Ask The Rabbi

Shaky Salute

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Hands, Shaking, Men & Women

Z.G. wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I am female. When I go to a job interview in a non-Jewish firm and the potential employer knows I am Jewish (or even if he doesn't know) am I allowed to shake his hand?


Dear Z. G.,

The major contemporary halachic authorities forbid men and women to shake hands. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zatzal, among others, spoke strongly about this issue.

I've been in situations where a woman offers me her hand; I explain that I am not permitted to shake hands with women because of religious constraints and I apologize for any embarrassment or discomfort this may cause her - it is nothing personal. My experience has been that usually nobody, neither the woman herself nor the onlookers, feels offended. They may think it's strange - but when you adhere to halacha, there is no chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d's honor).


Z. G. replies:

Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for your prompt response. Not shaking hands will very likely cost me the position, and I will incur a great loss of livelihood. I am not asking you to be lenient with me, I would just like you to suggest some possible way that I can prevent a handshake, without having to go into a whole lengthy explanation. In my line of work, employers are looking for professional people who are outgoing and have good presentation skills. Once I am on the job, I have no problem with explaining to clients that I cannot close a deal with a handshake. However, I find it very difficult to do so with a boss (because it may have a negative effect on my overall appearance at the interview). My interview is tomorrow morning, and it would be most helpful If you could reply before then. If not, I may just have to wear a sling on my arm!


Dear Z. G.,

Going to the interview with your arm in a sling is not being quite honest. If the job you are interviewing for requires good presentation skills, what better way to prove it than by explaining in a perfectly lucid way that you cannot shake hands with men?


Z. G. replies:

Dear Rabbi,

My problem was automatically solved! The interviewer was a woman! Just thought that you should know what happened. Thanks a lot for all the help!


 
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