44

 Nov 05, 2010 at 02:47 PM Anonymous Says:

it falls into the category of ‘yehareg v’al yaavor’, a sin that is so severe that it is preferable to die than to transgress that sin.”

Ridiculous.

45

 Nov 05, 2010 at 02:56 PM isay Says:

You can't say nobody get offended or vise versa, every situation is different. I had situations where it became a whole explanation that I really don't wanna deal with every time I meet a women (customer). I would really look into the heter

46

 Nov 05, 2010 at 03:34 PM BiggestFish Says:

Reply to #6  
Xviznitzer Says:

And how about when a woman gives you a kiss on the cheek, should you return the kiss in order not to offend her?

Ha ha thats a good one!
Seriously, I just say "I don't shake hands for religious reasons, and I smile at them and bow my head a drop."
Works just fine.

47

 Nov 05, 2010 at 03:46 PM David Says:

Reply to #12  
Anonymous Says:

The examples brought are not impressive. A Rav refusing to shake the hand of the Israeli Prime Minister is not the same as a businessman outside of Israel refusing to shake the hand of a Gentile.

Also, in Britian, one who meets the Queen either bows or curtsies but is never allowed to shake her hand.

You are correct that it is customary not to offer one's hand to the Queen. That said, the Queen is enough of a lady that, were someone to do so, she wouldn't embarrass them by refusing.

48

 Nov 07, 2010 at 10:30 AM anon Says:

I believe that when Rabbi Nachman Sudak shlita, the Chairman of Lubavitch UK, was given an honour by the Queen of England, there were protocol discussions in advance regarding a) not taking off his hat, which would be normal procedure and b) handshaking etc. In the end it was a tremendous Kiddush Hashem that he was able to receive an honour and recognition whilst not compromising on yiddishe standards - and I am sure the Queen respected him for it. It just takes a bissel seichel and derech eretz to think ahead.

I appreciate there may be heteirim but surely shaking hands and kissing cheeks and going out on Friday night with your work colleagues and not being able to go to a restaurant with your clients are all nisyonos. Why single out the handshakes as a specific issue? Like all things a person needs to stand tall and proud and recognise the Yad Hashem. Just like wearing a yarmulke to work etc. etc.

In magistrates' courts in the UK it is considered disrespectful to wear a hat and a youth etc. would be asked to remove a baseball cap or held in contempt. Kemuvan if you wear a yarmulke or hat for religious reasons, as long as you explain politely and quietly, there is no problm

49

 Nov 07, 2010 at 01:33 PM yohtok Says:

I have seen quite a few people innocently state that they bowed their head. hmmmmmmmmm. since when is am yisrael allowed to bow to anyone else except for Hashem. Bowing is preferable to shaking hands?

50

 Nov 10, 2010 at 12:45 AM MendyInMidwest Says:

Reply to #32  
Anonymous Says:

I hope that you explained that it was for religious purposes. She probably thinks that you are a germaphobic like Howie Mandel.

I don't care what she thought or thinks
and i have a BIG beard so i don't qualify for a germaphobe

51

 Nov 10, 2010 at 01:25 AM BiggestFish Says:

Reply to #49  
yohtok Says:

I have seen quite a few people innocently state that they bowed their head. hmmmmmmmmm. since when is am yisrael allowed to bow to anyone else except for Hashem. Bowing is preferable to shaking hands?

Bowing your head, it is just a head nod. Would you not be allowed to nod your head at someone? How do you say no? It's just a greeting.

52

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