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It’s better to die than shake a woman’s hand

So some Rabbi last week in Israel ruled that you can shake a woman’s hand for business purposes or so you shouldn’t embarrass her and what do you think happened, a bunch of rabbis came out against this guy and basically called him an idiot. We can debate the laws of negiah until moshiach comes, but I always thought the hand shaking thing was over with – you have those that shake and those that don’t (you can even bring that over to post urination practices, I’m not much of a shaker myself)

What absolutely cracks me up is that this Rabbi Avner guy comes along and says that shaking a woman’s hand falls under one of those sins that it’s better to die than transgress and that’s the point at which the music stopped. I have been told by many older folks that the Rabbis today “don’t know crap” and that they come up with stricter and stricter rulings, because it’s easier to ban than to give leniency and that’s true. Saying something is not allowed is way easier than whipping out a Mishna Brura or Shulchan Aruch (when’s the last time you saw someone learning halacha in shul? I don’t count learning random English translations as real learning of halacha – I can do that myself) But to say shaking a woman’s hand is so bad you should die over it, is a bit much, don;t you think?

Obviously it sounds noble, my rabbi is so frum he says shaking a woman’s hand is worse than incestuous-gay sex, wo your rabbis so frum!!!

But let’s just say for a minute that shaking a woman’s hand was really something that you had to die over, would that mean that you couldn’t help an old lady up who had just fallen in the middle of the street, or is it ok since she hasn;t really been a niddah in 30 years?

Obviously if a woman was drowning it would be assur to save her, first of all, she is probably not dressed tznius, second of all if shaking her hand is a sin, imagine the hell you’re gonne get for grasping her hand to help her up when you drive out on your jet ski to get her.

I did think of one heter. If there is a naked woman drowning in a body of water that would, according to your expert halachic calculations count as a suitable mikvah, you could save her.

{ 33 comments… add one }
  • frum single feman November 7, 2010, 10:01 AM

    wow. just when you think a halachic issue has been solved someone goes on to make it stricter.
    i like ” a man cant help an old lady across the street even though she hasnt been a niddah for 30 years. “.
    as for a man who sees a woman swimmer drowning , well what is he doing swimming anyway? lol. i think a guy going mixed swimming is most likely going to save a woman swimmer who looks like she is drowning. im just saying.

    • Heshy Fried November 7, 2010, 1:01 PM

      I was talking about a guy walking down the street or across a bridge, frum people don’t do mixed swimming, if they did I wonder how pesach hotels would compete against each other.

      • kissmeimshomer November 7, 2010, 6:25 PM

        if there is a person on this planet who wouldnt save a girl drowning because she isn’t tznius, i hope that guy lives to see his own balls flattened with a hot iron

        • Anonymous November 7, 2010, 10:15 PM

          I’ve never heard that curse used before…damn that’s funny-his own balls flattened with a hot iron-Priceless! I may steal it from you, if that’s ok.

        • Guest November 8, 2010, 1:08 PM

          The case of a woman drowning, and a man not saving her because its “not tznius” is a classic case brought up in the Talmud, if I remember correctly. The Talmud called such a man a chassid shoteh–pious fool, emphasis on the fool.

          • Witness December 18, 2012, 4:08 AM


  • Chris_B November 7, 2010, 11:40 AM

    “Im not much of a shaker myself”

    Oddly enough I was just reading in the kitzur about making sure you shake enough that you wont get your garment wet but not enough to arouse yourself.

    • Heshy Fried November 7, 2010, 1:00 PM

      Urinals may be the least likely place to become aroused

      • FrumGer November 8, 2010, 12:43 PM


      • A. Nuran November 9, 2010, 10:19 AM

        For most of us.

  • Realistically Speaking November 7, 2010, 12:33 PM

    Most men would feel honored to kiss my hand , let alone shake it (admiringly I would be a bit selective on who gets to have that honor) . I would insist the Rabbis to allow it being the irrefutably HOPA that I am 😉

    As reiterated before, its easier and less time consuming to mandate a ban rather than waste your breathe explaining to a myriad of skeptics about self control and how to behave around the opposite sex.

  • Yoreh K'chetz (aka Phil) November 7, 2010, 1:09 PM

    Maybe they should put businesswomen in straight jackets, or better yet just cut off their hands, what are they doing out of the kitchen to begin with ? 🙂

    Seriously though, the article says nothing about it being better to die than shake her hand, he even brings down a ruling that allows you to shake it a the woman stuck her hand out to avoid embarrassing her.

  • Mahla November 7, 2010, 2:20 PM

    Would the Rabbi find it permissible to shake a woman’s hand if you and / or she are appropriately gloved, I wonder?

    For wacky religious rulings pertaining to opposite-sex interactions in the workplace, nothing will ever beat the Saudi “drink your coworker’s breastmilk” fatwa, although a “it would be better to literally ~die~ than shake your client’s hand” fatwa comes close. :^O

    • Phil November 7, 2010, 2:54 PM


      I’d love to see the Saudi “Got milk” ads for that one 🙂
      Did they have to drink it straight from the tap, or were the women allowed to squeeze it into the dudes coffee?

      • Mahla November 7, 2010, 5:12 PM

        LOL, I know some Western companies provide facilities for the expression & storage of breast milk …. I would love to see people trying to run that by H.R. …. ;^D

      • A. Nuran November 8, 2010, 1:02 AM

        The Saudis generally take Crazy and run with it. When Yemeni religious scholars think of you as backwards hicks you know you’re top of your division.

        Here’s part of the story via aolnews’ Dana Kennedy:

        Sheikh Al Obeikan, an adviser to the royal court and consultant to the Ministry of Justice, set off a firestorm of controversy recently when he said on TV that women who come into regular contact with men who aren’t related to them ought to give them their breast milk so they will be considered relatives.

        “The man should take the milk, but not directly from the breast of the woman,” Al Obeikan said, according to Gulf News. “He should drink it and then becomes a relative of the family, a fact that allows him to come in contact with the women without breaking Islam’s rules about mixing.”

        It references this story which the BBC covered back in 2007…

        One of Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institutions is to discipline a cleric after he issued a decree allowing women to breastfeed their male colleagues.
        Dr Izzat Atiya of Egypt’s al-Azhar University said it offered a way around segregation of the sexes at work.

        His fatwa stated the act would make the man symbolically related to the woman and preclude any sexual relations.

        The president of al-Azhar denounced the fatwa, which Dr Atiya has since retracted, as defamatory to Islam.

        According to Islamic tradition, or Hadith, breast-feeding establishes a degree of maternal relation, even if a woman nurses a child who is not biologically hers.

        ‘Family bond’

        In his fatwa, Dr Atiya, the head of al-Azhar’s Department of Hadith, said such teachings could equally apply to adults.

        He said that if a woman fed a male colleague “directly from her breast” at least five times they would establish a family bond and thus be allowed to be alone together at work.

        “Breast feeding an adult puts an end to the problem of the private meeting, and does not ban marriage,” he ruled.

        “A woman at work can take off the veil or reveal her hair in front of someone whom she breastfed.”

        The legal ruling sparked outrage throughout Egypt and the Arab world.

        On Sunday, Dr Atiya retracted it, saying it had been the result of a “bad interpretation of a particular case” during the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

        Egypt’s minister of religious affairs, Mahmoud Zaqzouq, has called for future fatwas to “be compatible with logic and human nature”.

    • A. Nuran November 8, 2010, 12:56 AM

      To be fair…

      The Egyptian religious scholar who came up with this zinger also declared that it would be a blessing to drink Mohammed’s urine. His colleagues and the government acted like you do when a respected family elder starts walking around naked with his underwear on his head. They said he should shut up or retire and people should stop taking everything he said so seriously. Especially when it had to do with bodily fluids.

      Trust the Saudis to posek pure, raw gum burning Crazy.

  • John November 7, 2010, 2:21 PM

    You are confused perhaps i can help, you ask “But lets just say for a minute that shaking a womans hand was really something that you had to die over, would that mean that you couldnt help an old lady up who had just fallen in the middle of the street, or is it ok since she hasn;t really been a niddah in 30 years?” Well one has zero to do with the other. Touching a woman if it isnt derech chiba (“affectionate touch”) Isnt forbidden, thus nobody is saying helping a woman across the street or certainly saving a drowning woman would be forbidden.
    The question becomes is hand shaking derech chiba? R’ moshe and the chazon ish famously ruled that it is, in which case according t many it would fall under the category of yehrag v’al yavor. Apparently R’ Aviner (a mizrachi btw) concurs. thers argue, but either way helping a woman doesnt fall into the category.
    You should follow your own advice and learn halacha before criticizing others especially rabanim for not learning, shulchan aruch eh siman 21 would be a great place to start.

    • Witness December 18, 2012, 4:12 AM

      My understanding is that kirvah itself is NOT yehareg uval yaavor according to most rishonim, only the actual act is.

  • Israelit November 7, 2010, 2:54 PM

    I wouldn’t worry too much about it since Rabbi Aviner is known for giving extremist decisions anyway. It reminds me of the Emmanuel Ashkenazi vs. Sefardi school controversy a few months ago in Israel when one of the Ashkenazi rabbis involved said on a radio interview that one must be willing to die to keep his daughter from going to school with those “untznius Sefardi girls” who wear their button up school uniform shirts with the top button unbuttoned because “this one button is a ‘teharag v’bal yavor’ issue.'” And yes, that is actually what he said. I wonder if Jews haven’t experienced martyrdom in so long lately that we’re starting to create stupid reasons to martyr ourselves- I mean it’s been more than 60 years since the Shoah, so I guess some of us are looking for new reasons for kiddush Hashem.

    • Yankel November 8, 2010, 12:18 AM

      So would you say it’s yehareg v’al ya’vor to send one’s frum daughter to a New York public school?

    • Yankel November 8, 2010, 12:20 AM

      Or better yet, since you seem to stand on the Zionistic side of things, would you say it about a Palestinian school (if it wasn’t dangerous of course)?

    • A. Nuran November 8, 2010, 1:03 AM

      If Rabbi Aviner is so eager for martyrdom I can only remind him that actions speak louder than words.

      • Esther November 8, 2010, 2:25 PM


  • MalachHamovies November 7, 2010, 3:49 PM

    A chassidishe guy once went to a prostitute. After negotiating the fee, she asked him what sexual position he would prefer. He replies to her, any position is ok except for the standing up position.

    She asks him – What’s wrong with “doing it ” standing up ?

    He replies back – Well it’s a big problem. It could lead to mixed dancing !!

    • Mahla November 7, 2010, 8:22 PM

      LOL! ;^D

  • Anonymous November 8, 2010, 1:31 AM

    Where I live the people have a custom to press noses when they greet. my university had a traditional ceremony for new students, the staff welcomed students by pressed noses with us. there is 1 frum-looking jew there, he did it too. I was a bit nervous when it was my turn with him but he didn’t seem disgusted. Afterward he must have rushed to purify himself! I wanted to ask him about it but I was pretending too be non-jewish. :-/

    anyway, I wouldn’t expect a man to shake my hand, or press my nose; they shouldn’t be forced to be polite but death seems a bit harsh

  • Anonymous November 8, 2010, 1:50 AM

    the article says nothing about dying over shaking a woman’s hand

    • nesss November 8, 2010, 3:45 AM

      seriously Heshy, nowhere in the article you linked to does R Aviner say this issue is yehareg val yavor. If you have a source that really does quote him saying this, you should give that link instead. Otherwise this is a huge lashon hara. And you may want to spell his name right (Aviner, not Avner), whether you agree with him or not, there’s no reason to ridicule him. Just for the record, I don’t agree with his ruling and he’s far too extreme for me, but he happens to be a very well respected figure among the dati leumi here in Israel.

  • MonseySixPack November 8, 2010, 2:21 AM

    saving a naked girl droWning has been adressed by the sefer hasidim some 900 years ago and its mutar he adds also about this shale on this its says “al tihye tzadik harbe” vehamevin yovin.

  • Michael November 8, 2010, 8:21 AM

    Rav Aviner is known to be a big Ohev Ysirael and regards embaressing others as a big Aveira.

    With regard to not shaking hands, his recent Pask was clear that it should be done in a way not to embaress others:

    Shaking a Woman’s Hand
    Q: If a woman puts out her hand to shake mine, it is permissible to shake it so as not to embarrass her?
    A: No. We should not embarrass anyone, but here she is causing herself embarrassment. Ha-Rav Ovadia Yosef declined to shake hands with Prime Minister Golda Meir. And Rav Mordechai Eliyahu did not shake hands with the Queen of England. In both cases, apologies were issued to the Rabbis that very night. In fact, one should take into consideration the feelings of the one who observes the Torah (Shut She’eilat Shlomo 4:298. See Blog Maaleh of 25 Marcheshvan).

    Source: http://www.ravaviner.com/2010/11/shut-sms-89.html

  • A. Nuran November 9, 2010, 1:08 AM

    Reminds me of an old minister-rabbi joke.

    “Pastor, would you like a drink?”

    “I’d sooner commit adultery than let liquor touch my lips!”

    “I’ve tried both, and believe me, there’s no comparison.”

  • Witness December 18, 2012, 4:13 AM

    Heshy, you need to re-read that article you linked- there’s NOTHING there about yehareg uval yaavor.

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