Hesder Rabbi: Men May Shake Women’s Hand


yuval-sherloRabbi Yuval Sherlo, head of the Petachh Tikvah hesder yeshiva and the Tzohar organization, has released a “p’sak” stating that men and women may shake hands because of kavod habriyos and to avoid causing embarrassment.

In his controversial ruling, Rabbi Sherlo stated that if a woman has stuck out her hand, a man may shake it so as not to cause her embarrassment. It is thus permitted, he said, because there is no chibah yeseirah.

Rabbi Sherlo, on his yeshiva‘s website explains the basis for his p’sak, stating that  “the prohibition for a man to shake hands with a woman is not so severe, since shaking hands is not a clear expression of closeness that it should be forbidden,” writes Rabbi Cherlow. “In light of this, there is room to consider whether additional consideration is to be given to allowing a handshake.

“When a person is in a situation where one is reaching out a hand to give shalom, we have to consider the matter of whether kavod habriyos and halbonas ponim (causing embarrassment) override the prohibition of making contact through a handshake. Although some claim that there is no halbonas ponim because one can explain to the person that the Torah forbids one to shake a woman’s hand, still, there is reason to reject this claim, since leaving the person’s hand unshaken will cause embarrassment,” said Rabbi Sherlo

Rabbi Sherlo concludes that, therefore, men may shake hands with a woman and thus avoid causing embarrassment.

Interestingly, MK Tzipi Chotovli, who is religious, has said that despite the ruling of Rabbi Sherlo, she will continue not to shake men’s hands.

Rabbi Sherlo is not new to controversy. Several months ago, we reported here on Matzav.com that he formulated an elaborate halachic document aimed at facilitating the integration of women into davening services and the life of a shul, while striving for the maximum level of equality allowed by the halacha. Rabbi Sherlo has also made waves when he ruled that a blind person may touch their dating partner.

In the shul plan, Rabbi Sherlo calls for renovating a shul in order to adjust them to women’s davening, to encourage women to dance with the Sefer Torah and allow orphaned women to recite Kaddish alongside men. He also advocates having women conduct Torah lessons to all members of the congregation, male and female alike.

{Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}


  1. You love publishing this controversial stuff Matzav don’t you. Juicy eh? I’m sure this will prompt all kinds of respectful commentary. Truthfully; I don’t know why I visit your site…

  2. This isn’t new. Rav Yoshe Ber Soleveitchik zt”l held the same way. I was told by my rebbe, R. Shlomo Drillman zt”l that in pre WWII Germany the rabbi of the Austrittgemeinde in Frankfurt (i.e. R. Breuer and later R. Horowitz) shook womens’ hands as a matter of standard practice. What’t the big chiddush?

  3. For all of you Naysayers,

    Rav Sherlo is a Posek of the real world. If you all live in a fantasy land where everyone acts to the highest level of chumrot then you will not need to abide by Rav Sherlo’s Psak. For the rest of us who live in this world his insights are a breath of fresh air.

  4. My Rosh Yeshiva, a well respected gadol amongst the entire Litvishe community held similarly, with the caveat being that the hand shaking occured in a public place. Yes, Kavod HaBerios is a real thing. I’m unsure as to why this is “controversial.” Perhaps it is because it is not the prevailing opinion of those who think themselves as mainstream (controversial idea), or better yet, don’t really even know that differing opinions exist. Perhaps the lack of talmid rebbi relationships fosters what people contrive on their own to be the derech hayosher, and the magnitude of this class creates the deception that certain ideas are undisputed. The real problem here is that people can draw conclusions and make distinction when it’s their ignorance that should be subject to serious scrutiny.

  5. Why don’t you write in the caption “controversial Psak etc… do you relise that your acting like the most leftist media of 2010 when you do this all the time.

  6. Bishas Hadchak some hold that its not Derech Chibuk’ but you are supposed to try to weasel your way out ie; in a Corp. meeting or office

  7. Lets face it # 3, if Matzav just reports news about Chasidish rebbes weddings, they wont be in business for too long. They need to print this kind of stuff so that people like you and me read it, comment about it, thereby causing others to comment , thereby having what to show to their advertisers that there are tons of clicks from people like you and me so that the editor can put food on his table

  8. I spoke to my Rav who told me the following: “I personally do not shake hands with women. However, while I am certainly aware of what the Pe’er hador quotes in the name of the Chazon Ish, it should be noted that Rav Chaim Berlin in Shut. Nishmas Chaim 135-6 and Dayan Yehoshua Ehrentrau in Shut. Dvar Yehoshua E.H 3:15 are very lenient. THis being so, one should judge those who rely on this, appropriatly.

  9. Pathetic…

    When I find myself in this situation, a brief apology usualy gets me a response of “that rule is great/cool etc etc.

    Nebach on these “RABBIS” Who have had the rug pulled from beneath them by the Governmentthey used to worship.

  10. A respected american rosh-yeshiva has issued an oral psak being lenient on this issue- albiet depending on the exact circumstance. Not a black and white issue at all.

  11. I have heard a Rav whose semicha is from Lakewood say shiur on this issue on several occasions. He made it very clear that he himself never shakes the hand of a woman. He then said that a person who is engaged in business and is placed in a position that he has to shake the hand of a woman in a business setting has who to rely on.

  12. My attitude has always been that if you are unable to tactfully extricate yourself from a mixed handshake, better to shake than to cause someone embarassment. Moreover, I have seen this happen before, where the person who offers their hand is made to feel two feet tall. I am in the business world, and I don’t offer my hand to a woman. However, if she offers her hand, I will shake it. This is what usually happens.

  13. To Daniel Schwartz:
    IT IS A BIG LIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. there are some gedolim that ruled its yehoreg veal yaavor and here we have some reconstructionist “Rabbi” that permits it. What a shanda. If I had a business meeting and they served chazir , he would probably permit me to eat it so that I should not embarass the goyshe clientele.

  15. Rav Moshe Feinstein states in three places in his sefer Igros Moshe, that the logic of the ones who wish to be lenient in this regard is not to be relied upon.

  16. Commenters 3, 7, 10, and 14 are right.

    This is not news, as stated above.

    This website is deteriorating. I used to think this was a responsible, moderate Haredi/Yeshivishe website, but lately it has been becoming extreme and irresponsible.
    Don’t take a cheap shot at Rabbi Sherlow for this.

    Not proper.

  17. You give some people and groups a free ride and take a cheap shot at others. Very nice.

    This is improper and you are losing your reputation as a responsible site for acting in such a way.

  18. Rav Moshe Feinstein repeatedly (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim vol. 1 no. 113; Even HaEzer vol. 1 no. 56) ruled that it is prohibited.

    The Steipler writes in his letters in the name of the Chazon Ish that it is absolutely prohibited. Regarding a so-called heter that you will embarass her if you don’t shake hands, it’s simple logic: If someone asked you to call them on Shabbos and you telling them sorry I cant do that would embarrass them for asking, would you be mechalel shabbos to prevent their embarrassment? Or if someone offered you non-kosher food and refusing would embarrass them would you eat treif?

  19. The Chazon Ish stated [re: a man shaking a woman’s hand who is not his spouse, his mother, his daughter, or his granddaughter] that it is Yehareg V’Al Yaavor (Steipler Gaon/Kreina D’igrsa 1:162; Moadim Uzmanim Vol. 4, section 316 n.1 [p.p. 130-131])

    A Yeshiva student from England refused to shake hands with his step-mother when greeting her. His father was extremely upset with his refusal. He demanded his son display “derech eretz” towards his step-mother and shake her hand. The son refused stating he was taught it was impermissable with a non close blood relative. This affected the fathers relationship with the son. Some family members told the son to give in al sholom bayis. The son asked a shaila from the Chazon Ish. The Chazon Ish responded with a short and sharp answer – “Chok V’lo Yaavor, Issur Gamur” (It is a prohibition that one dare not violate; It is absolutely forbidden,) Violating this halacha was out of the question despite sholom bayis and kibud av. (Oz Vehadar, p. 494).

  20. Its also paskened assur in Responsa Be’er Moshe 4:130, and the Od Yosef Chai (by the Gaon Ben Ish Chai zt’l) Shoftim #22 where they rule it is totally assur. The Sefer Chassidim # 1090 writes one should not shake hands even if the person of the opposite gender is not Jewish.

  21. 1) EH I #56 page 144

    “Concerning that which you saw people being lenient even those who are
    yirei shamayim – to offer their hand to a woman when she stuck her hand
    out. Perhaps they reasoned that this is not derech chibah and taavah –
    but l’maaseh this is difficult to rely on.”

    2) OC I 113 page 177

    “To offer one’s hand to a woman in the manner of those greeting others
    upon meeting. It is pashut that it is prohibited even for an unmarried
    woman since they are niddah and surely it is prohibited for a married

    3) EH IV 32.9 page 76

    “To offer one’s hand to a woman in the manner of those greeting others
    upon meeting. It is definitely pashut that it is prohibited as I have
    written OC I 113. That is because one needs to be concerned for the issue
    of derech chibah and taavah. But I wrote in EH I #56…that one is to
    dan l’kaf zechus those who are relying that it is not derech chibah and
    taavah to shake hands. But there I wrote that l’maashe it is difficult
    to rely on this. Furthermore I don’t see any inconsistency at all with
    that which I permitted a person to travel on a bus because there –
    there is basically no issue of chibah.”

    Even if it causes embarassement it is assur according to Reb Moshe (see Halichos Bas Yisrael, vol. I, p. 110 n.33) and Nine to Five – A Guide to Modest Conduct for Today’s Workplace by Rav Shmuel Neiman, p.14 (“it has been rumored that Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, ruled that it is permissible for men and women to shake hands. Nothing could be further from the truth! In his responsa, he agonized over this unacceptable practice and repeatedly stated that it is forbidden and infringes on giluy arayos”).

  22. This is a known difference of psak in contemporary frum poskim. While the other statements from this ‘Rav’ ae not acceptable, this was the wrong one to pick on.

  23. In Mishneh Halachos (6:223) Rav Menashe Klein is asked about shaking hands with a woman who offers her hand and it would be embarrassing to her if rebuffed. He says that the questioner maintains that although Rav Moshe Feinstein prohibited it even under these circumstances and he assurs it despite the fact some Bnei Torah are lenient in order not to embarrass the woman, claiming they heard this “heter” from a Rosh Yeshiva.

    Rav Menashe Klein says that this is absolutely not a heter and should not be repeated even if it is true that a Rosh Yeshiva said it. Not embarrassing someone is not a sufficient reason to be oveir and “Abizrahu D’Giluy Arayos”; an ancillary issur to illicit relationships. With this nonsensical logic one can come to permit many issurim Chas V’Shalom.

    The people who are Meikil to shake a woman’s hand rely not on the above heter but rather on the Shach (YD 195:20) who brings the Rambam that says touching a woman is only assur if it is Derech Taava V’Chiba. Rav Menashe Klein however disagrees with this heter and says that firstly many poskim hold like the Bais Yosef who disagrees with the Shach. Secondly the case of the Shach is a Doctor taking the pulse of a woman. Since it is in the course of his professional duty the Shach is lenient. In this case says Rav Menashe Klein, it is possible that even the Shach would prohibit it since although the intention is not Derech Chiba, the act is a cordial introductory act between the two participants and can lead to a relationship especially in the case of this particular aveira which has such a powerful affect on people.

    He ends by saying that he who listens to this “Tavo Alav Bracha”!

  24. i am a lawyer from ny and this is actually comforting to me. i think that a lot of the people who commented here live in some sort of ghetto which neglects that we yiddin share this world with a couple billion other people.

    i dont agree with everything r cherlow says, in fact i think hes way off when it comes to womens issues. regarding this, however, i am happy to see it.

  25. Hey Umm,

    BTW, I’m a doctor. I treat regular Baalei Batim, Rabbonim, and their wives and children. I treat chareydy Roshei Yeshiva and their spouces and children. Guess what, I have to touch every one.
    Sometimes I even help them in and out of their chairs. It is not derech chibuk vinishuk. Sometimes it’s just simple derech eretz.

  26. There are those who you can rely on if you are in a public arena with a female out stretched hand. Rav Sherlo is not a baal mechadesh.

  27. The wife of a big donor to the Ponovizhe yeshiva held her hand out to R Kahaneman for a Handshake.

    He didnt accept.

    She played getting insulted and accused him of demeaning woman!

    He said to her : “you dont understand… To an ordinary person I give my hand for a handshake, but for you…. I give you my whole heart! “

  28. At a business meeting last year, a new acquaintance extended his hand for a shake, after I sweetly said, “Oh, no thank you”, he said, “That’s a good idea! With swine flu going around…”.
    So if “chumra” for a swine flu is “O.K.”, why look at “chumra” for Judaism differently?!

  29. Rav Chaim Ozer zt”l of Vilna considered shaking hands with women Yeihareig V’al Yaavor, and he told so to Rav Shimon Schwab zt”l.
    And frankly, with a bit of jewish ingenuity, one can avoid the whole issue. For example, I once watched a woman extend her hand in greeting to a young kiruv Rav. He replied, “The only woman with whom I shake hands is with my wife.” When one says a line like that, everyone respects it. I must add that he began using this line before he was married.

  30. Response to #40 “anonymous” – I doubt my Rosh Yeshiva would appreciate being the subject of debate and perhaps ridicule by the gossipers on the internet and beyond. If he wishes to make himself public on the issue, that’s a decision best left to him, not me.

  31. see halachic works of rabbi henkin zt’l who says shaking hands can be considered a form of greeting and not more thus legalizing giving a hand

  32. i think that in this era in life the world is well aware of religion… and that we dont shake and if they are not we have to continue spreading and showing e/1 that we are religious and we dont shake every person on this lanets hand. we are different we r am yisrael!

  33. To # 38