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Why don't orthodox men shake hands with women?


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Rabbi Shlomo: Welcome. I'll be with you in a moment...what's on your mind?

Benita: Why hasidic jewish men don_t shake hands with women?

Benita: I've been to a conference and the hasidic jew told us it was for a religious matter that he did not shake my hand

Rabbi Shlomo: In Judaism we only touch the same gender; men don't touch women, and women don't touch men.1 There are two reasons for this, a negative and positive

Benita: what are they?

Rabbi Shlomo: negative: it is a prevention against any unwanted sexual contact. If you don't touch at all, you can't go "too far". You can never touch someone the "wrong way" or be accused of touching someone the wrong way, if you never touch at all. And of course you are not likely to go any further than touching, if you never even touch to begin with

Rabbi Shlomo: positive: this perserves sensuality for husband and wife. When you never touch anyone from the opposite gender, and the only one you do touch is your wife/husband, there is magic in what people might call a simple touch

Benita: I do prefer the positive one, it adds a touch of sprirituality. Thanks again for the information.

Rabbi Shlomo: my pleasure

All names, places, and identifying information have been changed or deleted in order to protect the privacy of the questioners. In order to preserve authenticity, the chat sessions have been posted with a minimum of editing. Please excuse typographical errors, missing punctuation, and/or grammatical mistakes which naturally occur in the course of informal chat sessions.


  • 1. Ed. Note: Unless there are medical or other urgent considerations.


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Posted by: Anonymous, Knoxville, TN on Apr 21, 2006

Forgive me if my question seems ignorant, for I honestly do not know a great deal about Judaism and this is in no way intended to offend anyone. My question is this: if toughing of anyone of the opposite sex is forbidden except for between a husband and wife, then is this also true for parent/child relationships? It seems strange to think a mother could not hold her son, or for a father to carry his daughter. Thanks for your time!

Editor's Comment

Your assumption is correct. This restriction does not apply to parents or grandparents -- or to small children for that matter...