The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
Moshe heard the people weeping in their family groups (11:10)
They were frustrated by the family laws that regulated permissible
PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH BLOOD RELATIVES
QUESTION: Are there any restrictions on physical contact
[hugging, kissing, touching, etc.] between relatives?
DISCUSSION: Although it is well-known and fully accepted that
marriage between certain relatives is strictly forbidden, it is
not so well-known that physical contact between them is also
forbidden. For the purpose of our discussion, we have divided
"relatives" into three separate groups. Physical contact with
members of group A is permitted; with members of group B,
strictly forbidden; and with members of group C, neither
strictly forbidden nor expressly permitted. Rather, in the words
of the Rambam(1) and the Shulchan Aruch(2), it is "most
deplorable, a prohibited (type of) action, and an act of
Let us now list (in no particular order) the various
relatives(4) in their respective groups:
Group A: Permitted
A sister under the age of 11(5).
A brother under the age of 12(8).
Group B: Strictly Forbidden
An uncle's wife.
A niece(9) over the age of 3(10).
A cousin over the age of 3(11).
His wife's sister over the age of 3.
His daughter-in-law and mother-in-law(12).
His brother's wife.
Her uncle over the age of 9.
A cousin over the age of 9.
Her husband's brother over the age of 9.
Her son-in-law and father-in law.
Her sister's husband.
Group C: Neither Forbidden nor Expressly Permitted
A sister over the age of 11(13).
An aunt [his father's or mother's sister] over the age of 3(14).
Her brother over the age of 12.
A nephew over the age of 9.
1. Hilchos Isurei Biah 21:6 (loose translation).
2. E.H. 21:7.
3. According to the explanation of Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:137, the
Rabbis have deemed it "deplorable" and "foolish" because it may
lead to physical contact with other relatives with whom physical
contact is strictly forbidden, like the ones listed in group B.
See also Otzar ha-Poskim 21:51 who quotes Batei Kehunah as
saying that it is not a strong Rabbinic prohibition like other
Rabbinic prohibitions; it is merely a derech zehirus be'alma".
4. We have limited this discussion to blood relatives. See pg. 94
concerning adopted children and step-parents.
5. E.H. 21:7 and Beis Shmuel 9. The age of 11 is based on O.C.
6. Igros Moshe E.H. 1:60 and E.H. 4:63 maintains that it is
proper to be stringent and not kiss a married daughter or
granddaughter. Other poskim, however, do not mention this
stringency and this seems to be the prevailing custom.
7. Chelkas Mechokek E.H. 21:10; Beis Shmuel 14 concerning a
daughter's daughter. Igros Moshe E.H. 1:60 rules that a ba'al
nefesh should not hug or kiss a son's daughter but there is no
need to object to those who are lenient. Aruch ha-Shulchan
21:10, Tzitz Eliezer 6:40-20 and Shearim Metzuyanim b'Halachah
152:16, rule that there is no difference and both are equally
permissible. This is the prevailing custom.
8. E.H. 21:7 and Beis Shmuel 9. The age of 12 is based on O.C.
9. Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:137.
10. Harav S.Z. Auerbach (quoted in Avnei Yashfei, pg. 189). For a
general discussion concerning the age of three, see The Weekly
Halchah Discussion, vol 1., pg. 238-239.
11. See above footnote.
12. Igros Moshe E.H. 4:63, who rules that it is Biblically
13. Rambam and Shulchan Aruch quoted in footnotes 1 and 2. The
age of 11 is based on O.C. 73:4.
14. Rambam and Shulchan Aruch, ibid. classify an older sister
together with an aunt. Apparently, even a young aunt is included
in this category.
This issue of Weekly Halacha is dedicated in honor
of Doniel Meir, n"y, on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah,
Sivan 18, 5758
by Dr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Gross and Family