[Halachically Speaking appears on YWN weekly, Tuesdays and Thursdays]
Written by Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits of KOF-K Kosher Supervisio
There are many inyunim of tznius which people think are permitted when in fact they are not. Our main focus will be on Kol Isha and all the halachos that apply to it.
Chazal say one who is careful with hilchos tznius is kodesh. Fortunate is the person who watches himself from being nichshal in these halachos, since the sins that one does in these inyunim distance a person from Torah.
Kol Isha – The Voice of a Woman
The Gemorah in Berochos says that the voice of a [married] woman is an ervah, since it may bring a person to certain desires. According to many poskim this issur is d’rabanan in nature, and often applies to one’s wife as well. One is not allowed to hear the voice of a woman while she is singing even without specific intent to enjoy her voice. A woman’s non-singing voice is permitted to be heard as long as one is not listening with specific intent to enjoy her voice.
There is a machlokes haposkim if the issur of kol isha still applies when one is saying krias shema, or other devarim shebekedusha. Although some say that this din does not apply while saying krias shema etc, most poskim disagree with this and forbid hearing kol isha while reciting krias shema or any other devar shebekedusha. One who read krias shema while listening to a woman sing must repeat it without the accompanying berochos.
Many poskim say one is also forbidden to hear the singing voice of a single girl. There is a discussion in the poskim as to what age this issur begins. Some poskim say the age starts from three, others say it starts at six, and others say the issur begins at nine years old. Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l says in a pressing situation one can be lenient until the age of eleven.
A Non-Jewish Woman
Parents Attending Daughters Choir
There is a discussion in the poskim if the issur applies to a sister. Some poskim hold that the issur applies to a sister just like it does to any other woman. Other poskim say that the issur for a sister begins when she is eleven. Although the custom in many places is to permit kol isha in regard to a sister, one who is stringent is praiseworthy.
Family Singing- Shabbos Zemiros and the Haggadah
Many times one wishes to sing zemiros or the haggadah with his wife and daughters and the question arises as to how doing so is permitted since one is not allowed to say holy words while hearing his wife etc singing. Many poskim are indeed stringent and forbid singing with one’s wife and daughters.However, some poskim permit singing zemiros even while his wife is singing as well (as long as there are no guests at the table for whom his wife’s voice would be an ervah). According to the stringent view, if the women insist on singing the men should sing much louder to drown out the voices of the women.
One who is sitting at a family Shabbos table with guests who are not direct family members may not sing together with his wife etc. Although some say doing so is permitted since the voices are hard to hear individually, one should not rely on this opinion.
A man may hear a woman tell a story even if she is telling it with a little emotion etc. Some say if the woman is using hand motions, etc then a man should refrain from listening to the story, while others feel that even if “she gets into it” it is still permitted for a man to listen to the story.
Woman Singing on the Radio
Some say the issur of kol isha only applies where one recognizes the woman who is singing, or at least can see her. However, where one does not recognize the woman who is singing and does not see her then it is permitted to listen to her singing. According to these poskim one may listen to a woman singing on the radio if he does not know the woman. However, this opinion should not be relied upon for halacha l’maseh since most poskim do not agree with it. Even according to those who are lenient it is not a refined thing to do. Others say if the singing is not live (i.e. it is on tape, CD etc.) it is permitted since it is her actual voice (live radio) that is forbidden. It must be noted that even those who permit listening to recorded singing only permit it if one heard it while making a beracha, but listening to it l’chatchilah is always forbidden.
Humming / Whistling
Girls Singing Where Men Pass by etc.
According to some poskim girls davening in a school should try to refrain from singing loud enough to be heard by men passing by outside. The same is true for girls who go on a trip with a Jewish male driver; for a playschool teacher working at home whose singing will be heard by her husband who is learning; and a woman in a bungalow colony who is singing in her bungalow. In these situations men who pass by should distance themselves from the singing. Where this is not practical, the woman should either lower her voice or refrain from singing until the men have left the area.
Women hearing Women
On the Road
One who finds himself on the road where he is not able to avoid hearing a woman singing may recite krias shema or read other sacred texts while hearing women singing. If possible, it is preferable to avoid doing so by covering his ears etc. For example; this situation would apply when one is in a hotel lobby with a radio playing.
Hearing Music in a Cab
Many times one who is driving in a cab hears non-Jewish music being sung by women on the radio. The question arises if one is permitted to continue his car ride while listening to such music. L’chatchilah, one should ask the driver to turn off the music. If the driver refuses to turn off the music one can be lenient and continue the cab ride for a number of reasons. 1. One may rely on those poskim who maintain that one may hear singing of a woman who he does not recognize. 2. One may rely on those poskim who say that one may hear singing of a woman that he can not see. 3. One has in mind not to have enjoyment from her voice. 4. It is in a situation where he can not refrain from the music.
A handshake is a ritual in which two people grasp each others hands to demonstrate good will and possibly originated as a gesture that the hands hold no weapons. Al pi kabalah when one shakes someone else’s hand he brings achdus between them.
In the business world a handshake is considered the standard greeting for both men and women. Since one is not allowed to touch a woman as an expression of affection, a question arises if shaking hands with a woman in a business situation is permitted. Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l maintains it is difficult to say that shaking hands is not considered an expression of affection. In another teshuva he wrote that doing so is forbidden. This is also the opinion of many other poskim. This issur still applies even if by refraining from shaking hands one will cause the woman to be embarrassed. Someposkim say it is better to be killed than to shake the hand of a woman.
Many times in the business world one comes across a situation where he may have to shake the woman’s hand. There are a few solutions to avoid shaking a woman’s hand:
s One can explain to her that refraining from handshaking is not a personal thing but is for religious reasons, since Jewish men do not shake the hand of any women unless it is their own wife or mother. Experience has shown that the secular world respects statements of religious conviction and adherance to Torah principles.
Accepting Change from a Woman
This dispute is applicable when one wishes to accept change from a woman as is common when going shopping. The custom of many is to refrain from taking things from or handing things over to a woman when there is a concern of touching. Other people are lenient and do take change from or give money to a woman cashier. Even according to the lenient opinion one should have in mind not to enjoy any touching that may occur when taking the change, etc. from the woman. It is praiseworthy for the change to be placed on the table instead of being passed from hand to hand.
Benefiting From a Woman
A man is not allowed to benefit from the assistance of a woman who is not his wife or very close relative (i.e. mother). This issur includes being served drinks, making his bed, or being washed on his face, feet and hands. One whose wife is present may be served by a different woman.
Assisting a Woman
One may not assist a woman (who is not his wife or close relative) with everyday personal needs, such as putting on her coat. One is obviously permitted to help rescue a woman who is drowning etc.
 Nishmas Adom 4:1, Chelek Levi 37, Mishnah Berurah 17, Aruch Ha’shulchan 560:9, Kaf Ha’chaim 27, Be’er Sarim 1:29:1, Yabea Omer O.C. 1:6:10, see 1:6:8. Refer to Otzer Haposkim E.H. 21:20. See Be’er Sarim ibid who quotes some opinions that it is d’oraisa.
 Rama O.C. 75:3, Levush 3, Machtzis Ha’shekel. When one’s wife is impure he may not listen to her singing voice as this brings a closeness which is forbidden during the time that she is impure (Ben Ish Chai Tzav 2:25, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 153:10, Darchei Teshuva 195:35, Aruch Ha’shulchan Y.D. 195:23, Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:75, Divrei Chachumim page 253:footnote 38, Avnei Yushfei 2:5:4, Rivevos Ephraim 1:205, 4:202, Suga B’shoshanim page 205, Opinion of Horav Elyashiv Shlita quoted in Halichos Bas Yisroel 6:8:footnote 16, Badi Ha’shulchan 195:119, Chut Shuni (Niddah) page 215, Shiurei Shevet Ha’Levi (Niddah) page 264). Refer to Teharas Habayis 2:pages 167-170 who is lenient.
 Shulchan Aruch 75:3, E.H. 21:1, Chai Adom 4:6, This issur applies even if one is used to hearing a womans voice (Yabea Omer O.C. 1:6:11:pages 21-22). This also applies to parts of davening that she may sing (Refer to Yufei Leleiv 1:75:3). `
 Ohr L’tzyion 2:6:footnote 13. Refer to Mishnah Berurah 75:17 who says besulos who start reaching their time of period are ervahs. Some say this is 12 years old (Divrei Chachumim page 252:36 quoting the opinion of Horav Sheinberg Shlita, Toras Histaklus page 39).
 Be’er Sarim 1:30:4, Divrei Chachumim page 253 quoting the opinion of Horav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l, Rivevos Ephraim 7:page 246, Chut Shuni 3:page 271, Opinion of the Chazzon Ish quoted in Halichos Bas Yisroel page 85, Orchos Rabbeinu 4:page 156, V’ein Lumo Michshal 5:pages 187-188.
 Teharas Am Yisroel page 53, Lehoros Nosson 4:104 (less than 3), Teshuvos V’hanhugos 1:138, Divrei Chachumim page 253 quoting the opinion of Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, Hakotton V’hilchosuv page 18 quoting the opinion of Horav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l.
 Refer to Yosef Ometz 602, Elya Rabbah 75:5, Kaf Ha’chaim 23, Badi Ha’shulchan Y.D. 195:footnote 219, Tzitz Eliezer 7:28:3, Oz Nedberu 9:59:1, Teshuvos V’hanhugos 1:138, V’ein Lumo Michshal 5:page 187, see Nishmas Avraham 5:pages 76-77.
 Sredei Eish 1:77:pages 214-219 (new print), Rivevos Ephraim 1:205, Be’er Sarim 1:29, 2:54:3, Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 10:pages 69-70, Avnei Yishfei 2:5:4 quoting the opinion of Horav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l, Halichos Shlomo Tefilla 20:11, Ve’aleihu Lo Yeibol 2:page 183:10, Divrei Chachumim page 253, see Rivevos Ephraim 8:544. One reason given is because zemiros is not considered a davar shebekedusha (Avnei Yushfei 2:5:4 quoting the opinion of Horav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l).
 Refer to Chasam Sofer in Seder Avodas Hakodesh shar teharas hayodayim 14, Sredei Eish 1:77:pages 214-219 in depth (new). He quotes the custom of Horav Hirsch zt”l and Horav Hildsheimer zt”l as being lenient in regard to mixed zemiros only in a pressing situation.
 Aruch Ha’shulchan 75:8, Bais Boruch 4:6:19:page 106, Ishei Yisroel 32:footnote 38. Refer to Me’am Loez B’shalach page 360 who says why Miriam used a musical instrument and not her voice by the shira.
 Bais Shearim 33, Yabea Omer O.C. 1:6:11, Ohr L’tzyion 2:6:13, Halacha Berurah 75:15, Yeishiv Moshe page 14:10, see Otzer Haposkim E.H. 21:20:5. This is the opinion of Horav Dovid Feinstein Shlita as well. The Yabea Omer in 9:page 235:43 says even if one knows her from looking at her picture, one may listen to her voice.
 Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, see Imrei Dovid 85:pages 79-80, Ohel Moshe 1:32:3:page 74, Pri Hasadeh 3:32, Chelkes Yaakov 1:163, Asei Lechu Rav 3:6, Tzitz Eliezer 5:2, Shevet Ha’Levi E.H. 3:181, 5:197:4, Oz Nedberu 9:59:1, Toras Histaklus page 67:31, Bais Boruch 4:6:18:page 106, Be’er Moshe kuntres electric 7:109, Shearim Metzuyanim B’halacha 5:14:page 22, Halichos Bas Yisroel 6:5:footnote 10, Nekius V’kovod B’tefilla page 170:158, Chut Shuni Shabbos 3:page 271:3, Avnei Yushfei 2:5:2, Contemporary Halachic Problems 2:pages 1501-52. Listening to a woman sing from a different house is also forbidden according to the stringent view (Vezos Ha’beracha page 149).
 Refer to Halichos Bas Yisroel 6:footnote 7, V’ein Lumo Michshal 1:page 111:2, Halichos Shlomo Tefilla 20:footnote 20, Chut Shuni Shabbos 3:page 217 who says even in front of a non-Jewish bus driver. Refer to Oz Vehador L’vusha page 469 who is lenient if the driver is a non-Jew.
 Avnei Yushfei 2:5:7 quoting the opinion of Horav Elyashiv Shlita, V’ein Lumo Michshal 1:pages 111-112:footnote 3. Refer to Avnei Yushfei 2:5:6 in regard to a morah singing to her class. In regard to a male teaching females see Sefer Chassidim 313, Toras Histaklus pages 38-46, 78-82 in depth.
 Sefer Chassidim 1090, Be’er Moshe 4:130, Oz Nedberu 2:73, Rivevos Ephraim 8:596:8, Orchos Habayis 13:10, Avnei Yushfei 2:89:1, see Iggeres Hateshuva (Rabbeinu Yona) day 2:page 28:19, Aruch Ha’shulchan E.H. 21:1. This is true even if the both parties are wearing gloves (Sefer Chassidim 1090, Yaskil Avdi E.H. 4:2 (Sheilas Shalom), 5:87:3, Minchas Yitzchok 5:27, Otzer Haposkim E.H. 20:4, Yisroel Kedoshim page 171).
 Yisroel Kedoshim page 175. Some say to accept an object from the woman in one’s left hand (Ezer Mekodesh E.H. 21:5). Refer to Aruch Ha’shulchan E.H. 21:7 who says a G-d fearing person should refrain from doing so.