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What are sources that support having a mechitzah or for gatherings in shul outside of davening such as kiddush, adult education, or other seudas mitzvah? Also helpful are sources that are against not having one. Thank you

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    Igrot Moshe OC 1:41 and 5:11
    – Double AA
    Jan 30, 2023 at 0:56
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    "Against not having" sounds the same as "support having". Do you mean "against having one"?
    – shmosel
    Jan 30, 2023 at 1:52
  • @shmosel it may sound the same and the result might be the same but the way the topic might be discussed would be different. This is the difference of being in favor of something versus being against the opposite. I've included both descriptions so that answers to this question could be more inclusive. If I only asked for arguments in favor then technically any answer which only focussed on being against not having one wouldn't answer the question.
    – Dude
    Jan 30, 2023 at 19:12
  • @TamirEvan edited now
    – Dude
    Jan 30, 2023 at 19:12
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    What difference does it make? If it is there to prevent histaklus b'nashim and any resulting kalus rosh etc. why should it make a difference if its a kiddush or shiur?
    – Dov
    Feb 4, 2023 at 23:37

2 Answers 2

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Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that for gatherings that are non-obligatory, such as weddings, he is in doubt as to the need for a mechitzah. He proceeds to bring a number of proofs that there is no obligation to erect a mechitzah for non-obligatory events, as we find concerning eating the Korban Pesach, and in other sources.

In another teshuva (Yoreh De’ah Vol. 4) he notes that the obligation for a mechitzah applies only to events that are open to the public, and not to private affairs (such as weddings) that are not open to the general public. For a Torah lecture open to the general public Rav Moshe writes (Orach Chaim 5:11) that there is an obligation of a mechitzah (since it is open to the general public), but if there is no option one should not refrain from teaching in such an environment, where doing so is for Kiruv purposes.

Other authorities are far more stringent, and write that even at weddings and similar functions there is a full prohibition on mixed seating of men and women. Rav Moshe Sternbuch (Teshuvos VeHanhagos 2:65) writes (concerning South Africa, where most weddings were mixed) that there is no room for leniency, noting that according to the Bach the Simcha Bime’ono blessing is not recited in a mixed environment, and adding that rabbis should refrain from attending such weddings (see also Shut Lev Avraham 1:135, who disputes Rav Moshe’s ruling at length).

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  • A warm welcome to MY, we hope you stay and continue to make excellent contributions like this answer!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jan 31, 2023 at 11:06
  • how are weddings and the karbon pesach non obligatory?
    – Dude
    Jan 31, 2023 at 15:10
  • the question asks for sources that say it's necessary so if igros moshe is saying it's not necessary then that doesn't answer the question
    – Dude
    Jan 31, 2023 at 15:13
  • Reb Moshe, like Rambam, distinguishes between preventing the men from gazing at the women (which relates to the subject of mechitzah) and the obligation to avoid frivolity (which doesn't necessarily require a mechitzah, only some means to avoid mixing) meaning physical contact of the hands, etc. Feb 7, 2023 at 18:12
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This is based on the general principle that the Shul, the בית כנסת, is considered to be G-d’s residence (מעונו).

And in this context, in all places where ten or more congregate, separation is relevant, just like with the בית המקדש.

See Bereshit Rabbah 55:7 for the concept.

And this concept is emphasized in Sefer Chassidim 393:1 by Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid,who says:

כתיב (דברי הימים א טז כז) הוד והדר לפניו עוז וחדוה במקומו לכך אמר שהשמחה במעונו. לכך אמר פסוק שיש בו רמז השם בשמים ובארץ כגון ישמחו השמים ותגל הארץ ר"ת השם של ארבע אותיות. כשיש גילה בארץ ברעדה אז שמחה בשמים לפניו. כל המברך שהשמחה במעונו צריך לחקור אם קיימו וגילו ברעדה אם רעדה במקום גילה. אבל אם לוקח אדם אשה שאינה הגונה או היא לוקחת איש שאין הגון או שניהם אינם הגונים. או אין תרבות שם ונבול פה ביניהם. או נשים יושבות בין האנשים שהרהורים שם לא יתכן לברך שהשמחה במעונו. ועל אלה וכיוצא בהם נאמר (ירמיהו טו יז) לא ישבתי בסוד משחקים ואעלוזה. וכתיב (ישעיהו כח ח) כי כל שלחנות מלאו קיא צואה בלי מקום לא אבוא שמוע בגימטריא עשרה אומר שכינה לא אבו שמוע דברי תורה ולשמחה מה זו עושה כתיב מה זו עושה בין תלמידי חכמים ובין לצים כל מצוה הבאה עבירה על ידה מוטב שלא יעשה המצוה כמו מצוה לשמח החתן. ואם יש שם פריצי' ויודע שבלא פריצות לא יהיה או אינו יכול להיות בלא הרהור או אינו יכול להיות מלראות בנשים אל יהיה שם:

These are very strong words from Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid and he is not mentioning mechitza at all, but the possibility, or worse, the likelihood of frivolity. He says in such a place it is better not to be present, even for a mitzvah like a wedding.

And it shouldn't be missed that the posuk from Tehillim 96:11 (and also 1 Divrei HaYomim 16:31) that Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid uses to illustrate this concept actually contains two names of G-d, the one from the Roshei Teivot pertains to the men (יהוה) and the one from the Sofei Teivot (in reverse order) pertains to the women (צלמו). And these two names are in separate locations (beginning and end of the words), not mixing or touching.

The balance of this answer can be found in part 5 of the following web site dealing with the subject of the need to separate men and women in the Beit Knesset.

The concept of the separation of men and women in the Beit Knesset is learned from the practice which was instituted in the Temple like is mentioned in Sukkah 51b which says:

בְּמוֹצָאֵי יוֹם טוֹב כּוּ׳. מַאי תִּיקּוּן גָּדוֹל? אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר: כְּאוֹתָהּ שֶׁשָּׁנִינוּ: חֲלָקָה הָיְתָה בָּרִאשׁוֹנָה. וְהִקִּיפוּהָ גְּזוּזְטְרָא, וְהִתְקִינוּ שֶׁיְּהוּ נָשִׁים יוֹשְׁבוֹת מִלְמַעְלָה וַאֲנָשִׁים מִלְּמַטָּה.

The men and women are seated separately. The women are seated above and the men are below preventing the men from viewing the women.

There are some important points regarding the details mentioned in Sukkah 51b that should be noted.

It mentions the differences between the first Temple and the second Temple. In general, the sanctity of the first Temple was greater than the sanctity of the second Temple.

In the description of the first Temple, both the men and the women stood. In the second Temple, the language used refers to sitting (יוֹשְׁבוֹת). The general rule is that only the King and the Kohen Gadol are permitted to sit in the courtyards.

It mentions in regard to the time of the second Temple, both the Temple in Jerusalem and the similar copy (the Beit Knesset) that was in Alexandria in Egypt.

It emphasizes that this principle of increased separation was manifest both in regard to the Beit Knesset in Alexandria (the men were separated according to their trades/professions) and with the second Temple in Jerusalem (the place where the women stood in the Women's Courtyard was reversed with that of the men and ultimately the balconies were built to physically elevate the women above the level of the men and to have the women sit). This increased separation is a sign of the decreased sanctity of the second Temple.

There are two reasons mentioned as to why this separation was made. The first is according to the view of Rambam in his commentary to Mishnah Sukkah 5:2 which says that it was to prevent the men from gazing at the women.

שהיו מכינים מקום לנשים ומקום גדור לאנשים, ומקום הנשים למעלה על מקום האנשים גבוה ממנו כדי שלא יסתכלו האנשים בנשים.

The second reason is like is discussed by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim, Vol. I, Simonim 39-43. Reb Moshe says the reason is to prevent mixing.

Reb Moshe bases this on wording from Rambam used in Mishnah Torah, Hilchot Shofar Sukkah v'Lulav 8:12 which says:

והיו מתקנין במקדש מקום לנשים מלמעלה ולאנשים מלמטה כדי שלא יתערבו אלו עם אלו.

Reb Moshe goes further in Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim, Volume 1, 39-40 to clarify that this concept of the separation of men and women is because of the obligation to avoid frivolity in the solemn environment of the Beit Knesset.

ורק בשביל קלות ראש הוא חיוב המחיצה. קלות ראש שהוא להרבות שיחה ביניהם ולנגיעה בידיהם וכדומה

Reb Moshe explains that frivolity is the idea of talking and the touching of hands (perhaps like when passing food between one another) and similar things.

It should be noted concerning the responsa in Igrot Moshe that his language is with many qualifications, in particular about what is and is not considered to be a Beit Knesset. Even a place for fixed prayer and with a regular quorum may not be assumed to have the status of a Beit Knesset. There are about half a dozen letters discussing the subject and many refer back to earlier letters, clarifying his view. The question posed here is about a “Shul”, which is usually understood to mean a valid Beit Knesset. The responsa from Igrot Moshe must be read in that that context.

And this concern over frivolity is also the ruling from Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 149:1 which says:

צְרִיכִין לִזָּהֵר שֶׁלֹּא יֹאכְלוּ אֲנָשִׁים וְנָשִׁים בְּחֶדֶּר אֶחָד. שֶׁאִם אוֹכְלִים אֲנָשִׁים וְנָשִׁים בְּחֶדֶר אֶחָד, אֵין אוֹמְרִים שֶהַשִּׂמְחָה בִּמְעוֹנוֹ, כִּי אֵין שִׂמְחָה כְּשֶיֵצֶר הָרַע שׁוֹלֵט.

A similar distinction is made by the Tzitz Eliezer, vol. 7, siman 8, who emphasizes that the type of mechitzah required for the Beit HaKnesset during prayer must make it impossible for men to see women. He says traditionally this was a floor to ceiling wall with small holes high up the wall to allow for the sound of the service to be heard by the women. But a different type of mechitzah for the purpose of modesty and to prevent frivolity is less stringent. It can be used for things like lectures where men and women will attend together, whether organized or not. But he emphasizes that even in these situations not involving prayer, some type of mechitzah is required.

In this context it is worth noting the comment of Rabbi, Dr. Yoseph B. Soloveitchik who wrote in his book on Mechitzah, Pg. 13 the following:

The separation of the sexes in the synagogue is a basic tenet in our faith. It dates back to the very dawn of our religious halachic community, and constitutes a Torah prohibition which can never be abandoned by any legislative act on the part of a Rabbinic or lay body regardless of its numeric strength or so-called prominence. What was decreed by God can never be undone by human hand.

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  • Rabbi, Dr. Yoseph B. Soloveitchik opened a ran a coed day school. Your selective quoting from him to try and confuse your readers is disingenuous at best.
    – Double AA
    Feb 9, 2023 at 15:07

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