Question & Answer With Rabbi Micha Golshevsky - Emuna: In Our Hands
A Simple Jew asks:
Can you explain why Rebbe Nachman says that it displays more bitachon not to seal a deal with a handshake?
Rabbi Micha Golshevsky answers:
First of all, this segment from Sefer HaMiddos is certainly not meant to be a halacha. It is another way to help one strengthen bitachon, nothing more. It is very difficult to suggest otherwise since there are clear halachos in Choshen Mishpat that regulate the precise ramifications of a handshake to a deal. In some places this is the custom for all merchants and a handshake is halachically binding. Rebbe Nachman may tell us that it is be preferable to refrain from shaking hands but he does not mean to change even the smallest bit of Shulchan Aruch.
Now as for your excellent question: Rebbe Nachman teaches in Likutei Moharan that emunah is "in the hands." He learns this from an explicit verse regarding Moshe during the conflict between the Jews and Amalek: "And his hands were faith."
Now although on a simple level, this mean that a person's faith is very often revealed in what he does, it is also true that in a certain very deep way, our hands are repositories for faith and bitachon. How, you may ask? The answer is that when one is filled with faith he naturally raises his hands up to heaven since doing so is a mute petition for divine help which is always answered. Of course we do not always see the results of this gesture but on a deep kabalistic level lifting our hands up creates a channel to drawn down great spiritual influx. This is why the Zohar and the Arizal tell us to lift up our hands while we recite the blessing al netilas yadayim both in the morning and before eating bread. This creates a channel to bring down great blessing much like Moshe did during the fight with Amalek. Just as when the Jewish people gazed at his hands and strengthened their emunah, he was able to raise his hands above his head until they were victorious, so too, one who lifts up his eyes and hands to Hashem builds his own bitachon.
It is surely remarkable that the Ramak famously writes that one should not put his hands above his head for any reason other than to turn to Hashem. Since this is a way of drawing down spiritual influx, why should one do this for nothing? Of course that makes life a little difficult but there are some ways around the problem. Some explain that this is specifically both hands. According to this one can at least lift one hand above his head. Others say that if one must raise his hands above his head he should also focus on requesting divine bounty.
But what does this have to do with shaking hands?
Interestingly, there is an additional position which one should not make at all from a kabalistic standpoint: intertwine the fingers of both hands together. Kaballistically this mixes the kindness represented by the stronger right hand with the judgments symbolized by the weaker left hand.
Certain people are so careful about this that someone actually asked Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach if he is required to refrain from this halachically. Rav Auerbach replied that he saw no halachic reason to prohibit this.
It is therefore not surprising that when a certain woman pointed out to someone who had hardly ever heard of this practice that it is "forbidden" he was very upset. "Was it her job to walk around giving mussar for something which is not even slightly prohibited?" the chastised man later recounted.
But it is important to note that there are sources to avoid this practice.
For example the Shulchan Aruch HaRav from the Baal HaTanya says that it is better to avoid this except in difficult times since it draws a great judgment upon one. Yesod V'Shoresh HaAvodah and others say that one should be very careful never to do this and the Taamei Haminhagim brings from the Arizal that this is a detrimental practice that causes judgments.
Now we can understand the problem with shaking hands to consummate a business deal with another. Clearly this shows that one puts his trust and confidence in the person, clinching the deal as it were. But wouldn't it be better for bitachon to use a different method of agreement and raise one's hands to Hashem?
As far as shaking good Shabbos or Shalom Aleichem, etc, that is not a meant as a show of trust, merely a gesture of friendship and likely is not be in the same category at all. After all, love and shalom are also spiritual in nature. Or at least a higher expression of oneself then an agreement to purchase something or the like.
In addition there were some greats like the Chazon Ish, who rarely shook hands or touched another unless they were relatives or exceedingly close. But of course that does not stem from Rebbe Nachman and may have no relevance to bitachon at all.
But you may wish to remind me that as we Breslovers are always say Rebbe Nachman's Torah's are general in nature and can be applied to everyone. So how does this segment of Sefer HaMiddos applies to us regular folk? Should one really just daven not to shake hands with another to consummate a business deal? Is this really a necessary part of bitachon?
To this I would reply that this does indeed relate to us all. How? Rebbe Nachman teaches in Likutei Moharan that at every moment one's blood pulses either towards serving Hashem or the opposite chas v'shalom. The greatest ovdim- students of the Baal Shem Tov or the Gra etc. - were always aware of Hashem and everything about them demonstrated this.
Just as we all understand that one's posture tells us a lot of about himself, one's body language and motions do the same. It is not appropriate for someone whose hands are always raised in prayer to Hashem to feel comfortable shaking on a business deal without at least wishing he could express his confidence in Hashem instead. He may be required to seal a deal with a handshake, but surely he will be slightly pained and yearn for an expression of true bitachon to Hashem instead. This s a person who truly pulses for Hashem and desires Him at all times. In this context it is eminently clear that one can and should daven to attain this lofty level of practical bitachon in Hashem.
As the Chazon Ish famously said of Rav Yechezkel Levenstein the Mashgiach of Ponovitch, "He has emunah in his hands..."
Hashem should grant that we pulse for Hashem and merit emunah in our hands!