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There seems to be a custom that men hug (cheek kiss) each other when they greet each other (especially if they did not see each other for a long time).
Are Jews permitted to do so? (does it matter if they are single?)

The idea that it might be forbidden came from these sources:

Shulchan Aruch 20:1

הבא על אחת מן העריות דרך איברים או שחבק ונשק ונהנה בקירוב בשר הרי זה לוקה וחשוד על העריות:
...or he hugged and kissed (one of the people with whom sexual relations are forbidden) or had pleasure from the nearness of the flesh, he receives lashes....

Shulchan Aruch 21:7

המחבק או המנשק אחת מהעריות שאין לבו של אדם נוקפו עליהם כגון אחותו הגדולה ואחות אביו וכיוצא בהם אע"פ שאין לו שום הנאה כלל הרי זה מגונה ביותר ודבר איסור הוא ומעשה טפשים שאין קרבים לערוה כלל בין גדולה בין קטנה חוץ מהאב לבתו ומהאם לבנה
To hug or kiss one of the arayos whom people do not normally lust after, such as his adult sister or his aunt or similar, even though he derives no pleasure at all, is very reprehensible, forbidden, and the act of a fool. This is because we do not come close to arayos at all, whether (female) adult or minor, except the father to his daughter and the mother to her son.

Aruch Hashulchan 20:18

כן אסור לאיש להתחכך לאיש באיבריו דרך תאוה
It is also forbidden for a man to rub another man on his limbs in a lustful way

Beer Haitiv 24:1

surely a single man must stay away from to sleeping together (on the same bed) with another single man (in privacy), and this behavior should be protested against


kissing might only be a problem if on the lips so this question is mainly regarding hugging
Rabainu Bechaya 29:11 (Ramban 29:9)

(Regarding how was it permit for Yaakov to kiss Rochel) she was a child (under 3 years old) who can not have relations... or we can say that this kiss was on the head or the shoulder, since the Scripture did not say "on her mouth" (Ibn Ezra)

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  • Keep reading to Siman 24 – Double AA Jul 31 '19 at 11:21
  • Possibly part of an answer וַיִּשַּׁק יַעֲקֹב לְרָחֵל, כָּל נְשִׁיקָה לְתִפְלוּת בַּר מִן תְּלַת, נְשִׁיקָה שֶׁל גְּדֻלָּה, נְשִׁיקָה שֶׁל פְּרָקִים, נְשִׁיקָה שֶׁל פְּרִישׁוּת. sefaria.org/Bereishit_Rabbah.70.12 – hazoriz Jul 31 '19 at 16:37
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שמואל א כ מא

הַנַּעַר֮ בָּא֒ וְדָוִ֗ד קָ֚ם מֵאֵ֣צֶל הַנֶּ֔גֶב וַיִּפֹּ֨ל לְאַפָּ֥יו אַ֛רְצָה וַיִּשְׁתַּ֖חוּ שָׁלֹ֣שׁ פְּעָמִ֑ים וַֽיִּשְּׁק֣וּ ׀ אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵ֗הוּ וַיִּבְכּוּ֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵ֔הוּ עַד־דָּוִ֖ד הִגְדִּֽיל׃

Shmuel A 20 41

When the boy got there, David emerged from his concealment at the Negeb. He flung himself face down on the ground and bowed low three times. They kissed each other and wept together; David wept the longer.

I do agree it probably wasn't a kiss on the mouth, though.

Especially for people that prefer Gemara prove over Tanach:

משנה ראש השנה ב ט

...עמד רבן גמליאל ונשקו על ראשו (של רבי יהושע), אמר לו: בוא בשלום, רבי ותלמידי, רבי בחכמה, ותלמידי שקיבלת את דברי.

Raban Gamliel stood and kissed him (R' Yehoshua) on his head and told him my teacher and student, my teacher in wisdom, and my student for listening to my commands.

BTW, I do think that Yaakov kiss to Rachel was on the mouth, and it was romantic.

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  • A very good example, but we never learn Halacha from scriptures. You can't bring mikra over Shu"A. That's why I asked the OP to remove the quotes. – Al Berko Jul 31 '19 at 12:51
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    @AlBerko Your comment isn't so simple. For example, are you suggesting that the Shulchan Aruch is over-ruling the Written Torah? The Beit Yosef wouldn't make such a claim. Rather, we rely upon the Sages to teach us (most of the time) how to properly understand the text of the Written Torah. – Yaacov Deane Jul 31 '19 at 13:02
  • @AlBerko I've added Mishna source. – Alaychem goes to Codidact Jul 31 '19 at 13:12
  • The Mishnah source says "head". How does that become proof that Ya'akov kissed Rachel on the mouth and it was romantic? – DanF Jul 31 '19 at 13:38
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    your BTW is going against Ibn Ezra, Ramban, and Rabinu B'chaya. do you have an answer for this?judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/22432/yaakov-kissing-rachel – hazoriz Jul 31 '19 at 14:01
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In the literal sense of the word, a guy hugging or kissing a guy is technically "homosexual" behavior, since it involves two people of the same sex.

However we need to look at the intent of the hugging or kissing. According to Torah Law, male-male contact is only permitted if it doesn't have any sexual undertones. If it was for lustful pleasurable reasons, then it would be prohibited.

This is indicated in the Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha'ezer 20:1) cited in the OP.

הבא על אחת מן העריות דרך איברים או שחבק ונשק ונהנה בקירוב בשר הרי זה לוקה וחשוד על העריות:

...or he hugged and kissed (one of the people with whom sexual relations are forbidden) or had pleasure from the nearness of the flesh, he receives lashes....

While only male-male anal sex is a capital crime (Vayikra 20:13), nevertheless any male-male contact that has sexual undertones is prohibited as an accessory to the sin (אביזרייהו דגילוי עריות).

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    He knows this. He's asking how hugging a friend is different from hugging an aunt where the same logic applies. – Double AA Jul 31 '19 at 17:27
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    This is not immediately obvious from reading the heading of the question, or the OP itself. If that was his intent, then it needs some serious editing. – IsraelReader Jul 31 '19 at 17:59
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    I don't disagree – Double AA Jul 31 '19 at 20:46
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There's a gemoro in sota about twin sisters, one of them was mezaneh and the other drunk the sota water, she did not explode but when she got home and she kissed her sister, then her sister exploded because of the liquid from her mouth.

So they clearly did kiss on the mouth.

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    Hi andrew tribe, welcome to Mi Yodea. I don't believe that this addresses the question, and would be better as a comment (once you have enough reputation points). – magicker72 Jun 30 at 13:59
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    A woman having relations with a woman is not an ervah – hazoriz Jun 30 at 14:42
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    It doesn't sound like these sisters were known for following halacha, so this doesn't prove anything – Double AA Jun 30 at 18:28
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A man is not an ERVA to another man. Therefore kissing would not be an issue. Shulchan Orech OH 21 which the Mechaber titles להתרחק מן העריות starts with צריך אדם להתרחק מהנשים מאד מאד. It clearly specifies women and says nothing about staying away form men in the entire siman. With the exception of sending a child to be taught a trade by an idolater

It's an explicit posuk in the Torah that Moshe kissed his father in law Yisro (Shemos 18:7)

וַיֵּצֵ֨א משֶׁ֜ה לִקְרַ֣את חֹֽתְנ֗וֹ וַיִּשְׁתַּ֨חוּ֙ וַיִּשַּׁק־ל֔וֹ

Moses went out toward his father in law Yisroel, they bowed and he kissed him

Rashi bring the Mechilta that is was Moshe not Yisro who did the kissing.

It's also an explicit posek that Shmuel Hanovi kissed Shaul after anointing him as king. (Shmuel 10:1)

וַיִּקַּ֨ח שְׁמוּאֵ֜ל אֶת־פַּ֥ךְ הַשֶּׁ֛מֶן וַיִּצֹ֥ק עַל־רֹאשׁ֨וֹ וַיִּשָּׁקֵ֑הוּ

And Samuel took the vial of oil, and sprinkled it on his head, and kissed him.

There are many other such pesukim in Nach about men kissing

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    Your first paragraph needs some proof. It's not very compelling as just an assertion. – Double AA Jun 30 at 21:49
  • @DoubleAA I agree – hazoriz Jul 1 at 0:59
  • I though it was self evident but I edited the comment to give a source – Schmerel Jul 1 at 1:24
  • That's not a compelling source at all. Women is the most common case (of male attraction to an ervah) but it's by no means exclusive. I see no reason to think a man is not an erva to a man. – Double AA Jul 1 at 1:26
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The answers given already show clearly that a man kissing another man was classically allowed according to halacha. I would argue that in today's society, it would no longer be permitted, even with no sexual connotation.

We find that yichud, seclusion, is allowed between two men, yet in the days of the Shulchan Aruch it was already recommended to refrain from this.

לא נחשדו ישראל על משכב זכר ועל הבהמה לפיכך אין איסור להתייחד עמהן ... ובדורות הללו שרבו הפריצים יש להתרחק מלהתייחד עם הזכר:

We do not suspect Jewish men of lying with another man or with beasts. Therefore, we do not prohibit them from being alone with them... But in these generations because such corrupt people exist one should (therefore) try not be alone with a man. (Translation from Sefaria)

Even HaEzer 24

In today's world this would seem to apply all the more so here.

(I realize that distinctions could be made between this case and yichud. I am not pretending to give a ruling.)

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  • How do you go from "not recommended" to "no longer permitted"? – magicker72 Jun 30 at 22:53
  • @magicker via kal vachomer. Sure it violates dayo but the whole pshetl can't be made rigorous anyway unless you have some way to rigorously compare the metziuses, so take it all for what it's worth. Dayo is a matter of formal svara, but it's not always a 'good' svara. – Double AA Jun 30 at 23:04

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