Category Archives: Archives 5760

Elul 5760 – Handshaking With Men, Teshuvah

1 Elul 5760

L’chvod HaRav:

I have a new twist on the old “what to do when a man tries to shake your hand” issue. See – I live in the South, and although the Civil War was fought and won over a hundred years ago, racial issues are still pretty sensitive. This summer, I’m working for a “temp”ing agency, and I’m in the position of meeting new people rather often (since I get moved around almost every week). Almost every office introduction in the non-Jewish world is accompanied by a handshake, which of course, is the part that every frum girl dreads. When it comes to male co-workers, I try to avoid the handshake, and give a brief explanation, and they usually don’t mind. However, if the co-worker/boss/manager is of a minority, then there is always the fear that he will misunderstand my reluctance to shake his hand, and think that Jews are racist. This has actually happened to people I know. What should I do? Most people I know go ahead and shake hands with people from minorities. I’m sure they received a “go ahead” from a Rav, but since I never found a source for the leniency, I wanted to personally hear a Rav’s opinion.

Thank you for your time,

Name withheld upon request
Darchi Binah 5759

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Dear Name withheld,

Thank you for your question. I’m sorry for the delay in replying, but I’ve been trying to think of the best way to answer it. I would like to preface my remarks by pasting here something that was printed in the “Ask the Posek” column a few issues ago:

“In Halacha there is a concept of “Halacha V’Ein Morin Kein”, i.e. there are certain things that are permitted, but we don’t discuss them publicly, and sometimes aren’t Mattir even privately if someone asks, because it is inevitable that people will misunderstand, and/or abuse the Hetter. Often this is done in a case where there are many details, and the Hetter hinges on one small detail, but people might not realize it and on their own apply it to cases where it shouldn’t be applied. Other times this is done in case where it is an issue about which people have a difficult time being objective, and there is a fear that if we allow this their Yetzer Hara will cause them to rationalize and they will abuse the Hetter, and apply it in cases where it ought not be applied. There are also cases where the Halacha really depends on the pure intention and thoughts of the person. In this case, although a certain individual may be able to have the proper thoughts and for him this act is permitted, how can we publicize that it is allowed when there are people who may not have this ability who will hear of the Hetter and also engage in this?”

In the case of shaking hands with members of the opposite gender, all three of the above considerations apply. As Rabbi Orlofsky shlit”a noted, the primary question here is whether or not handshaking is considered Derech Chibah – touching in an intimate manner. As I’m sure that you are aware, a doctor is permitted to touch his or her patients of the opposite gender for medical purposes – such touch is not Derech Chibah. Holding hands etc. is certainly Derech Chibah, and is absolutely forbidden by our Torah between two non-related members of opposite genders. The question that arises is whether handshakes are considered intimate touch, or there is no intimacy involved at all? Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatza”l writes in his Iggros Moshe, in response to a questioner who asks why he has seen some people with Yiras Shomayim shake hands with members of the opposite gender after they have extended their hand, “They must be of opinion that shaking hands is not Derech Chibah!” He intimates clearly there, and in other places, that in _his_ opinion it should be considered Derech Chibah, and one should not shake hands.

On the other hand, it seems to me that there are handshakes and there are handshakes – some are of a cold, perfunctory, nature, and others are warm and lingering. Because of this, it is really not correct to state unequivocally in a public forum that shaking hands is Muttar. An individual should consult their own Rav and explain their own individual situation, and he will advise them if, when, and how they might shake hands with members of the opposite gender.

There is a fourth consideration to take into account here, and, in my opinion, it is an extremely important one. Even if a person would wish to be lenient and shake hands, they must bear in mind that there are other Jews who are more sensitive to the gravity of this Issur, and may wish to be Machmir. It is very clear from the Poskim, and the Hanhagah of many Gedolim, that this is very praiseworthy. Of course, it takes extra effort to put the other person at ease, but this is very possible for someone who is truly motivated to do so. However, in many situations, the lenient person is putting fellow Jews in an uncomfortable situation, since they now have to answer the question “Well, if observant Jews don’t shake hands, how come _she_ did?!” This gives the impression that Halacha is inconsistent and can be a cause for Chillul Hashem. If it is unlikely that this person will ever meet an observant Jew again, this is not a consideration. In cities where there is a large Jewish population, this is more likely to happen.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

P.S. I would just like to share with you a message that I received from another post-seminary girl that I found to be a big Chizuk on this topic:

For the past several years I have been making a point of not shaking hands with men – this usually comes up for me during job interviews or in my work environment. Last year when I told my boss that I wouldn’t shake his hand for religious reasons, he really respected me for it. When he introduced me to others, he would proudly state that I stand by my religious beliefs and won’t shake hands with men.

This year when I had my interview for my current job, the male interviewer was told that I couldn’t shake his hand. I started my job two months later, and on the first day of work I was expecting to have to explain myself many times over as I was introduced to my co-workers. I was surprised when I found that none of the male employees offered me their hand! I later found out that the interviewer respected my wishes and before my first day they mentioned to all of the male employees that they shouldn’t offer to shake my hand! Now, although I have a good working relationship with all of my co-workers – they know that I am different and there is a certain emotional distance between us – Baruch HaShem!

I guess it may be encouraging to know that I have been refusing men’s hands for years, and as far as I am aware, I have never embarassed anyone as a result [other than myself :) ].

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L’chvod HaRav:

How does one do teshuva for something that’s not halachically wrong, but hashkafically wrong? For example, for someone who does not watch any TV, after sitting and watching one show, no matter how clean, they will feel like HaKadosh Boruch HU is disappointed with them. As if more was expected of them, and they failed. Is there a form of “teshuva” for this?

Thank you very much!

Name withheld upon request
Darchi Binah 5758

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Dear Name withheld,

Hi! Thank you for your question. I’m a bit puzzled by your use of terms in your question, so please forgive me if I don’t understand your question properly.

To my understanding, something that is Halachically wrong is something that a Jew must not do, as it violates the Ratzon of Hashem, and Hashkafah literally means an “outlook”, i.e. what the true Jewish outlook and perspective is on life and certain issues. I don’t think that a person must do Teshuvah for having an improper Hashkafah, as long as they correct it as soon as they find out that it is improper. Of course, if someone deliberately chooses to have an outlook that is in disagreement with our Torah, such a person denies that we are subservient to our Torah and must certainly do Teshuvah for that – but that would be because they are violating the Halachah to remember and believe in Maamad Har Sinai (are we confused yet? :-). In the example that you mention, I would say that it is actually a Halachic issue, because, at a minimum, it violates the Mitzvah of “Kedoshim Tehiyu”, “Midvar Sheker Tirchak”, various prohibitions regarding modesty, and Bittul Torah (for a boy) among others. This does not mean that all TV is Halachically wrong – just that there certain are many (most?) programs that should not be watched by observant Jews.

Consequently, if a person feels that there is a need to do Teshuvah for something that is not the Ratzon Hashem, they should do Teshuvah the way they would for anything else, i.e. regretting what they have done, and resolving not to do it again. Generally, we don’t find in Halacha a specific way that a person should atone for things they’ve done wrong, except for in certain specific situations. The best way to have a Kapparah is to give Tzedakah to the poor – more than you usually would. Also, helping disadvantaged people, such as tutoring a child from a home where the parent(s) can not give them proper attention, visiting residents of old age homes, and volunteering in hospitals. Bringing Shalom between parties who are at odds with each other is also mentioned in the Shulchan Oruch as a way for achieving Kapparah for things that someone has done wrong.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Av 5760 – Inviting Guests If They Might Drive On Shabbos

1 Av 5760

L’chvod HaRav:

I would like to invite my aunt for Shabbos, but she is not religious and lives far away. I know she enjoys coming over in general, and especially for any Jewish occasion. I understand that by inviting her, I would theoretically be making her drive on Shabbos. Is there some way of still making her visits on Shabbos possible? On Friday night she could arrive before Shabbos.

I hope there is a solution to this question, because I feel that her exposure to Torah and yiddishkeit is proving to be beneficial and she no longer sees it all as a big burden, but rather as something that enhances life.

Thank you,

Miriam
[Seminary withheld upon request]

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Dear Miriam,

Thanks for your very interesting question. As I’m sure you realize, in Halacha there is no such thing as “the end justifies the means”. Just because you may possibly be Mekarev someone in the long run, is not a Hetter for you to Chas V’Shalom violate Halacha in the process, nor to cause that person to do an Aveirah that they otherwise would not do. As a matter of fact, Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatza”l has a number of Teshuvos (Iggros Moshe Orach Chaim Vol. 1 Siman 98, for example) dealing with the question of starting a youth Minyan on Shabbos in the interest of being Mekarev the children, when you know some of them will be arriving by car on Shabbos. He states very emphatically this is absolutely not allowed.

However, this is where the person is only doing the Aveirah as a result of your action. If they would not have done it at all, there is an Issur D’Oraysoh of Lifnei Iver. If they would do the Aveirah any way, and you are merely making it easier for them, the Issur is MiDerabonon – that of Misaya Yidei Ovrei Aveirah, assisting someone is doing an Aveirah. If you would invite your aunt and make accommodations for her to come and stay for Shabbos, you are not causing her to do an Aveirah, since she has the option of staying for Shabbos. Even if she declines the invitation to stay and then drives, this is not because of YOU – since she could have accepted the invitation in a manner that would not involve Chillul Shabbos. You would not even be Misaya Yedei Ovrei Aveirah, since it is quite probable that if she would not come to you – she would just drive elsewhere or be Michalel Shabbos at home. Let her at least come to a Shabbos meal, if she’s going to be Michalel Shabbos anyway! Therefore, under these circumstances it would be permitted to invite her.

I heard the above advice from the Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel, HaRav Yaakov Weinberg Zatza”l, and have been informed by Rabbonim involved in Kiruv that the Minhag is to rely on this. Consequently, as long as it is clear to her that she is invited to stay until after Shabbos, and there actually are accommodations for this, it is permitted to invite her for the Shabbos meal, even if you know that the likelihood is that she will decline your invitation to stay over.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Tammuz 5760 – Playing Tennis

15 Tammuz 5760

L’chvod HaRav:

I always play tennis with my family, but not till a recent date mentioned it did I even think about how untznius it is. I wouldn’t dance without a mechitza and I refused to walk down my best friends aisle, but I do play tennis in public. My yetzer hara tells me that its okay because no one is looking at me; everyone is too absorbed in their own game. (Note – I play in long sleeves and a long skirt). What about the shalom bais issues? We always play as a family.
Thank you very much.

[Name witheld upon request]
Michlalah 5758


Thank you for your question. While I understand the point that your date made, I don’t think it would be proper to unequivocally say that according to Halacha girls and women may not play tennis in public if dressed properly. This is really an issue that requires much common sense (“Saichel HaYashar”), to evaluate whether the situation is one in which playing tennis publicly would not be Tzniusdik. For example, although it might not be proper to play outside of a Yeshiva during their lunch break, this doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with playing at a park or bungalow colony even though there are men around. I think that you have to admit that the same would apply in the other situations that you mention. Although you would not walk down the aisle or dance at a wedding without a Mechitzah in your community, but if you were on a Kiruv program in Austin, Texas (for example) or if you would be attending the wedding of someone who is unfortunately handicapped, and they really wanted you to walk down and you knew everyone present, it would be a different situation.

So…I’m returning the ball to your court :-) This is something that you have to evaluate based on the individual situation.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Tammuz 5760 – Kol Isha In An Old Age Home

1 Tammuz 5760

L’chvod HaRav:

I go with a few friends every so often to visit old people in retirement homes. There are men and women there. Some are Jewish and some aren’t. One of the ladies asked us to sing for her, but there were men in the room. I made up an excuse at that time, but I still would like to know if it’s okay to sing if the men are in the room. If a man asks us to sing, could we? The reason I think it’s a potential question, is because they are old and sometimes not well, so does that make a difference? I’ve asked my rabbeim, and they all say, “I can’t answer that question, and I don’t want to give a heter either.” Why do they all say that?

Chumi L.

Thanks for your question. However, I really can’t answer it, and I don’t want to give a Hetter either – JUST KIDDING :-)

I’d like to start with your second question first, and then go back to your first one. “Why do they all say that?” I really can’t be sure why these specific Rabbis have chosen to take this avenue regarding this specific question without talking to them, but perhaps it is for the following reason. In Halacha there is a concept of “Halacha V’Ein Morin Kein”, i.e. there are certain things that are permitted, but we don’t discuss them publicly, and sometimes aren’t Mattir even privately if someone asks, because it is inevitable that people will misunderstand, and/or abuse the Hetter. Often this is done in a case where there are many details, and the Hetter hinges on one small detail, but people might not realize it and on their own apply it to cases where it shouldn’t be applied. Other times this is done in case where it is an issue about which people have a difficult time being objective, and there is a fear that if we allow this their Yetzer Hara will cause them to rationalize and they will abuse the Hetter, and apply it in cases where it ought not be applied. There are also cases where the Halacha really depends on the pure intention and thoughts of the person. In this case, although a certain individual may be able to have the proper thoughts and for him this act is permitted, how can we publicize that it is allowed when there are people who may not have this ability who will hear of the Hetter and also engage in this? Here too, many Poskim will not come straight out and say it is permitted for some and not for others, rather they will “abstain” from the question, as you have evidently experienced.

That having been said, let’s examine some of the issues involved in your question.

It is forbidden for a man to listen attentively to a woman sing, and derive pleasure from hearing her voice. According to some Poskim (Sdei Chemed, Pri Megadim, Chofetz Chaim) this is an Issur MiD’Oraysoh, and according to others (Chayei Adam) it is an Issur MiDerabbonon. Health and age have no bearing on this prohibition. The prohibition for a woman to sing in front of men is because of Lifnei Iver, she is causing him to sin by listening to her, if he does not know that it is forbidden.

Consequently, it would follow that if a man would ask a woman to sing for him, it would be forbidden for the woman to do so, even if he is a very old man. However, if you are singing for a woman, and a man happens to be there, it isn’t clearly forbidden, since it isn’t certain that the man will be paying attention to the singing, and deriving pleasure from the woman’s voice. It is certainly preferable to avoid this situation if possible, as you skillfully did. However, if there would be a need, e.g. you sense that the woman is depressed and this is the best way to cheer her up, according to Halacha it would be permitted to sing in such a situation. This is especially true if a few women are singing together in a manner that none of their voices are clearly discernible.

I recently spoke to Rabbi Moshe Heinemann Shlit”a about the issue of teenage girls or women performing in choirs in old age homes when men are present. He said that if the event was advertised as “For Women Only” and men show up, the women or girls who perform are not violating “Lifnei Iver” and they may perform.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler

Sivan 5760 – Z’manei Tefillah

15 Sivan 5760

L’chvod HaRav:

Why are women obligated in adhering to zman tefila if it is a Mitzvas asei she’hazman grama? Can one say birchos kriyat shema if zman tefila already passed? I have heard various opinions regarding specifically what one can and cannot say after zman. Can you please clarify?

Mindy Fasman
Michlalah 5757

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Thank you for your question. The Mishna in Berachos (3:2) states that “Women… are obligated in Tefillah, Mezuzah, and Birchas HaMazon”. There is a disagreement between the Rambam and the Ramban exactly what the nature of this obligation is. The Rambam maintains that daily prayer for everyone, men and women, is a Torah obligation, and the Rabbis decreed the format and times of the prayers. According to this, the actual Torah obligation is not a Mitzvas Assei SheHazman Gramma. Consequently, in his view, the obligation of women to pray only applies to the Torah obligation, to say a short prayer once a day, generally the morning blessings. However, the Ramban states that the entire obligation to pray is Rabbinic. The only Torah obligation that there would be is to pray when in distress. In his view the Rabbinic decree is equally applicable to men and women, and therefore holds that women would have to pray Shemoneh Esrei twice a day, morning and afternoon. (Maariv is a voluntary prayer. Although men have voluntarily accepted this as an obligation upon themselves, women never did so). According to this opinion, although Tefillah is a Mitzvah D’Rabbonon that is Zman Gramma, since both men and women need “Rachamei”- mercy, as stated in the Gemara there (Berachos 20b), in the opinion of the Ramban, our Chaza”l made it incumbent on women also.

Although a woman may say Krias Shema all day long, as this is a Mitzvas Asei SheHazman Gramma from which women are exempt, she should only say Birchas Krias Shema during the Zman Tefillah. The Mishna Berura explains that Birchos Krias Shema are not actually a Beracha on the Mitzvah of saying Krias Shema (i.e. we don’t say “Asher Kidshanu B’Mitzvosav V’Tzivanu Likros Shema”), rather it is part of the order of the Tefillah instituted by our Chaza”l leading up to Shemoneh Esrei. The name is actually misleading. Consequently, since Shacharis was instituted to correspond with the Tamid Shel Shachar, and can only be sacrificed until Chatzos, the latest Birchos Krias Shema and Shemoneh Esrei of Shacharis may be said by a woman is until Chatzos. It is certainly preferable that they be said before the end of Zman Tefillah, which is after the first third of the day has past.