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Prompted by this article is there any basis for not allowing woman to drive? Can this practice even be termed a 'minhag'? If so, what is the motivation behind this 'tradition'?

As quoted from the article:

One local rabbi told the paper that he supported the policy because it upheld the community’s traditional values. “It’s always been regarded in Hasidic circles as not the done thing for a lady to drive,” he commented.

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    It's obviously an infiltration from Reform since before the rise of the Reform movement in the 19th century, Jewish women never drove. Also, chodosh assur min hatorah. – Loewian Jun 2 '15 at 20:01
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    The Rama in Orach Chaim 472:4 says: > הגה: וכל הנשים שלנו מיקרי חשובות (מרדכי ריש פ' ע"פ ורבינו ירוחם), > אך לא נהגו Those who forbid women to drive would presumably understand this to mean that while women are important, they do not drive [נהג=driver]. – wfb Jun 3 '15 at 16:15
  • I think it's a dup – Shmuel Brin Jun 3 '15 at 17:37
  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/29765/… – Yishai Jun 3 '15 at 18:36
  • @ShmuelBrin, you missed a whole comment discussion about that very topic (it was now cleaned up). It has been decided that this question lives one, the other one is a dup of this one, and the one that asks about which communities do it is separate. – Yishai Jun 3 '15 at 18:37
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Shevet HaLevi 4:1 s.q. 2 by Rav Shmuel Wosner writes that "experience has taught him" that it is proper to completely forbid women driving because the activity of learning to drive leads to immodest behavior, and the driving itself violates the notion of "All glorious is the king's daughter within the palace" (Tehilim 45:14). He also points to the Talmud Pesachim 3 that is not "a woman's way" to ride on a donkey, and says that even though the two activities are different, the idea that it is not "a woman's way" is still present for reasons that are "difficult to explain in writing."

He then goes on the blame the prevalence of this sin for the high rate of fatalities on the roads in Israel.

Rav Binyamin Zilber in Az Nidberu Volume 13 #20 takes issue with this and says that in Talmudic times women rode on donkeys, it just isn't a nice image due to the standard riding position requiring spiting the legs over the animal and says that such stringency when not required leads to leniency when required.

I should also take issue with the statement "It’s always been regarded in Hasidic circles as not the done thing for a lady to drive" as the Lubavitcher Rebbetzin drove her own car (footnote 135). So it should really read "in some Hasidic circles."

  • @DoubleAA, his argument isn't that they get into more accidents. Its that the prevalence of the sin makes the roads dangerous. Please don't take this answer as an endorsement, it is just information the question requested. – Yishai Jun 3 '15 at 20:51
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    @DoubleAA, anyway the science isn't so clear on that, not that I think it matters one way or another. – Yishai Jun 3 '15 at 20:54
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    Funny thing is, if somehow driving is connected to pisuk raglayim, then men shouldn't drive either as the Chazzon Ish believed the issue applied to men too which is why they should wear long coats:) – user6591 Jun 4 '15 at 16:04
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Rav Roi Tamir in his sefer מאיר נתיבים, a compendium of Halachos of safety and driving, quotes both Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Wosner forbidding women from driving as it is a prohibition of Klei Gever- utensils which are exclusive to men.

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    Do you know what communities this psak was intended for? Klei Gever is a time and location specific Halacha. – Double AA Jun 4 '15 at 15:34
  • Could be. Just quoting. Bli neder I will get the exact info for it. – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 4 '15 at 15:34
  • Kli gever? What about a pen? The majority of authors used to be men! – bondonk Jun 4 '15 at 15:59
  • @bondonk like I said I'm just quoting – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 4 '15 at 16:00
  • @bondonk It's like that old expression: "you can't spell..." eh... never mind. – Loewian Jun 4 '15 at 17:29
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A while ago, I asked a Satmar Chassid who lives in my neighborhood about why women do not drive.

He explained that one of the reasons is that it is not considered derech tzni'ut - a way of modesty. He surmises that perhaps part of this origin was that when cars were developed, they had higher entrances - i.e., you had to step up (climb) into the car. When doing so, women had to raise their legs, thus revealing the lower part of their leg (and if wearing a loose skirt, perhaps, a higher area was also revealed.) Hence, perhaps, that concern lent itself to the original prohibition.

Another reason is that driving and cars' concerns was considered a "man's" role. Consider, for example, young boys and teenagers' interest in cars; stats showing few women drivers, in general for numerous decades until a spike around the 60's - 70's (Neither of my grandparents ever drove; my mom never drove; none of my aunts, except 1 of them drove - there's some consistency, I think); how few female auto mechanics / auto dealers, etc.

Also, a general consideration is that women should be at or near home and outside, minimally. Thus, it's deemed that driving a car is unnecessary.

As for being a passenger, they are passengers for "minimal" purposes, and it's almost always with the entire family, including the kids. When they attend weddings, often even the infants come with them, even to a friend's wedding.

There may also have been a security concern regarding sole women drivers. They are more likely to be harmed than men, and their own cars could be used as the very means or place of attack, as well.

For various reasons, not having women drive has become a long-established tradition that numerous Hasidic rebbe's enforce and the community follows the rebbe's policy.

It is debatable as to whether this would be "halacha" or minhag. It depends on your analysis. Personally, I would consider this "halacha" as there is a halacha to follow rules of modesty. If this is the rebbe's interpretation of what fits into these rules, then, for these Hasidim, it is their halacha.

  • According to your explanation, it is perhaps a halacha for women not to climb into the original model of car which forced them to raise their skirts, but even if it has become an established tradition in some circles to forbid it in other cars, that would still only be a minhag by definition. Halacha would still allow women in modern cars that do not have the modesty problems. – Baruch Jun 3 '15 at 17:37
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    Then they shouldn't be passengers either – Shmuel Brin Jun 3 '15 at 17:38
  • @ShmuelBrin See edited answer, above, that addresses being passengers vs. drivers. It's more than a modesty issue. – DanF Jun 3 '15 at 18:14
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Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak argues that men should only drive cars as it is analgous to a horse drawn carriage which where traditionally driven by men, making it a modesty issue.

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    Where is the tradition for men to drive carriages documented? Can you clarify what aspect of Jewish law he is appealing to? Minhag haMakom? Kli Gever? Dat Yehudit? – Double AA Jun 4 '15 at 16:07
  • @doubleaa, Modesty. Added to answer. – Yishai Jun 4 '15 at 16:11
  • @doubleaa, re documentation, he doesn't say, but it is still true, if you were ever around central park when they have them. It used to be a jpb anagous to a taxi driver. I doubt many women did that in the 19th century. – Yishai Jun 4 '15 at 16:14
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    Odd. I don't understand why the way things were done in the past determines what is modest now. Modesty is about breaking from the norm and standing out. His argument seems lacking in any halachic basis. – Double AA Jun 4 '15 at 16:16
  • @DoubleAA, modesty also has an objective component. Not sure why that would apply here specifically. Or perhaps his point is that this is the community standard in some communities (it isn't clear in the article if he was making a normative global statement, or defending the practice). – Yishai Jun 4 '15 at 17:25

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