Compiled by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits
Reviewed by Rabbi Benzion Schiffenbauer Shlita
All Piskei Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita are reviewed by Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita
Daily Torah Archives
The Mechitza - Why How and When Part 1
A mechitza is more than just a partition. A mechitza symbolizes our yearning for our tefillos to connect to Hashem without any distractions standing in the way. For most Orthodox Jews, the days when there was a battle over the mechitza are long gone. Since the overwhelming majority of people insist that there be a mechitza.(1)
Since one is supposed to have kavana when davening (2) one has to remove every source of distraction. Without a mechitza, a place reserved for tefilla turns into a social gathering.
Mixed seating was first introduced in America by Isaac Mayer Wise when in 1895 (approx) borrowed a Baptist Church for reform services in Albany, New York, he found the mixed seating of the Church so much to his liking that he decided to institute it in his Temple. Below we will discuss the reasons for having a mechitza and when one is required to have a mechitza.
The Source for Having a Mechitza
The first source to mention making a mechitza is the Gemorah in Succah (3) which states "during the Simchas Bais Hashoeiva a takana was made that women and men were seated on two different floors." A balcony was built above the sides of the men's section, and was enclosed with a curtain or a one-way mirror. (4) This permitted the women to watch the men from above but completely blocked the men's view of the women. The Gemorah (5) states that other takanas were first attempted, and when they did not work the previously mentioned balcony was installed. The Gemorah (6) says that there is a kal v'chomer to require a mechitza by a Simchas Bais Hashoeiva from the fact that a mechitza is going to be needed at the eulogy of Moshiach Ben Yosef, where men and women will be seated separately. If separate seating is required even at a funeral, how much more so must separate seating be required on a joyous occasion!(7) Some say that the requirement for a mechitza in a shul is min hatorah.(8)
(1) Refer to The Sanctity of the Synagogue (Baruch Litvin 1959) where he devotes an entire sefer on this topic. He brings many court cases that have taken place over the years. (2) Mesechtas Berochos 31a, Niddah 13b, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 96, 98. (3) 51b, see Yalkut Shemonei Ki Tzetzeh 534:page 646, refer to Zecharya 8:5. (4) Meiri Middos 2:5, see Divrei Yoel O.C. 1:10. (5) Succah ibid (6) Mesechtas Succah 51b-52a, see Rashi "v'suvda." (7) Refer to Rashi Mesechtas Succah ibid "kan." Arugas Habosem O.C. 26, Maharam Shik O.C. 77, Pri Hasadeh 4:97, Minchas Yitzchok 2:20, 10 (Lekutei Teshuvos 14), Mishnas Horav Aaron 13, Kedushas Bais Hakeneses pages 20-24, Oz Nedberu 12:48. (8) Igros Moshe O.C. 1:39, 1:41, see Zichron Yehuda 1:62.
Halachically Speaking is a bi-weekly publication compiled by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits, a former chaver kollel of Yeshiva Torah Voda'ath and a musmach of Horav Yisroel Belsky, shlit"a. Rabbi Lebovits currently works as a Rabbinical Administrator for Kof-K Kosher Superivison.
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