If I am in a public setting where there is no mechitzah, and there are women around, how far away need I be from them in order to daven?

I guess I'm wondering about the exact nature of the mechitzah -- is it to prevent seeing or to create separation? If there is a mechitzah, I can, effectively, be very close to a woman on the other side of the divider. If there is none, how far do I have to be?

I know that there is some discussion which mentions facing away from someone else while saying Sh'ma but I don't know if that is applicable to davening in public or in a shul. If the solution is simply to face away (and distance is not important then) then what about a situation where there are women all around so turning doesn't solve the problem of "seeng"? Does distance mitigate things? What if I put a bag over my head (not being facetious) -- I can resolve the "seeing" part that way and ignore the distance question.

  • there is an idea that when not davening in a makom kavuah for tefillah and its not on a often basis i.e davening maariv at restaurant during sheva brachos ,then davening without a mechitzah may not be necessary (davening facing women though should be problematic if they arent dressed accordingly) ,however in a shul there is the machlokes of whats the purpose of the mechitza,1) seperation from mingiling 2) seeing the opposite gender,see the Igros and Satmaer Rebbe teshuvos
    – sam
    Dec 21, 2016 at 14:21
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    Closely related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/5909/…
    – Isaac Moses
    Dec 21, 2016 at 14:24
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    See Benei Vanim 2:12
    – Double AA
    Dec 21, 2016 at 14:27
  • the idea that Rav Moshe allowed no mechitzah in a private event isnt so simple,see YD 2:109 ,this is not sich a clear topic a lot of diff opinions amd variables
    – sam
    Dec 21, 2016 at 14:29
  • I was once told by my Rav that the mechitzah needed for tefillah is the same as needed for the laws of carrying on Shabbos. That is that ten tefachim high is sufficient. You can certainly see over a ten tefachim mechitzah. So the inyan seems to be separation. Dec 21, 2016 at 16:35

1 Answer 1


Regarding the first part of your question of the nature of a mechitza, Rav Moshe explains the need comes from "separating men from women, so that they should not intermingle and come to frivolous behavior. According to the Satmar Rebbe, the purpose of a mechitzah is to prevent men from seeing women, for by seeing one another (and by means of thought) they would be considered intermingled."

Regarding the second half of your question, "although Rav Moshe O.C. (1:39) understands there is full obligation to have a mechitza including a partition, not merely a separation, the poskim at dinonline explain in a difficult situation AND on a temporary basis then there is no prohibition in davening in an area where no erva is visible."


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    This doesn't answer the question. First, who says we have to hold of all opinions? If R' Moshe says kitniyos is assur when R' Ovadia says it's mutar, do I still hold of all opinions? The Gemara repeatedly says to pick your posek and stick with it. So, again, why do I have to follow, say, the Satmar Rebbe, if I follow R' Moshe? All you're doing is putting names to the two tzedadim in the question. You didn't actually answer anything. Second, the OP did ask on the tzad of it being distance how far, which you didn't address either. It's a good start, but it's certainly not a finish.
    – DonielF
    Jan 29, 2017 at 16:05
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    Can you explain how, "I'm wondering about the exact nature of the mechitzah" wasn't addressed by the different understandings of Rav Moshe and the Satmar Rebbe? I agree in not holding all opinions, but this segment was to understand what mechitzas accomplish.
    – NJM
    Jan 29, 2017 at 22:43

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