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Jul 15, 2009

Interesting Psak from Rav Cherlow: Blind Dates

Rav Yuval Cherlow was asked if a blind man is allowed to touch his female date (touch/feel her face) to "see what she looks like".

Rav Cherlow responded
that in this situation he is allowed to feel her face, and perhaps even obligated to. His reasoning, in brief is:
  1. this touching has no sexual meaning. it is purely for the sake of "seeing" her. As such, it overrides the rabbinic prohibition of negiah.
  2. Sometimes there are reasons to push away a prohibition, which is what a rav posek is for. For example, it is normally prohibited to look at a woman. But chazal allowed it for the purpose of seeing the woman you are considering marrying.
  3. Perhaps he is obligated to, as chazal required a man to see his wife before marrying her, for "v'ahavta l'rei'acha kamocha". This is the only way the blind man can acocmplish this in this situation.
  4. Halacha treats blind people differently. For example, turning a light on on shabbos for a blind woman giving birth is allowed, even though it does not help her see. but it calms her down. Even though this fellow cannot see his wife, knowing how she looks is still important to him.
Sounds a bit farfetched to me. Who can't think of all sorts of problems this would lead to.. such as where he touches (by "mistake" obviously), considering he can't see, along with people posing blind to take advantage of this and other problems...


  1. rafi, clearly your sense of humor is getting the better of you, as i suspect the questioner as well.

    Let me explain... no, there is too much, let me sum up....

    I don't believe the questioner was really blind, i imagine it was probably a smart alec yeshiva bachur who got an answer different than what he expected.
    You on the other hand immediately when down the same path as this yeshiva bachur and assumed all sorts of strange possibilities, such as people faking they are blind.

    That being said, lets talk real world:
    1 - i find it very very hard to believe that someone going on a shidduch for the first time would really fake themselves blind. And if they did, they wouldn't be the kind of person that needed a psak like this to give them an excuse to touch their face. An "accidental soda spill and clean up", or "accidental slip and fall on her" would work the same way.
    2 - blind people who feel faces really do do it for the purpose of seeing. I don't think they play it as a joke and they wont go exploring into unknown territory as it would immediately cancel his chances for someone in an already limited market.

    so really, the psak is interesting and i think it makes a lot of sense. Now put your sense of humor back where it belongs :-)

  2. Rafi not G.

    I think that your objections are far-fetched not the psak itself.

    There will always be people who will always exploit anything to their advantage. Catholic priests and charlatan mekubalim already do this to get free enjoyment and satisfaction, so allowing blind people to touch people's faces is not really an issue.

    The obsession that modern Judaism (and I don't mean the Modern Orthodox, I mean all modern Judaism) has with "modesty" is crazily overboard. If it prevents you from accepting a psak that allows the blind to "see" people by touch, you have got your priorities all wrong.

  3. whats - yes, it was my sense of humor speaking...

    Rafi - I bring lots of psaks here. some of them I like in the way they are unique and bold (no purpose in quoting a standard "boring" psak) and make sense.
    Others I quote because they are unique and bold but make me wonder what he really meant.
    Here he is pretty clear, and while usually the source is an article that leaves details out, this is laid out nicely in his own website with his whole psak.

    I also comment with my thoughts on the psak, sometimes funny aspects of it that I see, sometimes serious questions or serious ramifications.
    But I never say the psak is wrong. And I did not here.
    It is not in my capacity to do so, as I am not as learned as any of the rabbonim whose psaks I quote and discuss, nor do I have an interest in doing so. Different rabbis pasken for different crowds and each has his own style and form of learning and paskening.

  4. A Rav should find out the metzius before paskening!

    10 seconds of googling found me this:

    Blind people often feel someone's face to tell what they look like.

    A large number of blind people actually prefer not to touch or feel another person's face to tell what that person looks like. There are two major reasons for this. The first is that, touching someone's face can be considered a very intimate or personal thing to do, and many blind people may feel uncomfortable with touching another person's face. As well, in order to get a good impression of what another person looks like through touch, one would have to feel that person's face for at least several minutes, and even then would only have a slightly better idea of what that person looks like. You would be able to tell some features, for example, the shape of someone's nose, but you'd only have a vague general idea of that person's appearance. Touching a face does not enable a blind person to pick up on things such as skin colour, eye colour, exact shape of the face etc. If you would like a blind person to know what you look like, the best suggestion is to just describe yourself to them. "

  5. A nun in the convent walked into the bathroom where mother superior was taking a shower. "There is a blind man to see you," she says. "Well, if he is a blind man, than it does not matter if I'm in the shower. Send him in."

    The blind man walks into the bathroom, and mother superior starts to tell him how much she appreciates him working at the convent for them. She goes on and on and 10 minutes later the man interrupts: "That's nice and all, ma'am, but you can put your clothes on now. Where do you want me to put these blinds?

  6. on the other hand, this headline - Rabbi Sherlo: Blind men can grope their dates is fairly incendiary. "groping" is not what he said could be done.


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