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I saw this posting regarding a Shabbaton for the Deaf-Blind. They are seeking volunteers to be deaf-blind guides and interpreters.

These people communicate by feeling the signs done in the hands of an ASL (Amer. Sign Language) interpreter, and they are sometimes guided by the same person as well. Considering that there is a halacha against negi'ah (touching), can a male be a guide for a female or a female guide / interpret for a male?

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This should fall into the same category as visiting a doctor of the opposite gender. Because just like the Shach Yoreh Deah 195:20 says that according to the Rambam, the only issur of negiah is when the negiah is with hana’a, or pleasure, but in medical care there is no pleasure involved so it would be muttar to treat a patient of the opposite gender. So too here there is no pleasure involved.

Ideally, one should try to see a doctor of the same gender.¹ However, it is permitted to see a doctor of the opposite gender if there is no other option.¹ (Halachipedia)


1. Nishmas Avraham Yoreh Deah 195

2. Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (as quoted by Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner)

  • Gemara Ta’anit 21b brings a story of Abba Umna who was a doctor and is praised for putting the men and women in separate areas and for having a special garment that covered the women when he was treating them. This Gemara implies that it is unique and praiseworthy that Abbau Umna did this, which shows that the ordinary person is not required to do these things. This can be a source for male doctors being permitted to touch female patients while treating them.

  • Gemara Bava Metziah 91a quotes Rav Yehuda who says that a professional who causes two animals to mate directly is not doing anything wrong because he is involved in his professional job. There is no problem of Pritzus because he is busy with his professional job, so he will not have any inappropriate urges.

  • Shach Yoreh Deah 195:20 says that according to the Rambam, the only issur of negiah is when the negiah is with hana’a, or pleasure, but in medical care there is no pleasure involved so it would be muttar to treat a patient of the opposite gender

  • All the answers were great, so I may need to make another bounty. Yours offered multiple viewpoints, which I appreciated the most. – DanF May 14 '18 at 15:02
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R. Joseph Messas wrote the following responsum on the similar issue of touching between a nurse and patients.

Otzar Hamichtavim Vol. III # 1,833

תשובה דבר פשוט אצל כל הפוסקים שאין אסור נגיעה בעריות אלא דרך תאוה וחבה שמביאה לידי הרגל עבירה אבל נגיעה של עבודה ושירות של שעבוד לאחרים לא אסרה תורה ולא אסרו חכמים עיי' מזה באגרות משה חאבה"ע סי' י"ד שהאריך בראיות בזה וכאן האחות משרתת ומשועבדת לרופאים ולחולים ולבה רק על עבודתה שלא תטעה ותזיק והחולה לבו שבור ונכנע ולא חיישינן לשום דבר ושלום

Answer: It is taken for granted amongst all decisors that the prohibition of touching the forbidden relationships is only in a lustful and romantic manner which brings one to accustomed sin. But touching as part of work and service and duty towards others was never forbidden by the Torah, nor by the Sages. See on this the Igrot Moshe E.H. # 14, where he proves this at length. In this case where the nurse is serving and has a duty towards the doctors and the patients and her heart (mind) is only on her work so that she should not mess up and cause harm, and the patient's heart (mind) is broken and downtrodden, we are not concerned for anything. Peace.

It would seem very possible that the same circumstances apply in your case.

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Similar to abochur's response, this article quoting Rabbi Shimon Taub writes,

Drawing on Rambam’s position on the laws of negiah, Rabbi Taub explains that, under very limited circumstances, touching may be permitted where there is no intent for physical pleasure. However, Rabbi Taub stresses that when a deaf-blind individual seeks to hire an SSP (a trained paraprofessional who, via tactile signing, fosters interaction between the deaf-blind individual and his surroundings, e.g., informs him who is in the room, who is speaking, when to sit down for lunch, et cetera), he or she should make every effort to find someone of the same gender. The leniency only applies when there is no other option. “The point is to try to find heterim within halachah,” says Rabbi Taub. “The average person doesn’t have to rely on kulot. But when dealing with people who have no other form of communication, there are kulot that one would be permitted to rely on.”

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