Kissing Significance in the Jewish Torah

by Katharine Viola
Kissing references in the Torah play a large role in understanding the feelings and motives of biblical figures.

Kissing references in the Torah play a large role in understanding the feelings and motives of biblical figures.

Kissing is an important action in Judaism, and is a widespread practice among Jews. There is no religious obligation to kiss a holy object, however Jews believe kissing displays veneration and devotion to Judaism and loyalty to God. The Hebrew word for kiss is “nashay,” which means to literally or figuratively touch something. (See Reference 2). The Torah teaches the significance of kissing, which Jewish practitioners incorporate into their theological practices.

Kissing and Trust

According to the Torah, a kiss is more than just a greeting; it represents loyalty. In the book of Exodus, God instructs Aaron to work with Moses to free the Israelites. Aaron greets Moses with a kiss. The kiss signifies their loyalty to each other, God and their faith. By working together, Aaron and Moses were able to free the Israelites.

Kissing and Weeping

Kissing references in the Torah are often accompanied with weeping. Genesis 45:15 states: “And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him." This verse references Joseph reuniting with his brothers after years of separation. The kiss and the tears represent Joseph forgiving his brothers for selling him to the Egyptians, as well as the overwhelming joy of their reunion. Tears of joy or tears of forgiveness often correlate with kissing. Like the kiss, weeping is an extreme emotion that expresses intimacy and understanding.

Kissing Holy Objects

Jews incorporate kissing into their theological practices, and there are many instances when they perform this gesture. For example, it is common for people to kiss the Torah during services. Similarly, it is customary to touch the end of the tzitzit, a tassel attached to a prayer shawl, to the first word of a verse in the Torah. The tzitzit is kissed before the Torah blessing is read.

A Good and Bad Kiss

Jews believe there is a distinction between a good and bad kiss. The ultimate good kiss is pure, sublime and done with affection. A bad kiss deceives and misleads the receiver into believing he or she is accepted and loved. By reading the Torah, and other books from the Hebrew Bible like the “The Tenth of Tevet” from the Second book of Kings, Jews learn how to acknowledge the difference between and good and bad kiss.

About the Author

Katharine Viola lives just north of Philadelphia and has been writing cultural articles and papers since her time at Penn State University. Additionally she has completed a Masters thesis at New York University, where she recieved a degree in visual culture with a concentration on historical fashion.

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