Photo by Peter Halmagyi

Photo: “Sorry, I do not Shake”

Chabad Shliach Rabbi Dovid Weitman, chief rabbi of the Sephardi Community Beit Yacov Safra, was being greeted by Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, in a recent event celebrating the International Day of the Holocaust, apparently she didn`t know orthodox rabbis don’t shake hands with woman.

The Rabbi politely explained that orthodox men are prohibited from shaking hands with women.


  • Kiddush Hashem

    We should all learn to stand strong in our behavior under any circumstance. This would also mean to stand strong against listening to loshan hora of any type in any situation.

  • Sisco Montana

    You know what? I would have buckled under the pressure of such a hiearchy, but I do believe the halacha is if it will cause embarassment to such a high lady leader, it can be done in a shinui…and depends on what country it is… e.g. Great Britain is fine… after all, the Queen knighted a few Chabad rabbis by tapping their shoulder blades with a sword? Correct me if I’m wrong or if I’m out of place fellow Lubavitchers.

  • Mendel

    Many orthodox men do shake hands with women al pi halacha. Therefore,a more corect way of explaining this is that “some” orthodox men don’t shake hands with women.

    • Milhouse

      Who said it’s al pi halacha? They may have found a heter bish’as had’chak to shake “like a dead fish” because of “kevod habriyos”, but it’s a compromise, not straight halacha.

  • DaasTorah

    It is mutar to shake hands with a woman if you are involved in business or politics. This sort of slight can cause major international problems and is a chillul Hashem.

    • Milhouse

      You have no idea what “chilul hashem” means. Standing up for Torah values despite what anyone thinks is the definition of Kiddush haShem, and compromising them is the definition of Chilul haShem. “Umordechai lo yichra velo yishtachaveh” is kiddush haShem, while you would without doubt have been one of those telling him to obey the law and “stop making such a chilul hashem”, which is exactly what chilul haShem means.

  • to #3

    the Queen knew in advance that the Lubavitch Shluchim would not shake hands with her.
    As did Prime minister Margret Thatcher when she met with the Shluchim.
    same thing is also known about when nancy ragen met Rabbi A Shemtov
    they all respected the shluchim for standing up for what they belive in.

    so the message to anyone of us, if we stand with “ge-oin Yaakov” the world will respect us. DONT be afraid to be proud of your yiddishkeit.

    as the old camp song goes “i am a JEW and am PROUD, and i will sing it out loud………”

  • to no 3

    HM the queen is more knowledgeable and tapping them with a sword is a little different than shaking hands


    TO SISCO AND MEN DEL you are BOTH off the mark. in other words WRONG. Halacha is halacha and it doesn’t matter who it is. One can get out of these situations without making the other feel uncomfortable at all, as the Rebbe showed by example. A woman once came to the Rebbe for dollars and wanted to shake hands with the Rebbe. The Rebbe gave her one of his beautiful heartwarming smiles and said “my mother taught me never to touch anything that doesn’t belong to me”. So for anyone in this situation here’s your cue.

    • Milhouse

      A feminist would have been outraged at that response, because it treats women as property. The premise is that a man’s wife does belong to him, and other women belong to other men. But the Rebbe must have seen that this woman wasn’t like that.

  • ?

    I don’t understand – is there a special standard of halacha that applies to Orthodox Rabbis vs halacha for plain Orthodox Jews?

    Because if there is a special standard for Orthodox Rabbis, I think there is an even more special standard for Shluchim.

    Shluchim are MUCH more than mere Orthodox Rabbis – after all, shluchim represent the Rebbe (who was also more than just an Orthodox Rabbi)!

  • vice versa

    Be sure to say that likewise orthodox women don’t shake with men, so people don’t think its cuz women are less important

  • ?

    “orthodox men are prohibited from shaking hands with women”. if its prohibited, its prohibited for every jew not just the orthodox

  • Ignatz

    So…one time I shook hands with a shiksa at the end of a meeting in my office. I noticed it was late, and I had to daven mincha. The shiksa was waiting for the elevator, which was next to the water fountain. I put some water on my hands, and turned to go back into my office to daven. The shiksa snarled at me, “Oh, gentiles are impure so you had to wash your hands after you touched me?” My efforts to explain that I was washing to say the Afternoon Prayers were not accepted. P.S. nowadays, I never shake hands with any woman (other than my wife). Call me “Learned His Lesson!

  • To #11

    That story did not happen with the Rebbe.

    It happened, if I am not mistaken with the previous Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoel.

    I doubt the Rebbe would ever give a response like that to a woman.

    • mg

      You’re wrong. It was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who made the response not the Satmar Rebbe. I doubt the SR would allow yechidus with a woman anyways.

  • Ki Tov

    What I heard when the Rebbe was faced with a similar situation is that he tipped his hat and told the woman who offered her hand, that he was taught to tip his hat to a woman.

  • The Story I Remember

    as far as i remember the rebbe said (with a smile):

    “my mother taught me not to touch things which don’t belong to me…”

  • not the first time

    Rabbi weitman told me that years ago he was in a similar situation and he told the lady with a bow “to you i give my heart not merely my hand”.

  • shlucha

    When faced with these situation I and my family have a standard response; “Jewish law does not allow contact between men and women who are not related.” I have hardly ever gotten a negative reaction to that, people are usually curious and ask more about it