Jerusalem – Just days after Israeli news source Maariv reported that Rav Yuval Cherlow permitted returning a handshake by a member of the opposite sex, Israeli news sources report that several rabbis have spoken out condemning Rav Cherlow’s psak. Rabbi Cherlow is Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Hesder Petach Tikva and a founder of the Tzohar Foundation which serves to build bridges between the religious and secular worlds.
Rabbi Cherlow explained that in the case where a member of the opposite sex offers their outstretched their hand in greeting, “the other party will be hurt if you don’t return the gesture. Because of this, in a situation like this it is preferable to shake hands and not embarrass a fellow human being.” It should be noted that this ruling refers only to a formal handshake and not one that expresses affection in any way.
Rav Shlomo Aviner, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Ateret Kohanim in Jerusalem and considered by some to be one of the leaders of the religious Zionist movement in Israel, criticized Rav Yuval sharply saying, “Both the Rambam and the Beis Yosef ruled that shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex is so serious, it falls into the category of ‘yehareg v’al yaavor’, a sin that is so severe that it is preferable to die than to transgress that sin.”
In tomorrow’s issue of “Olam Katan”, a bulletin released in Israeli synagogue, R’ Aviner wrote “Clearly you don’t want to offend anyone, but by shaking hands with a member of the opposite sex, you bring embarrassment upon yourself. Rav Ovadia Yosef declined to shake hands with Prime Minister Golda Meir. Rav Mordechai Eliyahu did not shake hands with the Queen of England. In both cases, apologies were issued to the Rabbonim, for potentially embarrassing them by offering to shake hands.”
Rav Bentzion Mutzafi, a prominent Sefardic rabbi, condemned Rabbi Cherlow as well saying that his psak “made a mockery of our holy Torah, cheapens our mitzvos and erodes the foundations of modesty and holiness. Anyone who can issue such a ruling clearly has no fear of G-d in his heart.”