Research suggests that a Mechitza is often implemented in a synagogue to prevent distractions and impure thoughts for men during prayer, which is understandable. However, it raises the question of why we assume that women would not experience similar impure thoughts. This is especially relevant in Orthodox synagogues where there may be one-way glass or women looking into the men's section, which is considered a normal practice.

Furthermore, numerous studies have shown little to no difference in the desire for such matters between men and women. These findings challenge the assumption that women are inherently immune to impure thoughts or distractions during prayer.

  • 1
    Please cite your studies because the Torah sources on these matters generally do assert that women do not have a similar temptation to sexual thoughts through visuals. We would have to go through them and compare to see if they disagree or are talking about something related but not the same (i.e. it's not that women are less desirous but their desire is borne from different stimuli, as has been shown in many studies such as studies on preferences in pornography) etc.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 16:39
  • While it is true that visual stimuli can play a role in sexual arousal for many individuals, it is important to recognize that there is a wide range of factors that can contribute to arousal and attraction, including emotional connection, personal preferences, fantasies, and individual differences in sexual response. It is also worth noting that people's preferences and responses to stimuli can vary significantly, and there is no universal rule or pattern that applies to all men or all women. Sexual arousal is a deeply personal and individual experience, influenced by a multitude of factors. Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 17:02
  • It's very clear that sexual arousal can come from almost ANYTHING (these days more than ever seemingly) and everyone's got an individual experience. However, even your quote implies statistical differences, which is exactly the kind of thing Torah works with to decide halacha. pubmed: Sexual desire is typically higher in men than in women, with testosterone (T) thought to account for this difference as well as within-sex variation in desire in both women and men. However, few studies have incorporated both hormonal and social or psychological factors in studies of sexual desire.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 17:06
  • I wouldn't inquire about this specific aspect regarding women observing men in general. Generally, women do not typically avoid looking at men in public places such as malls or in magazines. Since there is no inherent sin of Self-exploration (controversial). However, in the context of our discussion, the focus is on protecting oneself from impure thoughts during prayer. Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 17:09

1 Answer 1


(The question here made a bunch of assumptions, but ... let's give this a go ...)

The Gemara says that when men and women were in the Temple together, there was kalut rosh -- best translated as "disinhibited behavior" -- and thus they created a separate section for them.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's opinion was that a mechitzah serves, essentially, two functions:

A.) To keep the genders from mingling; and a wall sets a stronger tone about this than just asking people to sit separately.

(If this was the only reason, then a clear glass wall would be okay.)

B.) The Talmud says a man shouldn't pray near an inappropriately-dressed woman. Many a synagogue has female visitors who are baring "sleeves and more."

Rabbi Feinstein thus advised a mechitza that was opaque up to five feet -- at which point the only thing visible from the men's side would be the women's heads, assuming an average women's height; and women's heads being visible is not a problem.

Now what about the women praying in the presence of inappropriately-dressed men? I've been to a lot of synagogues, and the dudes are usually covering their skin okay.

Thus, we have a symmetric problem solved by any wall, and an assymetric problem solved by one-way glass.

The other critical advantage of one-way glass: if a man can't see the women's side, what's he missing vis-a-vis the worship? If the woman can't see the men's side, she can't see the main parts of the service.

  • To clarify, are you saying that women are safer from impure thoughts because men generally dress more appropriately?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 17:12
  • This gets complicated, since for men its not like 'only not Tzinus women' can cause a man to sin, our Gedolim avoided looking at females entirely. I'm sure there are a lot of commentary on this topic of which would answer this. Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 17:30
  • @bethebest indeed there is plenty of material on this.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 17:34
  • 3
    @RabbiKaii There are no claims about safety from thoughts. All the attendees see each other on the street all the time. The issue is the rabbinic prohibition of men praying in sight of insufficiently dressed women (even his spouse, thoughts of whom would hardly be impure, or his mom, thoughts of whom should hardly be a realistic concern). A women would also need an opaque mechitza to separate from uncovered parts of a person that she can't pray in front of judaism.stackexchange.com/a/56273/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 19:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .