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What halachic issues are there with regards to modesty when visiting a public beach? I am referring to the summer time when people are generally dressed immodestly at the beach.

Does it help to visit a quieter beach where less people can be found?

How is a beach different then visiting a public thoroughfare, if there is any difference? (For example in the summer time you can find people dressed very beach-like in regular public places, but perhaps you shouldn't visit those places either...)

  • Why do you ask about a beach, as opposed to, say, an opposite-gendered locker room? Is there something unique about a 'beach' which you think might play a role in answering the question? If so, please edit to explicate it. – Double AA Jul 8 '15 at 18:41
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    @DoubleAA i believe most countries make it illegal to go into an opposite gendered locker room, which is not the case in regards to beaches. – Aaron Jul 8 '15 at 18:50
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    @DoubleAA, the question could be asked with regards to any such location (e.g. beach, opposite-gender locker room, etc.), but a beach is the most accessible and usual example I could think of. – Ani Yodea Jul 8 '15 at 18:53
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    @AniYodea So you're just asking if one is allowed to go hang out in a place where the other gender is walking around in their underwear (or less), and beach is just a convenient example? – Double AA Jul 8 '15 at 18:55
  • @DoubleAA, The thing with a beach is, that aside from immodest clothing, people can also act immodestly but the same can hold in those other locations... – Ani Yodea Jul 8 '15 at 19:13
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The difference between the beach and a public thoroughfare is in Bava Basra 57b:

ועוצם עיניו מראות ברע א"ר חייא בר אבא זה שאין מסתכל בנשים בשעה שעומדות על הכביסה היכי דמי אי דאיכא דרכא אחריתא רשע הוא אי דליכא דרכא אחריתא אנוס הוא לעולם דליכא דרכא אחריתא ואפ"ה מיבעי ליה למינס נפשיה

"He closes his eyes from seeing evil" (Isaiah 33:15). R' Chiya Bar Abba says this means someone who doesn't look at women while they're standing over the laundry (where parts of their bodies are exposed). How is this? If there's another road (and he doesn't take it), he is wicked. If there is no other road, he is forced (to see them)? Really it's where there's no other road, but still he is supposed to force himself. (And Rashbam adds that this is what the verse means: someone who does that is a pious person (chassid).

So in short, when walking down the street there's less of a choice: another street isn't necessarily going to have people dressed any better. Ideally you should avert your eyes, but you can't be called wicked for not doing that. But going to where the ladies are doing laundry (or are in bathing suits) when you could have avoided going there - is what the Gemara is calling wicked.

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    What is considered "could have avoiding going there"? It's pretty hard to find locations to surf that aren't at a beach. Only a Devar Mitzva? If so, can I only go out of my house to the street for a Devar Mitzva? – Double AA Jul 8 '15 at 21:18
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    @DoubleAA: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=42931&st=&pgnum=422 quotes a teshuva of R' Moshe (that volume isn't on Hebrewbooks) that distinguishes between walking for parnassah and similar, where a person can rely on himself to not have hirhur, vs. going for pleasure, where you're not supposed to do that. – Shamiach Jul 8 '15 at 21:53
  • So essentially, if you can go outside to get to the beach, then you can go to the beach as well. – Double AA Jul 9 '15 at 0:53
  • So, is walking on the boardwalk as part of a daily exercise routine a problem? Is the boardwalk considered "the beach" or just when you're on the sand or in the water? – DanF Jul 9 '15 at 3:06
  • @DoubleAA, I'm not following. Going outside to get to the beach is going for pleasure, no? – Shamiach Jul 9 '15 at 3:26

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