Mar 3, 2013

Interesting Psak: Shaking Hands With Men

This psak is hopefully not relevant to most of us, but it is interesting and definitely is unique - I have not seen this question, or any like it dealt with publicly until now.

Rav Yuval Cherlo was asked a halachic question by someone describing himself as a religious homosexual who is "mitchazek" - becoming more religious, becoming stronger in religion. He says he is being more careful about a number of mtizvos and aveiros..

This fellow explained that he accepted upon himself to be shomer negia, avoid touch generally applicable with the opposite gender but this fellow applied it to men because that is the gender he is attracted to, and not touch other males. This leads to a problem in shul, and other social settings I presume, as he will not shake hands with his fellow congregants and they at times get insulted. He asks Rav Cherlo what he should do.

Unusual question. Interesting self-application. Interesting "chumra" for him to take upon himself.

Rav Cherlo's response was that his acceptance of being careful to not touch other males need not prevent him from shaking hands. Shaking hands, Rav Cherlo says, is a technical matter with absolutely no sexual implications. Even having accepted such behavior on oneself would not require him to enter such problematic situations, as he could still shake hands.
(source: Kipa)

This psak is in line with Rav Cherlo's psak with shaking hands with members of the opposite sex. Rav Cherlo has said, to much criticism, that shaking hands has no sexual implications, and nobody must refrain from shaking. Applying it to man-man is an interesting application, but is in line with his general psak.

Rav Cherlo explained his rationale further to Ynet. He explained that shaking hands with women has no sexual meaning and is not prohibited between man and woman, and between homosexuals it is even more permissible. Giving sexual meaning to acts that have no sexual meaning, Rav Cherlo explains, is itself immodest and destructive to the holiness of the Jewish nation. What is prohibited, is prohibited. What is not prohibited - one should carefully consider the reward of [creating] the prohibition vs the loss [created by said prohibition.

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  1. Shaking hands with women is very problematic, and I'm sorry if this rabbi thinks all boys and men are on their level. The 'Torah world' has worked so hard to have non-religious people accept that men and women should not touch, it only takes a couple of rabbis like this to undo all that effort, not unlike the recent psak about being able to eat at non-religious person's house. We worked so hard to have them understand the need to open new products and use throwaway utensils, here comes Beit Hillel to say, no, unnnecessary humrah.


    1. There are very well known halakhic authorities that permit touch between a man and a woman as long as it is not sexual in nature or context. To suggest that Shomer nagia must be codified with one particular practical standard is really extreme in my opinion. One has not committed a serious violation of Halakha if one happens to shake a woman's hand in a professional or other appropriate setting.

  2. why do they have to toe the line that the 'torah world' has set? just because some have decided to establish a standard, one that maybe you and I prefer, others dnot have the right to say that according to halacha that standard isnt necessary. Maybe others arent holding up to that standard and it creates situations that dont work out well, and knowing what the actual halacha is can rectify that, rather than thinking a stringent standard is the actual halacha. I disagree with you that they are wrong for stating their halachic opinion.

    If they determine that is the halacha (and I have not read anything from Beit Hillel (though truth is I have not read that much from them) that is problematic halachically, even if not preferable), they have the right or even the obligation to state it, to publicize it and to debate/defend it. They have no obligation to quash their conclusions just because some have deemed it necessary to establish norms .

  3. This is an interesting psak. If this guy sits with other men, and only men in Shul, he is liable to be aroused. Therefore if these types form their own Shuls, and they do in America (although so far only Reform and Conservative), then maybe there will be a further psak allowing mixed seating with lesbians, as the diluting of the men by women, will lead to less arousal.
    Seriously, I would prefer if this guy would consult JONAH,
    JONAH stands for Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality non-profit international organization dedicated to educating the world-wide Jewish community about the social, cultural and emotional factors which lead to same-sex attractions. JONAH works directly with those struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions (SSA) and with families whose loved ones are involved in homosexuality. I have no contact with this group, just saw their banner once on a site.

  4. "If this guy sits with other men, and only men in Shul, he is liable to be aroused.

    Wow! I am in my 69th year, I (try to) daven in a minyan three times a day - and I am (and I always have been) a homosexual.

    What have I been missing out on all these years? Not once, בהן צדקי I promise you, have I ever been "aroused" by sitting with other men. If only ...


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