Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from
Contact Us

Why Is Torah Law So Restrictive of Contact Between the Genders?

Why Is Torah Law So Restrictive of Contact Between the Genders?



I understand that Torah law forbids all physical contact between a man and a woman—or even for them to be alone in a room together—unless they are first-degree relatives or married to each other. This applies to any man and any woman, regardless of their ages or whether or not they are sexually attracted to each other. And then there are all those rules about “modest” dress. Isn’t that carrying it a bit far? Are we really such animals?


When a man and woman are together in a room, and the door closes, that is a sexual event. Not because of what is going to happen, but what has already happened. It may not be something to make novels of, but it is a sexual occurrence, because male and female is what sexuality used to be all about.

It is true that in our world today, in the “free world” certainly, people have, on the whole, stopped thinking in these terms. What happened was that we started putting up all these defenses, getting steeled, inured, against the constant exposure and stimulation of men and women sharing all sorts of activities—coeducational school, camps, gyms—is that we started blocking out groups of people. We can’t be as naturally sexual as G‑d created us to be. When a man says, “I have a woman friend, but we’re just friends, nothing more, I’m not attracted to her in any sexual way, she’s not my type,” you’ve got to ask yourself what is really going on here. Is this a disciplined person? Or is this a person who has died a little bit?

What does he mean, “She’s not my type?” When did all this “typing” come into existence? It’s all artificial. It’s not true to human sexuality. And it really isn’t even true in this particular context, because given a slight change of circumstance, you could very easily be attracted. After all, you are a male, she’s a female. How many times does a relationship begin that is casual, neighborly, and then suddenly becomes intimate? The great awakening of this boy and girl who are running around, doing all sorts of things, sharing all sorts of activities, and lo and behold, they realize—what drama, what drama—that they are attracted to each other. These are grownups, intelligent human beings, and it caught them by surprise. It’s kind of silly.

So, closing a door should be recognized as a sexual event. And you need to ask yourself: Are you prepared for this? Is it permissible? Is it proper? If not, leave the door open. Should men and women shake hands? Should it be seen as an intimate gesture? Should any physical contact that is friendly be considered intimate? Hopefully, it should.

These laws are not guarantees against sin. They have never completely prevented it. There are people who dress very modestly. They cover everything. They sin. It’s a little more cumbersome, but they manage. All these laws are not just there to lessen the possibility of someone doing something wrong. They also preserve sexuality—because human sexuality is what G‑d wants. He gave us these laws to preserve it, to enhance it—and make sure it’s focused to the right places and circumstances—not to stifle it.

We have become callous about our sexuality. Even in marriage, a kiss on the run cheapens it, makes it callous—then we run to the therapist for advice. And do you know what the therapist who charges $200 an hour for his advice says? He tells the couple not to touch each other for two weeks. Judaism tells you that, free of charge. Yes, there are two weeks each month during which a husband and wife don’t touch. This therapy has been around for 3000 years. And it still works. It’s a wonderful idea.

When you don’t close the door on yourself and that other person, you are recognizing your own sexuality. You are acknowledging the sexuality of the other person. Being modest, recognizing our borders, knowing where intimacy begins and not waiting until it is so intimate that we’re too far gone, is a very healthy way of living. It doesn’t change your lifestyle dramatically, but enhances it dramatically, and you come away more capable of relaxing, better able to be spontaneous, because you know that you can trust yourself. You’ve defined your borders. Now you can be free. It takes a load off your mind, and it makes you a much more lovable person.

Excerpted from an article by Rabbi Manis Friedman.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Join the discussion
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (207)
May 4, 2016
Restricting Contact Between the Genders.
I am both shocked and saddened by the lack of restraint in the world of today. Often, sexual activity is the common currency of society and the special quality of an exclusive, loving relationship is lost Furthermore, the resultant babies are deprived of the right to be in an established family with two parents and other relatives; a sense of belonging in an existing social structure. When there are
children born of several different fathers, or when there is uncertainty of who is the father, there is definite risk of incest occurring. Really, without the traditional safeguards, things can degenerate into general chaos which engenders much unhappiness and benefits nobody. 'Having sex' does not equate with the carefully guarded enjoyment of this blessing in its proper setting, and the
so-called freedom of no restraints actually deprives its adherents of enjoying this aspect of life to the full.
May 19, 2015
Meira Shana
Okay let's make that list you want. Most of what you describe is horrid and neither Torah nor rabbis condone those behaviors.
As to dirtiness and baths, I suggest you search for an article written by Levi Welton about mikvah.
Sarah Masha
West Bloomfield
May 9, 2015
sometimes things don't add up
I have looked into to find the answer and the only answer so far "this is custom". If this is something that is hindering people of making living while excusing dreadful behavior of cheating and rape, maybe this is not the right custom.

There is comparison with the fire, I like that. In the cold day we used to have an open fireplace, which gave us warmth and we knew not to jump in the fire. Boundaries are great.

Personally I have nothing against arrenge marriages, however it sadness me to think how often the word happily missing from married for number of years.

And lastly, I know of a lady who was sitting shiva and her rebe couldn't visit and comfort her because she was by herself a lot. She needed thim more than ever! Now the whole family including her grandchildren are looking for a place where in the time of grief people are treated with dignity.

There are written laws, but human made laws need to be at least open for discussion.
May 6, 2015
Be receptive to Torah's message.
Let's open our hearts and absorb the Torah's teachings. After all it is God's word. Let us read with our eyes and listen with our souls. And let our lives be transformed to what God intended them to be.
May 4, 2015
Do you know any wedded couples who live this way? They have great freedom & passion
The man and woman behave modestly with each other until they are alone. Then their desire is explosive. They receive, and achieve, a much more powerful experience. They are free to be fully themselves together. Their tender passionate lovemaking lasts and the final pleasure is intense.

The woman, incidentally, wears something over her hair all the time, except when she and her husband are alone. Then, and only then, he gets to see her full beauty (and to him she remains beautiful through the years)--including her beautiful natural hair which neither he nor anyone else sees otherwise.

Casual touching dilutes this intensity.

Do you see "love" as the infatuation of initial attraction, ending after a very few years?

But these couples are kind & respectful to each other; their sex is sacred, not taken for granted. They treasure each other at all times. With most people, familiarity breeds contempt.

These couples avoid excessive familiarity. Their love remains fresh forever.
May 3, 2015
"what G-d wants" ... did G-d want women to be chattel, too.

Does G-d really want Men Only to get as many women as possible - and for women to be deemed vengeful if she refuses to give a lousy husband and father a get.

Does G-d say that Men should bathe properly or be considered unclean or is that only for Women.

Does G-d say it's ok for Men to mistreat Women?

Let's make a list of all the rights given to Men by G-d - and another list of all the rights given to Women by G-d.
Meira Shana
San Diego
May 2, 2015
I love this
I love this article. Full of wisdom and intelligence.
Hollywood CA
March 18, 2015
Arranged marriage and love
An arranged marriage is much like when a person first commits to studying Torah and worshipping Hashem. As time grows commitment turns to love, just as two who marry and commit later learn to love each other. Love is not lust, for lust is all about yourself and what you want. Love is about doing for the other person. My marriage was arranged, and we are still married 22 years later.
Reb Harry
March 17, 2015
I did not say that discipline is having died a little bit. I said the article equates the discipline (or disinterest) of the guy who wasn't interested or didn't make moves on his female friend with having died a little bit. It's right there in the second paragraph of his response.

Yes, I agree that safety is not playing with fire(if you're not cool with certain things, which is what I said). But where we disagree is that I say that your regulations are too strict and unreasonable. Restricting your life to the extreme like this is, to me, is not worth the cost of protecting yourself from a situation which could potentially lead to actions you don't like. Muslim countries restrict women from showing even their hair in public. Is this infrigement of freedom worth the cost of reducing the risk of premarital sex which some people are not okay with? I say not, but apparently, you are very willing to sacrifice too much of your freedom for security.
February 27, 2015
To Anonymous (Feb 2)
Discipline is not equated with having died a little bit. Discipline is not about killing your natural instincts, but about controlling them. Safety is not playing with fire. It is not to play with fire in a supposedly "safe way." If there is a safe way to play with fire, then something's wrong either with the fire or with the world around it. There are times when we need to use fire, and that is when we lay down regulations for using it so that we can benefit from it without getting burned. The same applies to sexuality. It is and should be potent. If it is not, something's wrong. This does not mean that every time a man and woman are together in a situation they will think of committing lewd acts. But the Torah recognizes the potential for such a situation to turn inappropriate very quickly (even without getting physical), and therefore prescribes clear guidelines for making sure it does not. Looking at what goes on around us today, we can readily see the wisdom in this.
Rabbi Shmary Brownstein