Shaking Women’s Hands

Rabbi Asher Lopatin promised last week to mention an interesting ruling from Rav Ahron Soloveichik based on the Sota Woman of Parshat Naso:

I was an undergrad at BU Hillel and a big macher – president, no less. And I felt that to show that I am reaching out to all Jews, not just the Orthodox, I needed to reach out and wish everyone a “good shabbos” or “Shabbat Shalom” – with an outstretched arm. Could I do that with women? I asked Rav Ahron, zt”l, and he said yes, I could initiate the hand shake. He based it on the children of the Medieval authority the Hida, who asked about it regarding shaking the hands of the nobility. They were allowed to do so based on the priest reaching out and touching the hand of the Sota woman who was holding the barley to be used in the Sota sacrifice. The Talmud explains that since it was a touching that was short lived, it was not sensual, and the cohen was safe in doing so. Likewise a handshake. At the time I was just thrilled to be able to shake everyone’s hand. But looking back on it, isn’t it amazing and supportive for woman going through the trauma of being accused of adultery, to have the priest reach out and touch her hand – even for a second – to reassure her, in a sense, that she was still not abandoned by God. Just a nice thought.


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