Ask the rabbi

  • Family and Society
  • Negia

Shaking Hands


Rabbi Gideon Weitzman

19 Tevet 5764
I find I have difficulty with the restriction of shaking hands with men in social situations. I do not shake hands, but I do end up apologizing profusely to them and gushing what an honor it is to meet them. These are often non-frum Jews who know I am an observant Jew and they truthfully, look wounded, injured and very embarrassed when I tell them this. I feel by not shaking their hands I am embarrassing them in public and I know I make them very uncomfortable when they are only attempting a friendly gesture. Can you give me some inspiration on why we keep this Mitzvah? Some sources? And some ways in which to more graciously deal with these situations. I hate to say it but I am also curious if it is better not to embarrass someone in public and just quickly shake their hand if it is extended to me in some circumstances?
Shalom U'varacha I appreciate your sometimes delicate situation but also feel that your own feelings of embarrasment may be a significant factor here. In my experience if one tactfully smiles and does not extend a hand back then there may be a moment's uncertainty but this quickly disappears. However, if you make a big deal of it then you may inadvertently end up hurting people. The best policy is to be polite and ignore this issue. In a case where you really feel that this is not possible and real embarrasment may insue, there are Poskim who allow men to shake women's hands if there is no sense of closeness or intimacy. However, I feel that there is another issue at stake here. If you are the representative of Chabad there may be a question of Chillul Hashem if you freely shake hands with men. This needs to be raised with other Chabad representatives there. Kol Tuv,
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