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The Gemara tells us that a man may not marry a woman without first seeing her because if she turns out to be displeasing to him then he will transgress the mitzvah of "Ve'ahavtah lerei'acha kamocha"(loving one's fellow as himself). The assumption is that this refers to whatever may be seen by him within the bounds of the laws of Tzniyus (loosely translated as "modesty")

Since a blind man cannot see, does this not apply and may he therefore get married without "seeing" his prospective bride?

Or do we say that a blind man "sees" with his hands and if she would be displeasing to him there would be the problem of Ve'ahavta?

If that is the case is there now a heter for him to touch her in order to fulfill the mitzvah of getting married and in order to not transgress the mitzvah of ve'ahavta?

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Hmm. Wouldn't the fact that her appearance cannot displease him make the entire concern moot? –  Seth J Dec 31 '12 at 21:40
    
@SethJ, that depends. There are physical characteristics that could be displeasing to him (by feel), that a sighted person would detect visually. Does the blind man get a chance to detect them by touch? Or does he instead have to ask her questions that might embarrass one or both of them? –  Monica Cellio Nov 11 '13 at 22:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Certainly the literal sight issue is moot. But we'd apply the same principle, he should not marry someone unless he has good reason to believe it will be a happy marriage.

A blind man in fact asked this question of Rabbi Yuval Cherlow of Petach Tikva, explaining that he would normally feel a woman's face to determine if she is attractive. Rabbi Cherlow, in this context, allowed him to briefly feel his date's face, if they are seriously marriage-minded.

If you view all touching between genders as absolutely prohibited, this wouldn't fly. (And indeed I think many right-wingers completely dismissed Rabbi Cherlow's ruling.) But if you follow the opinions that the prohibitions there are more nuanced, Rabbi Cherlow's psak makes a lot of sense.

(Of course then some wiseguy asked -- I'm blind in one eye; can I touch her with one hand?

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Maybe I'm noodling here. But if the man really is blind, and there's little or no chance of his regaining his sight, then would it really matter to him whether she's attractive? I could understand him wanting to make sure that there's nothing else that he'd find offputting (her voice, for example); but I'm having a hard time seeing (sorry) why he would need to feel her face, unless simply to check whether she's got acne or something. –  Alex Feb 13 '11 at 4:31
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Alex, my understand was that in this case, the man felt that his impression of her face could give him a good determination whether he'd feel attracted to her in general; the question was posed in those terms. I have no idea what the realities of different people's situations will be. –  Shalom Feb 13 '11 at 23:46

I don't have the sources, but I was told that the commentators say that someone for whom the physical appearance doesn't matter, may marry without seeing the woman. This was stated regarding someone on an exceptionally high spiritual level, but I don't see why it wouldn't apply to someone physiologically prevented from caring about looks. (Maybe there should be a distinction between a man that was once able to see, and therefore can appreciate beauty, and someone who was always blind.)


Anecdote: I was (wrongly) assumed to be on such a level, and first saw my wife in the yichud room.

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I don't know anything about you, but it seems your anecdote disproves your about me statement: If I see a good hanhaga, why should I not take it on? –  Double AA Nov 12 '13 at 3:52
    
@DoubleAA Fixed that. Thanks. –  NBZ Nov 24 '13 at 17:20

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