Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Nice to Meet You, I'm______

From time to time, I've considered writing that typical piece about shaking hands with members of the opposite sex to prevent Chillul Hashem, and the usual. But that just seemed too typical-too "been there, done that."

Well, recently, I was in the caf, sitting alone at a table minding my own business, when a few frum guys came to join me. What was I gonna do? Walk away? Ignore them? So I chatted.

A few minutes into the conversation, one guy introduced himself and held out his hand. I almost put down my pen. Then jerked my hand back. "I'm not shaking your hand!" I told him. "Ah, Shomer Negiah!" he poked fun. "Yes, I am. I won't shake your hand precisely for the reason that you know why I can't."

Another guy at the table piped up, "You know, I have the same double standard. Like, if you'd hold out your hand, no way, i wouldn't think about shaking it, but if a non-frum woman would, I would shake her hand."

"Well, you know exactly why I can't shake your hand. It's not like I'm risking Chillul Hashem, or I have to explain it to you or anything," I repeated myself.

"Yeah, yeah. That's cool" the hand-happy guy agreed.

There have been times that I've pretended not to see hands, and others where I couldn't leave the guy hangin'. I think in general because it's not assur in the goyish world, a handshake has little meaning if any. It's nothing sexual. If you think about it, even sex is meaningless a lot of the time in that world.

My question is, how wrong is it to have that so-called double standard? Is it a double standard at all?

35 Comments:

At 10/31/2006 6:51 PM, Anonymous Burry Katz said...

The guy sounds like one sick dog. Let him find a shiksa. Gosh!

 
At 10/31/2006 8:15 PM, Blogger schnitzelfritz said...

It's not necessarily a question of double standard. The idea of shaking hands with a member of a different gender is to prevent the physical contact from getting any friendlier than just a handshake. Having been put in this situation fairly often, i asked a rav's advice and was told that if this is a one time acquaintance, i can shake hands. If chances are that we will meet more than once, I should not shake hands. It's not what I would call a double standard, it's a preventative measure that is only preventative in certain circumstances.

 
At 10/31/2006 9:10 PM, Blogger megapixel said...

If I was paskening, I say its probably more assur to shake hands with a frum guy than a non jew. since culturally it means nothing by a nonjew...

 
At 11/01/2006 6:37 AM, Anonymous Ex-Blogger said...

Havent checked your blog (or any) in quite a while.

To your point, the reason it is OK to shake hands for business as an example, is since it is done as a "Hello", in your case, it was not just a hello, it was an advance.

Yes, Chillul hashem was that he stretched his hand out to you.

 
At 11/01/2006 6:52 AM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

schnitzelfritz sounds like he has it right.

 
At 11/01/2006 8:12 AM, Blogger AnnieGetYour said...

I agree with schnitzelfritz, as soon as you refused to shake his hand he understood why. Because he knows about shmirat negiah handshaking is a more meaningful motion than it would be with a non-Jew, or a non-religious Jew who doesn't know the law.

 
At 11/01/2006 9:58 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

But then when it comes to business, many people claim, "if the guy can't handle that I am frum, and is not willing to deal with what it entails, then that is not a good place for me to work." To which people respond, "well, G-d wants you to have Parnassah..." But should Parnassah come in the way of our religion?

 
At 11/01/2006 7:49 PM, Blogger schnitzelfritz said...

anyone who "cannot handle" the fact thst your religion does not allow you to shake hands is looking to get sued. you have the right to follow your religion, as well as the right to personal space. if someone insists on shaking hands after he is informed of your preference, file harrassment charges. donald trump doesn't shake hands either, and look where he is, parnassa wise. anyone who allows their co-workers not to handle no hand shaking is setting him/herself up for problems with other religious issues.

 
At 11/02/2006 7:20 AM, Blogger JBL the first said...

Well you certainly did the right thing by refusing to shake his hand and you deserve all the credit.
It's not really always directly related to sex. But what I think of this is, sometimes there are bad intentions in these guys. The test is if she's ready to shake and from there........

 
At 11/02/2006 8:09 AM, Blogger Michelle said...

JBL--my thoughts exactly. Thanks

 
At 11/02/2006 8:13 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

Just say "no". Transgender handshaking is no different than eating pork.

 
At 11/02/2006 12:45 PM, Anonymous me said...

As a general rule, most (positive) physical contact makes a person walk off with a positive feeling, which doesn't necessarily indicate sex, as that would be extreme, but should not be there nonetheless.

This has always worked for me when a guy stuck out his hand: "I can't shake hands for religious reasons, but it's great meeting you anyway (with a big, genuine smile)" I've been doing that my entire life, and I have never once experienced a negative reaction. It's either acceptance or some more questioning, which typically leads to respect. I think that is one great outcome of this in that instead of worrying whether not shaking someone's hand might cause a chillul Hashem, imagine what a tremendous kiddush Hashem it can cause if you don't. Their are two ways to look at the scenario, don't ever forget that. :)

 
At 11/02/2006 12:46 PM, Anonymous me again said...

Correction: *there* I forgot to proofread, and it drove me crazy when I saw it! :)

 
At 11/02/2006 1:41 PM, Blogger FRUM_RAID said...

Jewish Philo,
"Handshaking is no different than eating pork."

Did you mean that seriously?

http://frum-raid.blogspot.com/

 
At 11/02/2006 8:26 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

"me"---while I respect your idea and what you do, (and FYI, i think i figured out who you are)-- I just can't see myself doing that. Also depending on what profession you're involved in, they might worry the rest of your work will reflect sheltered lives, everything else that they might not want to see.

 
At 11/02/2006 10:30 PM, Anonymous Non-shaker said...

I was once in a meeting, and a lady (non Jewish) put out her hand to shake mine- I figured that she would meet other frum people sometime soon anyways, and therefore I might as well tell her, that frum people (at least some ultra-orthodox) will not shake hands with a lady- that is not his wife/mother/sister/etc.
I started saying "I'm sorry I can't shake your hand because...."
she said "I understand fully"
I said "really"
and she answered "i know a few people with OCD"!!!
With that I sat her down and explained (at least tried to) what the reasons are- and that NO, i don't have OCD.

Or one can always answer the way Reb Avigdor Miller zl used to answer.. He would say "im sorry, I don't shake hands with pretty woman" - I guess when such a fine man like him would say it- and with a smile- there were never any hard feelings.

 
At 11/03/2006 12:15 AM, Blogger Lost said...

Wait, I'm sorry, I couldn't get past the part where you said you were talking to frum ....?! :-P

 
At 11/03/2006 5:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you gotta to be Rabbi A Miller to say that. Imagine saying "im sorry but I don't shake hands with hot guys".... I think a non sexual handshake would be better than that line! Also, understand that out there in the world, a quick introductory handshake means absolutely NOTHING

 
At 11/03/2006 9:29 AM, Anonymous Moshe Dov said...

Michelle, I've been going through your stuff on the blog, and I find the pieces to be very interesting. I've left some comments on the old stuff, and i think you once said you read all the old comments, so i'd appreciate youre feedback.

 
At 11/03/2006 10:24 AM, Anonymous me said...

Well, Michelle, kudos to you if you figured out who I am, but I don't know how that's possible because I don't even know who YOU are! I know people who have answered, "My mother always taught me not to touch things that don't belong to me." It may sound corny, but it's done the trick. And I think when people are divided on the issue, it just makes it look to the outside world as if our principles are not founded firmly. What if, on two different occasions, a non-Jew would stick out her/his hand, only to be told the first time that it can't be done, and then the second time getting a positive response? I know what would run through my mind-what is up with this? How come some can and some can't? What's the difference? Which just leaves a person with more questions than s/he would originally have had. But maybe I just think too much about everything. It wouldn't be a first. Well, I dunno. I am in the professional world and so are my parents, and it's worked for us. If you're good enough, people generally won't mind your little quirks, especially if they don't impact anyone else. And here I am yakking away again! So just some thoughts... :)

 
At 11/03/2006 12:27 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

"me"---sorry i mistook u for someone else then. :)

 
At 11/04/2006 10:45 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

non-shaker--good one
"me"--what you say is kind of like voting. If someone in NY wants to elect a Republican, it's kind of a lost cost. Why? Because not everyone who votes will vote republican. The same idea with the hand-shaking. If I don't shake, there will always be someone else out there who does.
Similarly, many Non-Jews have asked why I can't wear pants. They refer to members of the Modern Orthodox community and tell me that if they can, why can't I?
Because lines in Judaism aren't always clearly drawn, it's hard to be consistent with everything and everyone

 
At 11/05/2006 1:34 AM, Anonymous me said...

But I don't think it's fair to use that reasoning that there will always be someone else out there who does. If so, then why bother keeping most mitzvos or values or whatever? Just seems like a pretty weak argument...I'm not meaning this as a criticism. I am just saying never to underestimate what your one seemingly small action can accomplish!

I don't know about that last comment. Obviously there are mitzvos in the Torah that were not meant for us to understand, but I think there are plenty that are completely clear, that WE, as humans decide to make unclear (because we can, in our capacity as humans, do that quite easily), and that's why the lines aren't clearly drawn, because we choose for them not to be. Again I don't refer to those mitzvos which purposely leave us "in the dark". If we wanted to understand about this other type, though, we'd be able to. And again I have to disagree-consistency is key. :)

 
At 11/05/2006 8:11 PM, Anonymous Allie said...

I know exactly what you mean about the inconsistency within frum Jews regarding this issue. I have been on occasion in a situation where the frum girl standing next to me would shake a man's hand, and I always wonder if I would just make things worse by saying that I can't shake his hand. Wouldn't that make girl #1 look totally ridiculous? As well as make our religion sound somewhat of a joke?
This is all besides the fact that I have never been able to bring myself to say that I dont't shake hands when actually caught in the situation, no matter how many times I practice it in my head. I'm not proud to say that I've either succumbed and shook hands or just didn't act very friendly (which I'm sure made an even worse impression that had I just explained my religous restrictions). It's a tough situation and one that I try very hard not to get myself into, but it's not always avoidable.

 
At 11/05/2006 8:12 PM, Anonymous Allie said...

Correction: (which I'm sure made an even worse impression THAN had I just explained my religous restrictions)

 
At 11/06/2006 8:21 AM, Blogger jewish philosopher said...

I'm 100 % serious.

 
At 11/06/2006 8:28 AM, Blogger Lakewood Venter said...

My take: A frum guy who gives you his hand, knows exactly what he is doing, and he is wrong for doing it! DO NOT SHAKE IT!

When a non frum guy or non Jewish guy means no harm and thus I would extend my hand to him and move on.

 
At 11/06/2006 12:11 PM, Anonymous howdy said...

in response to frum_raid, shaking hands is really like eating pork. there are people who would die before eating pork, but what about things like loshon hora or did u know its way worse to eat a bug in your food than eat pork?

 
At 11/06/2006 12:22 PM, Anonymous howdy said...

also i totally know what you mean, allie; that situation with the other person happened to me a couple of times and it leaves you to make a quick decision like what you described. but from experience i think its always just best to ignore the hand, pretend you never see it. that makes it such a shame, though cuz that other person just lost a great oppurtunity for a kiddush hashem, since most people respect our faithfullness.

 
At 11/06/2006 4:21 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Allie--thank you for your insight.
I feel the same way you do.

And Lakewood Venter--right on.
That guy knew why I couldn't, so i didn't. But a non-frum person just being polite..altho some people consider me a shiksa for doing it, I do it, but feel guilty all the same.

 
At 11/09/2006 8:37 AM, Anonymous GoyGirl said...

Dear Burry Katz,

Why should a shiksa (non-jewish woman..correct) put up with this guy!?! We have respect for ourselves as well and it's obvious that this guy was being inappropriate. He knows the etiquette in his community. Just like there is a certain respect and etiquette in the goyish community.

 
At 11/09/2006 11:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jewish Philosopher-- May I inquire as to the origin of your phraseology? "transgender handshaking" does not seem to make sense. Perhaps you mean "intergender handshaking." You do refer to handshakes between members of two different genders, correct? I'm afraid "transgender" has a very different connotation, my friend.

 
At 11/09/2006 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like eating pork? "Transgender handshaking?"

JP, get a grip, no pun intended. Transgender handshaking (as you put it) is nothing but a d'rabbanan (and a stupid one, at that). Refusing to shake hands with someone could humiliate him or her, which is forbidden d'oraisa.

 
At 11/10/2006 1:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is something that has always peeved me, and i guess it always will. as a non-ffb, i never knew about all the restrictions of halacha, and certainly had never heard of shomer negiah. i can honestly say that i have many jewish friends that have ABSOLUTELY NO CLUE about what that even means. of course, i have many non-jewish friends who would also be in the dark. they would consider it rude of themselves if they did not extend their hand to anyone in greeting, at least the first time. I don't think G-d is going to smite you just because you shook someone's hand. you were trying to avoid their embarrassment, that is a much greater thing in my mind. i can understand not feeling comfortable telling people why you won't shake their hand right up front, but you can always take them aside later and say, "i know you probably didn't realize this, but i actually don't make any kind of physical contact with people of the opposite gender that aren't related to me" that's a quick little spiel that should at least put them at ease so they aren't embarrassed if they try to shake your hand (or whatever else) sometime in the future.

 
At 11/11/2006 4:16 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

hila---that makes sense, but then they'll wonder why it was okay before, and it isn't anymore. And when someone says, "I didn't want to embarrass you, " they just have.

 

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