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Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg ztz”l. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications and is the author of the books, Fascinating Insights and Incredible Insights. His writings inspire people across the spectrum of Jewish observance to live with the vibrancy and beauty of Torah. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes, and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

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It is commonplace to have agreements and pledges among other things done with a handshake. But do we see any places involving a handshake in the Torah? In five places, Yaakov’s name is written full, with the letter ו (יעקוב), while Eliyahu is spelled missing a ו in five places (אליה). Yaakov took a letter from Eliyahu’s name as security so that Eliyahu will come and herald the redemption of Yaakov’s children.[1] The Maharal[2] explains that the giving of a security was sealed by a handshake.[3] The letter ו resembles a finger, so five of them represent the hand, which finalizes the giving of security. By taking the ו from Eliyahu five times, Yaakov took his “hand” as a security to ensure that he would redeem his children. This is also alluded to through the fact that the numerical value of ו is six and five multiplied by six is 30. This leads us to the Mishna[4] that says that the hand is composed of thirty segments.

Business handshake partnership and teamwork - Stock Photo #19649939 |  PantherMedia Stock Agency

Where do we find in the Torah a source for shaking a person’s hand when you greet them? R’ Dessler[5] (1892-1953) once explained that greeting and blessing someone (when you greet a person with shalom, it is a form of bracha) with a handshake is sourced in the Torah. Why did Yaakov need to put his hands on Efraim and Menashe when giving them a bracha?[6] The answer is that when there is a connection between the one giving the bracha and the one receiving it, through the hands, at the time of the giving of the bracha, the bracha has a stronger effect. Similarly, the Tiferes Shlomo[7] (1801-1866) says that the hands serve as the conduit for the bracha. This is why people greet each other with a handshake.

[1] Vayikra 26:42, Rashi.

[2] Gur Aryeh, Vayikra 26:42.

[3] See Mishlei 6:1,3.

[4] Ohalos 1:8.

[5] Sefer Zikaron to Michtav M’Eliyahu, 2.

[6] Breishis 48:14.

[7] Tiferes Shlomo, Moadim, Shemini Atzeres, s.v. shivas. See also Rimzei Pesach, s.v. mipnei. Also Cited in Shalom Rav, p. 72.

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