Wednesday, August 23, 2023


Igros Moshe (O.C. 01:039):Concerning the need for a mechitza (divider) in the synagogue between the men and women and its height. The basic rule is that even if the men are all on one side and the women are on the other side, it is still prohibited to be without a mechitza and in my view this is a Torah requirement. The proof is from Succah (51) where a question is raised concerning the balconies that were made in the Ezras Nashim at the end of the Yom Tov so that the women were above and the men were below. Also see the Yerushalmi (Sukkah 5:2) and Tosfos (Zevachim 33)….We see from Sukkah (51) that even with a mechitza but that it is possible to have levity there is still a Torah prohibition. Because even initially when the men and woman were separated but the woman were able to stand to watch the simcha and it was possible to interact with the men and have levity despite the barrier - the Torah still prohibited this. Thus we see the need not only to have a divider – mechitza but it needs to be high enough to prevent levity or else an elevated balcony is required for the women. I think it is reasonable that a mechitza which is shoulder high is sufficient – 18 tefachim. We saw that the reason for the mechitza is not to prevent seeing the women but levity. It is best however – especially in America -  where many women are dressed improperly and don’t cover their heads that it should be high enough so the women are not seen. If it is only 18 tefachim and there are some woman with uncovered heads, it is possible to rely on the Aruch HaShulcan and pray there.If the mechitza is less than 18 tefachim prayer is prohibited to pray and it is required to protest forcefully. This applies to all gathering of men and women. 

 Sukka(51) AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE FIRST FESTIVAL DAY etc. What was the GREAT ENACTMENT? — R. Eleazar replied, As that of which we have learnt. Originally [the walls of the Court of the Women] were smooth, but [later the Court] was surrounded with a gallery, and it was enacted that the women should sit above and the men below.

Our Rabbis have taught, Originally the women used to sit within [the Court of the Women] while the men were without, but as this caused levity, it was instituted that the women should sit without and the men within. As this, however, still led to levity, it was instituted that the women should sit above and the men below.

But how could they do so?[Alter the original structure of the Temple.]
Is it not written, All this [do I give thee] in writing as the Lord hath made me wise by His hand upon me? — Rab answered, They found a Scriptural verse and expounded it:

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