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If the men and women aren't dancing together, is it strictly required that there also be a mechitza between them? If so, why? What guidelines would this mechitza have to meet?

Or is it simply a smart practice, to avoid gawking and/or mixed dancing?

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Shalom, I'm confused: in your title you ask about dancing, but in the body you ask about the non-dancing parts. Can you please clarify what you are truly asking about? –  Double AA Aug 28 '12 at 6:03

5 Answers 5

From page 10 of here:

It is expressly stated in the Commentaries Bayith Hadash Beth Shmu'el on Shulchan Aruch Eben ha-Ezer 62, that the formula, "We will bless our G-d in whose abode is joy," is not to be recited at the Grace after a wedding feast [as it usually would be], if men and women are found together in one room-because there is no joy in G-d's dwelling when the yetzer hara' (Evil Impulse) is present.

See page 13 as well:

It is forbidden for women to mingle among the men, either at a ritual meal or at any other occasion; rather must women be apart and men apart, for we reason from the lesser to the greater: if for a time of mourning it is written that the House of Israel shall lament every family apart, the House of David apart and their wives apart, how much more is separation necessary at feasting and rejoicing, for then the Evil Impulse is provocative (Sefer ha-Pardes, 19b).

The previous quote is referring to a statement in the Talmud (Sukkah 52A), see page 7:

They [the Sages] came across a verse and interpreted it: And the land shall mourn, every family apart: the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart (Zechariah 12:12). Said they: Can we not reason from the lesser to the greater? If in the [Messianic] future when they will be occupied with mourning, and the Evil Inclination will have no sway over them, the Torah says that men and women shall be separate, now that people are engaged in festivity, and they are subject to the Evil Inclination, how much more certainly must they be separate (Sukkah 52a).

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It's also brought in Kitzur SH"A –  Shmuel Brin Aug 17 '11 at 22:38
    
Yes, and other commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch say it's normal to have mixed seating. So perhaps I should rephrase: if you follow the opinions that mixed seating is okay, is there an absolute requirement for a dancing mechitza? –  Shalom Aug 17 '11 at 23:46
    
I always found it odd that a curse in Zechariah is used as a reason to make things that way on purpose. Why would you force curses upon yourself :( –  avi Aug 18 '11 at 8:34

I know my answer will make people angry, but whatever. When I was a child, weddings had separate dancing, no mechitzah. As I got older, bushes and plants were used to create a division between men and women on smaller dance floors. As I got even older, dance floors got larger, and giant 8-10 foot tall mechitzas were found in the middle of the wedding. And now ofcourse, people aren't even allowed to eat with their spouses or families. As for my own wedding, we had low flowers down the middle, and there were plenty of Black Hat Rabbis at our wedding, all happily dancing.

Ofcourse, the whole wedding here/ dancing and eating there thing is new as well. Take a look at these old pictures where the dancing was done at the chupah, and the people are completely mixed and mingled about.

http://borzykowski.users.ch/Mariage.jpg

http://dancutlermedicalart.com/AlbertEinstein'sZionism/images/250%20pixels/1861%20Jewish%20Wedding.jpg

http://images.arcadja.com/gurevich__eduard-jewish_wedding_in_old_vilna~300~11174_20100216_13_43.jpg

And a photograph from 1899, Yaffa, showing the same basic setup. http://www.israelnationalnews.com/static/blogs/20071115113255.jpg

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Of course, the more concerned you are that some guests might try mixed dancing, the more need for a mechitza. But thank you, that's quite interesting. –  Shalom Aug 17 '11 at 13:48
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In his motzaei Shabbat lecture series of 2010-2011, Rabbi Willig said the same thing basically: Now, a mechitza is "de rigeur". This implies it used to not be. –  Ze'ev Felsen Jan 6 '12 at 16:01
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The way that things were done 100 years ago is clearly the way they should be done now. <sarcasm> –  Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 4:28

I would like to add as I've heard from Rav Shimshon Pinkus zt'l and more recently by Rav Shmuel Dishon at the Totah Vodaas Annual Bain Hametzorim gathering as well as on Tisha B'av day at Ateres Chynka that most people think of a mechitza as an exclusionary measure. In truth however it is an inclusionary measure. The standard use of a mechitza is in Shul for davening. The presence of a mechitza allows woman to join in the tefila. The same would apply to a simcha. No doubt that a mechitza is needed to avoid Kalos Rosh; to avoid gawking and/or mixed dancing. But even more so in order for women to join in the simcha and be a part of it.

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Eli, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for sharing that idea! Please consider registering your account, so that the site can keep track of your contributions no matter where you log on from. –  Isaac Moses Aug 16 '11 at 21:30
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Or to allow men to join in the simcha and be a part of it. –  Curiouser Aug 16 '11 at 23:56

To avoid Kalos Rosh.

http://www.jemsem.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=153&Itemid=54

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These answers make me cry. Not only do they pretend that a balcony and a mechitzah are the same thing, they also fail to recognize the difference between a separation in space, and a physical barrier which prevents vision. When he writes that he doesn't know what they did in Europe, he means that they had no mechitzas at weddings in Europe! –  avi Aug 17 '11 at 6:28
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I would also recommend getting rid of the shnapps to help with Kalot Rosh, but people might actually do that! –  avi Aug 17 '11 at 10:40

other than the reasons people mentioned in the other answer, there's the simple rule that a man can't see women dancing, so there's the need to put something to cover his field of vision.

I believe that because of the reality of today's generation you need to be more careful than in previous generations.

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"the simple rule that a man can't see women dancing" -- really? Where is this simple rule? The Gemara about Tu B'av at the end of Taanis seems to think otherwise. I agree, men shouldn't be gawking (especially the married ones at anyone other than their wives), but I'm unaware of "the simple prohibition." –  Shalom Aug 17 '11 at 13:47
    
What is "the reality of today's generation"? –  Bachrach44 2 mins ago

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