Friday, October 16, 2009

Why on a Friday?!

Unless it continues to puzzle me and no one reading here can give me a clear chapter/verse explanation, I'm going to have another question for my LOR--local orthodox rabbi. They always seem to come up on a Friday.

Our bakery, as mentioned before, is a perfect place to pick up info you won't here anywhere else. Two bochrim clearly picking up orders for their wives and/or mothers. One bochur tells the woman behind the counter to please just put the bag on the counter and he will take it from there. She complies and he picks up the bag. He waits for the other bochur to get his order packed up. The second bochur also asks that the bags just be placed on the counter.

After they left someone else on line asks if this is a religious thing about the bags. An older man, also in the line, answers that yes, it is. Men and women are not allowed to hand each other things. When one gives an item to another it should be put down and then picked up by the other person. After all the men were out the women continued talking. One wanted to know if this included married couples as well. A different woman said yes, depending on the nidah cycle of the woman. Another couple of women said this is the first they are hearing of this. A few others said they don't believe that this is truly the law.

So, somebody out there with more knowledge than I have, can a man hand something to a woman or a woman hand something to a man? I'm not talking here about a situation where touching each other would be part of passing over the item. Think a newspaper or a dinner plate or a box. And as a teacher I am also curious--does this mean, if it is the case, that when I hand out papers to my male students I cannot give the paper directly into their hands? And if this is the case, or partly the case, then why is it the case? I can think of so many and varied situations where men and women are handing things to each other that would become not only awkward but rather difficult if they are not allowed to hand each other things. So when the UPS man comes to my door and gives me the clipboard to sign I would have to tell him to put it on the porch floor and then pick it up? Ditto if the mailman rings the bell to hand me something? My dentist can't hand me a cup of water to rinse with? And what about the meshulach who comes to the door collecting for tzedaka--I can't hand him the check?

Please, someone put me out of my misery and answer.


Tom said...

The only restriction I've ever heard of is with respect to a married couple when the wife is a niddah.

Except for members of the chumrah of the week club.

E. Fink said...

100% not against halacha to hand things.

But it can still be "religious" as in a chumra.

So, it is 'religious' but not halachic.

As a matter of opinion, you're instincts are right, I think it is ridiculous and absolute silliness...

Anonymous said...

CRAZY, we all learned in kallah class that the harchakos don't apply between non-spouses.

Ari said...

Fear of bodily contact for modesty reasons, not niddah reasons, drive these kinds of requests in the public sphere.

Bodily contact during niddah is only a halachic concern between husband and wife.

I should think that the folks who are concerned about this "issue" are especially concerned in circumstances where the item changing hands is small, like currency, and where there is a greater likelihood of physical contact. Accordingly, there might be much less concern when larger items are involved, such as test papers and boxes.

To me, this ritual smacks of bad theater, and seems rather unnecessary (much like the elevator-induced shyness to which you recently alluded) but to each his / her own, as long as no one is embarrassed or humiliated. (I'm thinking social or business situations where handshakes are required, or where a cashier has no idea why she is being asked to put the change or bag on the counter). One can only shrug, and hope that this elaborate display of piety reflects more substantive ethical behavior when no one is looking. IMHO, we have bigger concerns than this little charade, although I'm certain that there will be those that disagree. Civility and derech eretz pretty much trumps these chumras, I should think.

Tulli said...

I agree with Ari that this is probably more about a concern with touching then with passing an item.

In this and in other areas I think that some people simply go with the more stringent approach because it can be too difficult or time consuming to have to stop and judge every passing situation as to whether or not a danger of touching might be there.I guess the idea is that if you nebver pass things or very rarely then you avoid the touching issue.

Orthonomics said...

Could it be about not handing bread from hand to hand and nothing to do with an extention of harchakot that I don't believe apply?

Orthonomics said...

Of course, if the bread is in the bag, I don't see any reason not to hand bread from one hand to the next since it is covered.

But, perhaps 'chumrah' isn't based on negiah but on bread/mourners.

Michael Kopinsky said...

Not handing things is only an issue of harchakos which only apply to spouses.

I can not see any reason to be machmir on not handing coins or the like, since the issur is not touching, but affectionate touching. There's no way that while getting change from a cashier you'll accidentally get an affectionate touch.