Handshaking – leads to mixed dancing?

I grew up Modern Orthodox and as such never spared a thought to hugging uncles, shaking hands with parents’ business associates etc, slapping a male playmate who took my toy… But the world I now live in is vastly different.

We are not supposed to touch members of the opposite sex. Period. Ever. Unless we are married to them or directly related. Even in business, we are not supposed to shake hands with the opposite sex.

I don’t know that I agree with this. If someone is unaware of this rule and he puts his hand out for me to shake – it looks awful if I don’t shake it. It’s rude and makes us look bad. I know a person who would say “sorry I don’t shake hands” – and I would always cringe every time she said it.

We are not supposed to touch opposite sex people in an affectionate manner – derech chiba. Is handshaking affectionate? It’s business. But, wait,  I am starting to hear whispers of the slippery slope argument. If you permit yourself to shake hands, maybe if they want to kiss you hello, you will have no problem with it. It IS business after all. Next thing you know you will be dancing at their weddings – even if it’s only business.

My rule of thumb is that if someone extends their hand to me I always shake. Sometimes when I feel the situation warrants it, I will proffer the hand, but that happens rarely. The problem becomes more serious when you live in a place like Montreal, where the two cheek kiss is as acceptable as a handshake in certain business settings. Obviously only people you have worked with or met before will greet you this way – and having an exisiting working relationship you are able to explain that it’s not acceptable to you for religious reasons. But that’s easily explained ONLY when there already is an exisiting relationship. Meeting someone for the first time – and rudely ignoring that hand, well, that’s just plain ridiculous in my view.

There are those that call handshaking negiah and would be scandalized to see a male /  female handshake in our world. I disagree. It’s a terrible aveirah to embarrass someone or have him think us Jews are standoffish.

So all things considered, I shake (I do not stir).

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13 responses to “Handshaking – leads to mixed dancing?

  1. It’s a terrible aveirah to embarrass someone or have him think us Jews are standoffish. I totally agree.

  2. Well… I try very hard NOT to allow other males to shake my hand. I HAVE had said males escalate the contact to try a hug, or a pat on the back or some OTHER inappropriate touching. The first time you meet you shake hands, then the next time it’s a hug, then maybe a kiss. They might not even pay attention to the contact, but it’s still innappropriate. Others use it as a tool TO touch you. It’s all about boundaries.
    I know that my business associates will take me seriously if he understands he cannot have a relationship with me, other than in business.
    I have shaken hands when they are thrust out to me, but I never volunteer. I will purposefully put something in my hands instead, or make sure they are dirty (The fish store was GREAT! NO ONE wanted to touch me!) And sometimes, I will even say flat out that I do not shake hands.

  3. I am anti Shomer Neigah. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I think that we do ourselves a disfavor to suggest that people cannot control themselves.

  4. There are so many ways out of this if one cares enough to try; the purse or briefcase in hand is generally the simplest. My brother, when setting up a meeting with a woman, will tell her beforehand “by the way i am a religious Jew and don’t shake woman’s hands” which they are generally very respectful of and it heads off potentially uncomfortable situations.

  5. I agree with you whole heartedly 😀
    {ducking from the rocks pelting down….}

  6. ladylockandload

    I remember it being hard when my husband’s grandfather was still alive and I wasn’t allowed to give him a kiss and he was very old and didn’t really understand.

  7. I like Rav Willig’s approach: shake hands with a member of the opposite gender if offered, and do the minimum necessary (i.e. quick clasp, no pressure).

  8. Please let me know if this is correct – Isn’t one of the reasons not to shake a woman’s hand is the fact that she may be in niddah…
    Also, it is a sign of respect to one’s spouse.

  9. Niddah only applies to a husband and wife. Otherwise, a son would not touch his mom or sister while they are niddah.
    It entirely has to do with making the physical act of touching elevated to a more special spiritual level. Something you share with only your family- especially your spouse.

  10. This is a halachic issue and therefore I dont see your personal feelings of how the halacha should decide this issue as being relevant. Either learn through the sugyos or ask a rabbi.

  11. Jack – That’s only one way to look at it. I don’t think of myself as someone who can’t control themselves… but after I started “keeping negiah” I became much more aware just how special touch is. It creates a sensitivity. In a good way.

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