Shaking Hands With Women V

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In a lecture on this week’s Torah portion (link, beginning minute 51), R. Hershel Schachter discusses how Ya’akov could have kissed Rachel (Gen. 29:11). He quotes R. Yerucham Gorelick as saying that it was a kiss without a kiss, i.e. it was not derekh chibah, affectionate. He goes on to say that while men should avoid physical contact with women other than their wives, it is technically permissible if there is no affection. He told a story about a student who asked him whether he (the student) was allowed to hug his great-aunt. R. Schachter said it was permitted (and that R. Mordechai Willig had previously told the student the same) but the student went on to ask R. Moshe Feinstein. He returned to R. Schachter to ask for a translation of R. Feinstein’s Yiddish response. R. Feinstein had told him something like “Zein nisht kein na’ar“, which R. Schachter translated as “Don’t act like an idiot” (i.e. it’s not a problem).

(Note that no one here permitted hugging or kissing women, even without affection, if there are no extenuating circumstances. As always, speak to a rabbi before following something you read on the internet.)

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link of New Jersey, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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