Although frequently mentioned in the Bible, kissing was regarded by the rabbis (Gen. R. 70:12) as obscene except in three instances: as a sign of respect – Samuel kissed Saul after he was anointed king (I Sam. 10:1); as a salutation if meeting after a long interval – Aaron kissed Moses (Ex. 4:27); and in farewell – Orpah kissed her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 1:14). R. Tanḥuma stated that kissing is also permissible between close relatives: Jacob kissed Rachel even before their marriage (Gen. 29:11). Kissing on the mouth was regarded as unhygienic and the custom of the Medes to kiss only the hand was praised by R. Akiva (Ber. 8b). According to the Talmud (BB 17a) the patriarchs and Aaron, Moses, and Miriam died from a kiss of God (mitah bi-neshikah). This was considered the highest privilege and was reserved for the pious (Ber. 8a; Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, part 3, 51 end). In later rabbinical literature, it is stated that a man should avoid kissing women because this leads to lewdness. Leviticus 18:6 "None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him to uncover their nakedness" is interpreted by Maimonides to refer "not only to sexual relations but to embracing and kissing too" (Sefer ha-Mitzvot, Negative Commandment, no. 353). A husband should not kiss his wife during menstruation and after she has given birth (see niddah ); these periods last until the termination of the woman's "uncleanness" and her immersion in a ritual bath . To kiss a woman other than one's mother, wife, daughter, or sister was regarded as indecent and was forbidden. To kiss religious objects is a sign of reverence and is a traditional custom popularly observed by Orthodox Jews: when putting on the tallit, the fringes are kissed; so are the tefillin; the mezuzah on the doorpost is kissed when leaving or entering a room, as is the Torah scroll when it is carried in a procession in the synagogue. It is also customary to kiss a Bible or prayer book if it falls on the floor. In some communities, children kiss the hand of their father on Friday eve before receiving the parental blessing at the commencement of the Sabbath (kabbalat shabbat ). Ḥasidic Jews kiss the hand of their rebbe and pious Jews the stones of the western wall . -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Loew, in: MGWJ, 65 (1921), 253–76, 323–49 (incl. bibl.); L.M. Epstein, Sex Laws and Customs in Judaism (19672), 105–9.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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