Why I don’t shake hands with the opposite sex
I received this in one of the many spam emails I get from any number of friends of mine who run shuls and chabad houses, once in a very rare while do I open them. I liked this one and even though I do tend to shake hands with the opposite sex, I think that anyone who can give over the practice not to shake hands while teaching a valuable lesson ought to be listened to.
I won’t shake your hand, ask me why?
I have many practices that, as an observant Jew living in Folsom, raise eyebrows. But the one that takes the cake is the standard of avoiding any type of physical contact with women. Many times when I meet women I put them in an uncomfortable position by declining to shake their outstretched hand (and you should see the expression on some men’s faces when my wife does the same thing to them!). I explain that observant Jews reserve physical contact between genders for husband and wife.
Although occasionally there are women who take offense, most people are respectful and some even appreciate the custom. One woman told me that she would sleep much better at night if she knew that her husband held himself to such a standard…
But, why?! is the real question. Isn’t that a little extreme? Well, perhaps. I can see why you could think so. And we can discuss the pros and the cons. But one important point is this: It creates a real exclusivity to the husband-wife relationship.
Judaism’s idea on the relationship between men and women is diametrically different than the prevailing attitude that basically anything goes. Judaism views the relationship as something spiritual and holy, even G-dly. It is for this reason that the Torah places such an emphasis on the parameters of the relationship.
Another important difference in perspective can be gleaned from the Hebrew word for love, Ahava. Today the attitude is what can I get from this relationship? What’s in it for me? Ahava – love is connected to the word hav – give. It’s not about what I can get from this relationship, it’s what can I give.
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