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Are men and women permitted to play volleyball against each other, with each team only one gender?

Does it make a difference if they are separated by an opaque wall or a regular net?

  • As always, CYLOR for a practical ruling. – msh210 May 10 '11 at 21:12
  • Depends on what sect you belong to. If man and woman are allowed to fight side by side... – Itay Moav -Malimovka May 10 '11 at 23:31
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As per the Shulchan Aruch O.C. 21:1, a man is not permitted to be playful with women whose relationship with him is forbidden by punishment of Kareth. This includes married women, (some) relatives and women who have the status of Nidah.

Though I can't quote a source, I think we can safely assume this does not apply to relatives for whom we are not concerned for their sexual relationship (e.g. parent-to-child, siblings, etc.)

  • I heard Rabbi Yaakov Hopfer state that at the time of the month when a married couple are prohibited from s'chok v'kalut rosh (same expression used here) with each other, that means behavior that is suggestive or disinhibiting. Again, how exactly to define that is not clear, and may be culturally relative. The source you linked also talks about not walking behind a woman in the street; Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach wrote that today when there are so many women out there anyhow, this doesn't apply. – Shalom May 11 '11 at 1:03
  • Clarification: the words "suggestive" and "disinhibiting" were my distillation of the descriptions Rabbi Hopfer was conveying; he did not use those words per se. – Shalom May 11 '11 at 1:09
  • I agree with you, Shalom. I do think the above case would be such an application as it causes a very casual demeanor and familiarity, more so than socializing (which is a subject of debate as well). – YDK May 11 '11 at 2:23
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Are you somehow comparing volleyball to the partition between the men's and women's seating in a synagogue?

Outside the synagogue, the only rules on contact between genders are:

  • Touching. You shouldn't touch someone of the opposite gender, other than your spouse or close relative. Many rabbis opine this is only with regards to "affectionate" touching (or touching that is very often affectionate); others say it precludes all touching (see the link regarding handshakes).
  • You shouldn't be hanging around people of the opposite gender (again, other than your spouse) if they're dressed really inappropriately. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein recommended a five-foot tall, opaque mechitza in a synagogue, as it was likely that women would show up "with bared arms, and more"; put the average-height woman behind a five-foot wall, and usually all that's visible is her head (and even if she's not covering her hair, that's not considered "inappropriately dressed" today, according to Rabbi Feinstein).
  • During the times of month that a married couple must be celibate, extra restrictions are added as a reminder for them; one spouse shouldn't throw things to the other.
  • Beyond all else, reasonable sense should be applied regarding what sorts of behavior is likely to lead to inappropriate touching, looking, or thoughts. E.g. a married woman once asked Rabbi Mordechai Willig of Riverdale regarding going to the movies with her neighbor's husband (just the two of them, they're big Harry Potter fans). Without consulting with an official source or text, Rabbi Willig relied on his common sense to say that wasn't a good idea!

Especially with regards to that last point, different communities will have wildly different standards as to what's called "reasonable sense." (Or "we adopt blanket rules to avoid problems").

  • A source, please, for "the only rules... are"? @YDK's answer indicates there are other specific rules. – msh210 May 11 '11 at 2:58
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    ABSOLUTELY NOT. These are specific boundaries between a married couple. For two people not married to each other, we just say don't touch affectionately (some say don't touch at all), and don't be secluded. We can't tell a married couple that they need a chaperone in their house during parts of the month, so instead we say make lots of subtle changes as a reminder. – Shalom Jan 26 '12 at 11:19
  • [Mod's note: The above comment from Shalom was a response to the following later deleted comment. I have added this comment back in rather than deleting Shalom's because I believe it is an important clarification; furthermore, leaving Shalom's comment alone can lead it to be misconstrued as a response to msh210's comment.] "During the times of month that a married couple must be celibate, extra restrictions are added as a reminder for them; one spouse shouldn't throw things to the other." Would that apply to all Nidot, i.e. unmarried girls today who haven't immersed in a mikveh? – Double AA Jul 30 '12 at 7:47

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