Halacha for Wednesday 1 Adar 5779 February 6 2019

Kissing One’s Parents’ Hands on Shabbat Night

Question: Should one kiss the hands of one’s parents and receive a blessing from them on Shabbat night and does the same apply equally to one’s father and mother?

Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Avodah Zarah (17a) tells us that when Ulah (a sage who lived during the Talmudic era) would return from the Bet Midrash, he would kiss his father’s hands. Rashi there explains that it was customary among people that when one left the synagogue, one would kiss the top of the hands of one’s parents and those greater than him. The holy Zohar (Parashat Lech-Lecha) states that Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, as well as all other students of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, would kiss his hands. Similarly, the great Ari z”l would customarily visit his righteous mother’s home every Shabbat night, kiss her hands, and she would subsequently bless him. Clearly, Rabbeinu Ha’Ari discovered a reason for this according to the Kabbalah that there is a great benefit in kissing one’s mother’s hands and receiving a blessing from her, especially on Shabbat night.

In his Sefer Sha’ar Ha’Kavanot, he explains the reason for this according to the Kabbalah; the Mekubalim stress the importance of this matter and write that one should kiss the hands of one’s parents on Shabbat night, especially one’s mother’s hands. Even if one does not reside with them in the same house, nevertheless, if it is possible for one to go visit them and request their blessing, it is proper to do so. Rabbeinu Ha’Ari indeed taught this to this to his disciple, Rabbeinu Chaim Vital. Similarly, Maran Ha’Chida writes in his Moreh Be’Etzba that when one kisses the hands of one’s parents, one should have in mind to fulfill the Mitzvah of honoring one’s parents and when one kisses the hands of one’s mother, one should also have in mind that there is a mystical reason for doing so.

There are varying customs as to when is the proper time to receive one’s parents blessing: Some do this after reciting “Shalom Alechem” prior to reciting Kiddush while others customarily do so after Kiddush is recited. Our custom is to kiss one’s parents’ hands (if one is in the same house as one’s parents) after Kiddush is recited, after tasting some wine. At this point, the parents bless their sons and daughters with whatever they desire. Following this, Netilat Yadayim prior to the Shabbat meal is performed.

Ashkenazim customarily do not implement all of these honorary measures as they are not at all accustomed to hand-kissing, although it is indeed an ancient custom. Similarly, they do not kiss the hands of their sages; rather, they suffice with a handshake and a blessing. Nonetheless, even according to their custom, parents should take care to bless their children every Shabbat night, as Hagaon Harav Yaakov Emdin attests in his Siddur that this is indeed the Ashkenazi custom. However, Sephardic Jews customarily kiss their parents’ hands and they should not neglect this custom, for it has deep and important roots. Rabbeinu Eliyahu de Vidas (a student of Rabbeinu Moshe Cordovero), the saintly author of Reshit Chochma (Sha’ar Gidul Banim), has already warned that all parents should train their children when they are young to kiss the hands of their parents as well as the hands of great and pious individuals. (See Sefer Shulchan HaMa’arechet, page 56, who quotes the words of several Acharonim regarding this matter.)

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Havdala on Motza’ei Shabbat Which Coincides with Tisha Be’av and the Laws of an Ill Individual Who Must Eat on Tisha Be’av

On years during which Tisha Be’av falls out on Motza’ei Shabbat, such as this year, 5779, there are three opinions among the Rishonim regarding how Havdala should be recited on a cup of wine on Motza’ei Shabbat. The first opinion is that of the Geonim who write that one should r......

Read Halacha

Laws Pertaining to Tisha Be’av

There are five categories of abstinence which must be observed on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s body with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages also prohibited learning Torah on Tisha Be’av, for the word......

Read Halacha

Eating Meat Following Rosh Chodesh Av

The Mishnah in Masechet Ta’anit (26b) tells us that on Erev Tisha Be’av during the last meal one eats before the fast, one may not eat meat, drink wine, or eat two cooked foods, such as rice and an egg. Although the letter of the law dictates that the prohibition to eat meat only applies......

Read Halacha

Those Who are Obligated and Exempt from the Fast of Tisha Be’av and their Status When Tisha Be’av Falls Out on Motza’ei Shabbat

Someone Ill with a Non-Life-Threatening Illness, An Elderly Person, and a Woman who has Recently Given Birth One who is ill (meaning when one is actually bedridden and the like, even if the illness is not life-threatening) is exempt from fasting on Tisha Be’av. When in doubt about one’s......

Read Halacha


Insulation on Shabbat

Question: Is it permissible to cover a pot of food on an electric hotplate with a towel on Shabbat? Answer: Long ago, it was customary to cover a pot of food with (or immerse it in) dirt or sand in order to retain the food’s heat. Heat Increasers vs. Heat Retainers Some would immerse th......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Beginning of the Fast when Tisha Be’av Falls Coincides With Motza’ei Shabbat

The Baraita in Masechet Ta’anit (30a) states that our Sages prohibited five things on Tisha Be’av: Eating and drinking, washing one’s self, rubbing one’s self with oils or lotions, wearing leather shoes, and marital relations. Our Sages said (Ta’anit 30b): “One......

Read Halacha

Motza’ei Tisha Be’av and the Tenth of Av this Year (5779)

This year (5779), Tisha Be’av falls out on Shabbat. Thus, the fast is postponed until today, Sunday, the Tenth of Av. On other years when the fast is observed on the Ninth of Av, there are likewise some mourning customs observed on the Tenth of Av as well. We must therefore discuss the law ......

Read Halacha

The Laws of the Last Meal Before the Fast of Tisha Be’av This Year (5779)

On Erev Tisha Be’av, our Sages prohibited eating meat and drinking wine during the last meal before the onset of the fast of Tisha Be’av held after halachic midday. They likewise forbade eating two cooked foods during this meal. Nevertheless, this year, 5779, since the fast of Tisha Be&r......

Read Halacha