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Why won't I shake your hand?

by Mrs. Devorah L. Chein


Library » Intimacy » Sexual Issues | Subscribe | What is RSS?


The Short Answer:

By not shaking hands with members of the opposite gender we prevent any uncomfortable, unwanted (and most likely unpredictable) sexual sentiments. We are also reserving the magical power of touch for our spouses.

The Askmoses Answer:

You’re walking along in the campus plaza and you meet the Chabad Rabbi. He says hello. As a well mannered girl you extend your hand to reciprocate the greetings. To your surprise, or horror, he won’t shake your hand.

After a fleeting second of total shock it all begins to make sense. He is a guy, you are a girl. You’ve always heard that orthodox men treat women inferiorly, and here is the proof: he won’t even shake your hand.

You walk away in disgust and bump right into me, the rabbi’s wife. I give you a big warm hug; but I refuse to shake the hand of the guy standing next to you.

the reason we don't have physical contact with members of the opposite gender is good old fashion respect.
There goes the male chauvinism theory!

My warm embrace and welcoming smile serve as a temporary Band-Aid for my husbands "rudeness" so you agree to come to our Chabad House for Friday night Shabbat dinner.

You hang out with us and the tens of other students present and begin to notice that concepts such as prejudice, inferior, or judgmental don’t even exist in our home. It is almost as if those sections of the dictionary never entered our world.

Now you are really confused: if I come from such a loving environment why won’t I high-five the guys, and why won’t my husband hug the girls – or at least shake their hands?!

The answer might be more shocking than the initial experience: the reason we don’t have physical contact with members of the opposite gender is good old fashion respect.

Respect, you wonder; how does not shaking someone’s hand show any respect for anything?

Well here are some things to think about:

Physical attraction is a natural part of our psyche and we often like to act on that impulse. But how many times has someone acted on his/her impulse when it like totally wasn’t your impulse! Or how about the times you thought there was a mutual attraction and before you knew it the physical contact went way too far for your liking.

Can you blame him/her? Can you blame yourself? How were you or they supposed to know how far to go, or how the initiation would be perceived?

Say I am a very affectionate woman who hugs just about anyone I meet. You on the other hand are a very reserved guy whose last hug was from your mother when you graduated elementary school. We meet for the very first time – how would you react to a hug?


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(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.