London – The Queen Knew Not to Shake Hands with the Chabad Shaliach

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    London – Rabbi Aryeh Sofrin was anxious just like the scores of other people scheduled to meet the Queen of England, but for a different reason: what would he do if she reached out for a handshake?

    The Chabad shaliach to Ilford, Essex, located northeast of London, was about to be dubbed Member of the British Empire for 18 years of work as head of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that serves Jews, Christians and Muslims โ€“ and even has an imam on the staff.

    He had been briefed on proper protocol, but did not know what to do about the handshake that ends every audience with the Queen. And on this particular day, she had chosen not to wear her glovesโ€ฆ

    But she must have been briefed about him, concludes Rabbi Sofrin, because at the end of their short meeting the 83-year-old Queen Elizabeth II remembered to avoid the customary handshake.

    The following video below is presented courtesy of Israelโ€™s Channel 2, which interviewed Rabbi Sofrin following his meeting with the Queen.

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    114 COMMENTS

    1. What a kiddush hashem and kol hakovod to Rav Sofrin, shlita, for his wonderful work and this unique recognition. Thanks also to VIN for bringing this to us. I can imagine that Hamodia and certain other unnamed newsites would have blacked out the Queen’s likeness from the video.

      • R’ Moshe says in a number of places that there is no heter. Also see chut shani who explains why the shach in YD 196 only applies to doctors. Also see from the Achiezer how difficult it is to find a heter.

          • I do not understand your comment. I answered the call of the question. You asked what the big deal is. I answered. If you have a heter from a competent posek then go with it. I do not understand your complex. No one accused you of anything assur.

            #21- Negiah b’derech chiba is an issur dairoysa that is yaharog v’all yavor. See EH siman 21. Also see the Gra there. This may not be b’derech chiba but if he has kavanah to be nehneh then it is b’derech chiba. As such, saving yourself from a cardinal issur would be more important than doing kiruv.

            • #31 So you are saying the Rav was Over a Yahrag Val Yavor? She pinned a medal on his chest. Why is that ok? Seems as bad (if not worse) than a handshake

            • “So you are saying the Rav was Over a Yahrag Val Yavor?”

              Where did I say that? First read my post then comment. You asked what the bid deal was. I answered you. Just because you shake a woman’s hand does not mean that it is Yahrag Val Yavor. Only when it is b’derech chiba. The question is whether there is a heter based on the shach. Also see my comment #34.

              Even if shaking is assur, negiah al yedei davar achar may be muttar. It is a sheilah how to learn the Taz. Please do not put words into my mouth.

            • This is a shailoh. I am not paskening. The Meiri in Nidah is mashmah that it is mutar. The Shevet Halevi is maikel. The pashuta mashmaios of the taz is that it is assur, but some poskim do not learn like that. All I am saying is that a sheilah exists. Like everything else, if you want to know the proper psak, ask a competent moreh hoaah.

            • the rambam and shulcan write “who ever touches a woman derech znus’ a handshake is not derech znus. the ottsar haposkim brings many deas that the shach who permits a doctor to care for a woman patient would also permit any negiah that is not derech znus, in fact, the mekor of the rambam is from the pasuk ‘lo tikrivu’ do not approach an erva to have an ilicit relationship. It has to be a :touch’ thats the begining of intimacy. Rabbi Henkin in bnai bonim lists all those who are matir

            • Once again, you did not read my post and then you comment. In post #9, I quoted the Chut Shani that distinguishes between a doctor and other business contacts. Yes, there are those who are matir. I do not know why you continue to comment when you know little or nothing about the sugya and you do not read my posts.

              “in fact, the mekor of the rambam is from the pasuk ‘lo tikrivu’ do not approach an erva to have an ilicit relationship.”

              Again, I quoted the possuk Lo Sikrevu. No one is suggesting the issur is d’aroysah, unless you go with the mechaber in siman 186. The question, based on the Shach, is on the d’rabanan, which is where the analysis is.

            • The issur deoiraisoh of being nehene is only if the hanohoh is with “immoral” thoght(s). Where the hanohoh is at the undoubted honor of shaking hands with an (83 year old!) head of state it is no more ossur than a frum grocer accepting money from a female customer. The hanohoh is getting paid and not any form of chiba etc.

        • # 6 says – So I am not orthodox if I shake women’s hands in buisness??? It is no wonder Moshiach has not come yet (and hint, it is not b\c some orthodox jews shake women’s hands)

            • You’re kidding, right?

              There are different legitimate shitos about this, with some holding it falls into the category of derech chiba (and y’herog, v’al ya’avor) and some, like the yekkes, hold that in a business context it does not fall into derech chiba at all and is mutter.

              Respect for different minhagim will have a much greater impact on moshiach coming than shaming people for sticking with their community’s hora’ah.

            • “your kidding right ????”
              I hope your not referring to minhugim that are osiyes gihenum!
              even reb moshe who is considered ratter a meikel but at least legitmate one couldn’t find a heter! after almost 80 comments there is not one bringing even one legit. source for such a heter!
              only anonymously………. which would be a big joke, when it wouldn’t of been such a serious issue!

            • who’s horah please don’t just make up stuff did reb shamshon rafoel hirsh ever shake a woman’s hand c”v did hurav shwab u”h ever c”v do such a thing? so please don’t put out new heteirim out there in the name of holy kehilloes !

      • If your rabbi says there’s no problem at all, then he’s an am ho’oretz. There is definitely a problem, lechol hade’os. The only difference between rabbonim is how one resolves that problem in different contexts; some are stricter and some more lenient, but nobody claims that the problem doesn’t exist, or that one should not avoid it if one can.

    2. I’m just wondering the halachah here. The Order of the British Empire (of which “Member” is part of) is essentially christian, with it’s own chapel at st paul’s catherdral and a badge that has the symbol of the order on a cross. I’m not making any accusations here, but forgive me if I fail to understand how a torah yid can stand there and join a christian “organization” and have a cross pinned on his jacket.

      • That order on a cross is now no different than my Swiss Army Knife with a cross on it. History and protocol have nothing to do with the present. He is not forced to go to that chapel.

        • What is the connection between a knighthood and a peerage on the one hand, and joining a Christian order on the other? If the OBE were a Christian order it would indeed be a problem and #7 would be right.

      • He’s being honored by his country for his services. I suspect that he was not made to profess Christianity. I also suspect that he will not worship the badge that he received, nor accord it religious reverence. So, why don’t you just mind your business, and quit shoving your frumometer in other people’s faces?

        • I was asking a serious and legitimate question about halachah. Is their a heter for such things? Are they mutar? I don’t know? Do you? I was hoping that I might get a serious and legitimate response. Instead I get insulted. Was that necessary?

          May HaShem save from ourselves

      • You make a good point, but it doesn’t really apply. The OBE is a secular order, for all that it has a chapel and religious services are held for its members, if they choose to attend. Thus, there is no issur in becoming a member. Wearing the badge, which is superimposed on a tzeilem, may be a problem, and I doubt he will be wearing it, or even displaying it at home.

        • sidesaddle, once upon a time all Lady’s rode like that

          stam i remember reading a few years ago that she had just had an operation and when she left the hospital it was the first time in her life that she wore pants in public till then (and i think since then as well) she always wore at least knee length skirts (etc.) dressing in a modest manner

          • yes once upon a time all woman dressed like that, and even more so….. (remember the pics. in your history books ?) hair covered completely, dresses till the floor, with a huge apron on top!
            In the old shtetlech in poland russia hungry etc. the goyim also went like that, with a scarf surrounding there face !
            u can still find some old woman like that, in the real rural shtetlech ,of the former soviet union .

    3. The Rabbi need not have worried. The Queen has met many Orthodox Jews on many occasions. She made Rabbi Emanual Jacobovitz into Lord Jacobovitz (I guess now we know the almighty’s last name ๐Ÿ™‚ )

      • When the “brain death” controversy was at its height, Rabbi Jakobovitz came out on the side that brain death is not death. I recall Rav Herschel Shachter (who agrees with that position) commenting — “I have the Lord is on my side.”

    4. If a 5 year old, goyishe shikse, doesn’t know “not to shake hands”, it to be expected, but if she is of normal intelligence, for a grown-up in politics, never mind if she wants to be called “queen”, what is the ‘Big Chidush’ that she knows whom she is to be talking to, and what his religious laws dictate, is appropriate, and what is not appropriate to do.

      Any neophyte in politics should know his own citizens, peoples religious doctrines, as it relates to their immediate interaction at their SCHEDULED face to face meeting.

      Even if the queen didn’t have much Sechel, on her own, to ask and to know, and to find out, how to behave herself, at the very least all her advisor’s around her knew Very Well, who is who, and what is appropriate contact and what is not and her advisor’s and associates certainly told her well in advance what to do and what not to do.

      Such meetings are not at random and are well planed months in advance and everyone knows exactly what to do and what not to do and what to say and what not to say well in advance.

      • Shimon Peres offered his hand to a frum woman of my acquaintance. The woman politely refused. You would think he of all people would know better, so it is a big chiddush that the Queen remembered.

      • there are plenty of frum orthodox people who will shake a woman’s hand (whether its allowed or not is not the point of this comment)
        as such being the case its possible that the queen has shaken a frum persons hand and maybe in such a setting as well

        also notice that he does not say whether the palace staff consulted him regarding his practices so they wouldn’t necessarily know what to tell the queen
        rather he says before his meeting they told him how to act down to the last step and from what he says it does not seem like they knew the queen knew not to shake his hand

        • Depends what you call “frum orthodox”.

          No one who even just LOOKS LIKE a Chassidishe yid will ever even THINK of a casual handshake with a women.

          But if your definition of a “frum orthodox” is someone who finds a Heter to be Clean Shaven and finds a heter to drink Cholov Akum and to Eat Pas Palter and “who knows WHAT ELSE” – in such context of so called “frum”, I would not be surprised if they also found a heter for causal handshake with women too.

          People who want to be Memaleh Taaveh find “heteriom” for everything and to make themselves feel better rationalize that they are still called “frum”.

          All I can say is OCH UN VEY to what you call “frum”.

    5. This episode reminds me of the story when Wilhelmina the queen of Holland came to meet the previous Minkatcher Rebbe to receive his blessing for she was childless. When she stretched out her hand to shake the Rebbe’s, the Rebbe with his great wisdom remarked that it does not fit for a commoner to touch the hand of her majesty. The queen was very impressed and this story ended in kiddush Hashem. BTW she had a child who was named Juliana and her daughter Beatrice is the current queen of Holland.

    6. G-d forbid that he recuse himself from the honor so as not to place himself in a situation where the Queen would be publically humiliated. And G-d forbid he depend on a leniency which I’ve even seen Satmars in good standing depending on.

    7. The Queen deserves a lot of gratitude and respect for taking the care to try not to offend the Rabbi or put him in an comfortable position. We can all learn from that example as to how to treat others. Of course, if she didn’t know or didn’t remember after greeting so many other people, that would have been entirely understandable and it would have been rude for the rabbi not to shake her hand if she offered hers. Not publicly embarrasing someone is more important than not shaking a hand. There is nothing remotely sexual about shaking a hand in this context.

        • There is nothing in halacha that prohibits shaking hands when it is done as a commercial minhag in accordance with local practice and necessary for avoiding a slur to the goyim. Don’t assur somthing that is 100 percent mutar.

        • I was taught that it is forbidden to publicly embarass someone and I have heard many stories of orthodox rabbis shaking a woman’s hand to not embarass her in public because that is far worse than touching the hand of a member of the opposite gender. Didn’t Hillel teach that the Torah can be summarized as “that which is distasteful to you, don’t do to others,” and dosen’t Torah teach that to embarass someone is like killing them?

          • My friend can you please name the orthodox rabbi ? It doesn’t have to be disrespectfull , I have this all the time in business , you just say cheerfully , sorry we don’t shake hands for religous reasons , I have actually gained respect with no negative recourse. Ill tell you a secret you know when it was a problem , when I dealt with a frieh (non-religous) isreali company and the women couldn’t understand … And the truth was my heart blead for the lack of an inkling of what yiddishkeit this women had.

          • The Torah also teaches that ืื™ืŸ ื—ื›ืžื” ื•ืื™ืŸ ืขืฆื” ื•ืื™ืŸ ืชื‘ื•ื ื” ื ื’ื“ ื”ืณ. Reconciling these two principles is where there is room for differing opinions. But there is NO room at all for the opinion that there is no problem to begin with. A “rabbi” who delivers himself of such an opinion is an ignoramus who has no business pretending to decide halachic questions.

          • right! but u have to understand what it was summarized into = so meaning that if u don’t wanna be touched by a way that’s not allowed in the torah you also shouldn’t do it anyone else either…
            btw are u saying that all the jewis hero’s from all generation’s who gave their life up for numerous commands in the torah didn’t really understand what the torah was all about?
            why do u need Judaism at all aren’t other religion’s the “real” love preachers?

    8. In the early 80’s PM Margaret Thatcher visited a display by the Lubavitch girls school in London about Jewish women. It was a summer day and she was wearing very short sleeves. One part was about tznius. She studied the pictures, read the text carefully and then turned to her driver and told him to bring up her shawl. She put it on and wore it the rest of the time she was there. Another part was about negiah. She read it carefully then put her hands behind her back (like a gerrer chusid after the chulent) and kept them there until she left.

      2 years later a group of shluchim went to 10 downing for a meeting with her. When they entered her office, she immediately put her hands behind her back (I guess to remind herself not to start a handshaking).

      If you stand strong in what you believe, and say it b’darkei noam ub’darkei sholom, people will respect you.

    9. Rabbi Sofrin is fortunate that the Queen did not shake his hand. However, there is a different issue: negiah al yadei davar acher. Based on the picture, that seems to be an issue. If negiah al yadei davar acher is negiah, see the Taz in YD hilchos nidah and there is a shailoh how to learn the Taz, then it is just as good as shaking hands with the Queen and the Rabbi has not gained anything from this.

      • Your cite to hilchos nidah is totally out of context. There is no issue of negiah here and C’v had the rav not shaken hands with Her majesty, it would have beeen a real chilul hashem.

        • again the experts of chilell hashem woke up!
          according to a compelling amount of vin posters the biggest kiddush hasheem c”v would be to throw away all torah and mitzvoes and be like all the goyim r”l (oh I mean the “good” goyim the law following ones, and of course only the western laws, no matter if u live in a western country or not)
          (I guess the shlo usanee goy only goes for arab’s or conservative’s)
          Chilluel hashem would mean keeping all mitzvoes stringently… (besides the ones like helping out goyim in trouble…)
          eis asher asartu hitartee ,vasher hitartu usartee!

        • You have demonstrated total ignorance on the subject. Harchokes Nidah is d’rabanan. There is a machlokes whether the same thing applies to all arayos. We are maikel. See EH 21.

          There is a different issue that is doraysah, which is learnt from the possuk Lo Sikrivu, which among other things, refers to negiah. The same issur by a niddah applies to everyone else that is assur to you, with the exception of a mother, grandmother or sister. See gemara in Yevamos and Kiddushin. Therefore, what the Shach and Taz say in hilchos nidah also apply to harchakos arayos. Also look in Igros Moshe and Chut Shani.

          I can on and on. Why do you comment when you obviously no nothing about the sugya?

      • I could be wrong but I thought tumas nidah only applied to jewish women (not that it makes shaking hands ok, I just think it is a different halacha than the ones you are quoting)

    10. Who cares. There are hundreds of unsung heroes who have strutted their stuff to promote cohesion & rehabilitation in their cities for over 40/50 years & never received an obe or mbe.18 years?is that some kind of joke?

    11. The Queen does not shake hands with ANYONE. Not even the President of the USA. NEVER. Look at the protocols available on line. The rabbi had nothing to worry about.

      • do kindly provide a link so we can check said protocol

        that being said if you heard his interview then you would know that he said he was briefed down to the LAST STEP about what to do and he was told that when the queen shakes his hand then the ceremony is over and its time for him to move on

        as to what constitutes shaking hands and what he or the palace staff meant by it would most likely adhere to protocol

        and generally what is meant in such a case is a light touch (meeting) of the hands
        not a firm shake of the hands and YES the queen DOES shake hands just she has to offer her hand first

    12. Rav Aharon Soloveitchik zatzal held it is mutar to shake a woman’s hand only if she extends her hand first, This is because he held the only issur in such a sitaution is derabanan, and kovod habrios is de’oraysa, so kovod habrios is docheh.
      Rabonim who are musmachim of Rav Aharan Soloveitchik are somech on this psak.

    13. Not all forbidden relationships are “Yehoreg veal Yaavor”.

      There are some that are and some that are forbidden but still not “Yehoreg vela Yaavor”.

    14. wait so its ok that she touched him to put the badge on him, but not ok to shake his hand.
      oh grow up everyone. its the bloody queen of the country!!!!!!! if she shakes ur hand, damn right u better shake hers back!

    15. My daughter won a regional spelling bee and in front of the whole crowd the judge came to congratulate her and he put out his hand. She shook it and then asked me if it was wrong. I told her she did the right thing because she just made such a kiddush hashem and that would of ruined it not to mention embarrass the judge. We need to use our brains!

    16. For what its worth HM The Queen has been doing this since 1953, she has a clue about protocol. More important she has a staff who are paid to make sure she is well informed. I don’t know if she shakes hands normally but I’m sure if it was an issue her staff would have made sure that she would be briefed.

      And she is always well dressed when in public.

      It should also be noted that the OBE and other honours are given out by the Queen but on advice of the PM, who has a staff who compiles the list. So the Rabbis name was probably put up by a someone local who made a good case for him. Maybe his local MP or the like.

    17. Regarding shaking a women’s hand look in the uncensored edition of Rav Chayim Berlin’s responsa #135 where he paskens that when shaking the women’s hand is a matter of protocol or derech eretz and the person is not doing it for sensual reasons it is muttar. Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet publicly stated in a shiur (available on line) that Rav Y.B. Soloveitchik in certain circumstances shakes the hands of women. If Rabbi Rakeffet is too mizrachi for some would you say that about Rav Chayim Berlin, son of the Netziv and ultra-orthodox rov of Yerushalayim ? Again just another case of charadi revisionalism.

    18. Just to set the record straight. The queen did NOT pin the medal on. All receipients have a magnet hook on their clothing which they put on before they go in to receive their medal. The queen just puts the medal on the magnet.
      Rabbi Sufrin did not ask for this award, it was promoted by many people who feel he has done a great service to many and they wanted to see him honoured for this.
      He has stated many times this is all about a Kiddush Hashem and an honour for Chabad, The Rebbe ZYA and Klal Yisroel.
      I hope this answers some of the issues that seem to be disturbing some of you.
      Let us rejoice in the positivity of this award and recognise it for what it is.

    19. every one is debating backwards and fordwards mutar or osur i mean even the queen knew one is not supposed to shake hands!! Those who say it is ok are you saying that now rabbi suffrin is actually insulted that the queen did not shake his hand.

    20. Has my Rosh Yeshiva Shlita likes to joke “shema yisrael hashem elokinu hashem achad – everything else is machlokes”.

      Why does the olam need to make such an arguement and criticise each other about something that already happened and is over.

      Just for example there are many times in the gemara when rashi and tosfas argue, or rishonim dispute how to learn a passuk in chumash, is one wrong and the other correct? I don`t know, and i doubt most people that have learnt the differing opnions properly know either.

      The point is has we see many times in the mishnah breura and other sefarim, some people go one way and others the other. Does that make those who follow one opinion frum/orthodox and those that don`t follow that opinion not frum or reform. The obvious answer is NO. That is the beauty of Torah both opinions are correct has long as they are legitimate and endorsed as such by an emesdik rav/ posek.

      People need to learn to respect each others differences and rebbeim wether or not you personally follow the same rav and opinion. For those of you going on about moshiach and caring wether or not it comes, i belive this is the only way he will come, wether or not you agree with me

      • There are shiv’im ponim latorah, but also shiv’im ochor. Not every opinion that has ever been expressed is legitimate. The question posed here is a complicated one, and there are arguments for paskening it either way; but to pretend there is no shayla, or to pretend that it’s an easy heter, is pure amhoratzus. Those poskim who do find a heter under some limited circumstances have sweated and strained to find it, and certainly agree that one should avoid relying on it whenever possible.

        • To #96, Milhouse

          You clearly have not read my comment properly. I`m not disputing the complex nature of the sheila or any other sheila. I am not given pasuk or saying that one rav or opinion is better than another. I am simply calling for a little respect for varying opinions that a person might not agree with. And if you would have read my comment properly you would have seen that I said has long has the opinion you follow is one of an emesdik rav. I think that is fairly self explantotry, i.e it is legitimate and can be backed up with appropiate sources. For you to suggest that what I said is amhoratzus is really you showing am horatzus in reading what i wrote, and I`ll agree with you that am horatzus is the cause of so many problems and debates, which is why i don`t say what I THINK the halacha should be, I just recomend that before making comments people check with someone who does know what the halacha is, and then respect the psak of the various poskim even if the poskim disagree with each other.

          stamford hilly billy

          • And yet you are calling for respect for those who claim that there is no shayla, that it’s 100% muttar. That contradicts the rest of your position. Those who pasken that it’s ossur deserve respect; those who, after balancing the pros and cons reluctantly decide to be mattir also deserve respect; but those who don’t see a shayla in the first place DO NOT DESERVE RESPECT. They are boorim and amhoratzim and have no business calling themselves “rabbi”. And demanding that they be respected is itself not a respectable position.

      • Where does it say you can insult a woman by saying (in essence) you are so old or so wrinkled or so repulsive that it is safe to shake your hand because it could never lead to anything improper.

    21. 1) Shut Nishmas Chaim (R Chaim Berlin) says that people will regard a talmid chacham as bizarre for refusing to shake the hand of a woman, he should not be machmir. Me-ikar hadin, it is not derech chibah. (#135 in old edition; 3:5 of new edition.)
      2) R Shimon Shkop was known to have given a woman his hand. He said, “Assur lehalbin.”
      3) R Hutner permitted taking her hand if it would save her from embarrassment, but cautioned to “Take it like a hot potato.”

    22. Dayan Ehrentrau and Abba Dunner once had lunch with the Queen. They ate hermolis catering and certainly did-nt shake hands with her. She is briefed before every meeting and knew jolly well not to shake his hand. In fact like one comment above she rarely shakes hands with anybody. This article hot nisht kein HENT in feece!

    23. First off, the United Kingdom is an officially Christian country. There is a state church, the Church of England, and the flag is three different types of crosses superimposed one on the other. So every time a British yidden touches the national flag, and I surmise they DO have them on display in the shuls, he or she touches three crosses. So the medal with one little cross is no big whoop.

      As for shaking hands with people, the Queen shakes hands with people in private audiences like this…it’s just public ones where she would be worn out shaking hundreds of hands. But the one thing the Queen is supposedly a master of, is making people feel comfortable around her. She has just shown, yet again, that she is the definition of the word, “lady.”

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