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July 15, 2009

Annals of Halakha: Orthodox Rabbi Says Blind Can Feel Their Dates

Kippa seruga Even though Orthodox men and women are not supposed to touch before marriage, rabbi says the blind can do so because it is their way of seeing.

Rabbi Sherlo: Blind men can grope their dates
Head of Hesder Yeshiva explains that 'this is the way a blind man gets to know his partner'

Kobi Nahshoni • Yent

Rabbi Yuval Sherlo, head of the Petah Tikva Hesder Yeshiva, has declared it permissible for a blind man to "feel" his date if he intends to marry her.

"This is the way a blind man gets to know his partner," the rabbi said in response to a halachic question he was asked. "It may even be correct to say that he is required to touch her."

Sherlo was then asked to base his ruling on halachic sources, and his answer was posted on the yeshiva's website.

On the site he explains that despite a religious ruling that forbids men from looking at women because of their beauty, Torah sages required all men to see their intended before marriage. He says that this is true regarding the blind as well, but because the only way they can 'see' their date is by feeling her they are permitted to do so.  
"Feeling her face is void of sexual significance; it's the blind man's way of seeing," the rabbi writes. "He is also subject to the obligation to build a loving home, and this is an inseparable part of how he does this."

Sherlo also explains that despite their disability, the blind still desire to know what their wives look like. "A blind man cares about many things, even if he cannot see them," he explains.


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I now have an excuse: temporary blindness.

Go Jochanan! You're a very healthy man!
What about blind women? I am getting all sorts of very naughty thoughts here!
Better stop...

I bet sales of white canes in Brooklyn will go through the roof.

Obviously R. Cherlow doesn't encourage fondling, since even if touch is 'like' sight to the blind, you aren't allowed to stare or give too much inappropriate gazing. There was a daughter of I believe a Ner Israel rabbi who was blind, who was encouraged and not sheltered by her family. An Israeli (as I recall), yeshivah bocher who was fascinated by engagements of The Blind in the world was dating her, and they supposedly went arm in arm in the community she was in. now married w/children. I encourage reading "and there was light" by Lusseyran.

Finally, a sensible psak we can all agree on.

This Rabbi will never be a gadol hador, since instead of createing humra and restriction, he created a reasonable permission.

Kudos for the rabbi!

It is important the the logic and methodology of this ruling be expounded upon, and studied so that it can applied in many other contemporary areas.

Didn't Governor Paterson of NY have multiple affairs? Perhaps he was just exercising his hands.

Religious women shouldn't complain. If you're dating a blind guy, you don't even have to dress up!

In my Midwood neighborhood in Brooklyn, I had next door neighbors who were Reform and had a motion detector light on their front porch that went on whenever someone walked past it. Their hareidi neighbor on their other side was totally blind, but he complained that when he walked past it on Friday evenings that the light went on, which violated the Sabbath.

I bet sales of white canes in Brooklyn will go through the roof.

Whoa, calm yourself down. The rabbi said 'feel' not 'feel up' ;-)

When you let your "fingers do the walking" just don't go looking for love in all the wrong places.

And so many of your readers are quick to attack where others minds and hands wonder - but not their own?

Did Rabbi Sherlow actually say "grope" your date lol

"And so many of your readers are quick to attack where others minds and hands wonder - but not their own?"--pierre

"Wander" meant?

Rav Sherlo is the rav my wife and I turn to whenever we have a sh'eila. He is incredibly learned, wise and empathetic. However, this is not the first time that a t'shuva of his, which should have best been kept private, has been publicized. This is in the realm of Rav Ovadia's psakim on weird questions posed to him, which when publicized out of context do not bring much respect to either him or Halacha in general. I don't know how many blind guys there are out there dating in the Modern Orthodox world (which is the public Rav Sherlo addresses), have no idea how choosy they can be, and am truly clueless as to why feeling their date's faces would be more pertinent than feeling out other parts of the body, whatever... anyhow, it would have been best for Rav Sherlo not to publicize this tshuva...

No, Yoni, it is good that this is publicized.

This at least proves that there are some rabbeim out there who use their heads for more than a resting place for their borsalinos.

It gives me and many other readers here hope for orthodoxy.

DD - (i) rest assured that the only hat ever owned by Rav Sherlo is a baseball cap.
(ii) I'm sure you can read Hebrew, so why dontcha skip over to the original Ynet article and see the reaction in the talkbacks there, and you'll understand that while this t'shuva may give you "hope for orthodoxy", it gives many others a pretext to mock orthodoxy and halachic discourse. I know Rav Sherlo personally, and I'm certain he's ain't too pleased at such reaction. I think he should be a bit more careful when choosing which t'shuvot to publicize, but of course it's his prerogative...

Yes, but why did they become blind in the first place?

Digging around, I found that Rev Yuval also has argued for the permissibility of organ donation, as well as "women friendly" synagogues (didn't investigate the second one too closely).

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