Topics: What is Shomer Negiah? - About.com Religion & Spirituality
If you ve ever tried to shake hands with an Orthodox Jew of the opposite sex, you might have been told, "I m shomer negiah" or had the individual refrain from taking your hand. If you re not familiar with the concept of shomer negiah , it can seem foreign, archaic, or even counter-cultural.
In practice, the terminology refers to someone who refrains from physical contact with individuals of the opposite sex. This observance excludes immediate family members, including one s spouse, children, parents, siblings, and grandparents.
There are other exceptions to this rule, such as a doctor treating a patient of the opposite sex. Medieval rabbis allowed for a male doctor to examine a woman, despite the necessity to touch, according to the assumption that the doctor is preoccupied with his work ( Tosafot Avodah Zarah 29a).