(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Bais Medrash (c) Torah.Org

Date: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 19:49:08 -0400
From: rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu (Russell Hendel)
Subject: Two Views on Mechiza and Two lengths

I just want to briefly respond to Mike Rader who asked

>  >  according to this Posek it turns out that the halacha is oriented
>  >  more towards 'not mixing' than it is towards 'not seeing'...Rav Moshe
Feinstein focused on avoiding levity...a shoulder height mehitza would
.>  >  be sufficient

That is precisely the issue: Is the purpose of mechiza to ---prevent MIXING
- ---or prevent LEVITY

IF the purpose is to prevent MIXING then it SUFFICES to create SEPARATE
'BOUNDARIES'...since throughout Jewish Law boundaries are 10 Tefachs it
would follow that a mechitza has to be at least 10 tefachs(which is 3 or 4
inches--making the mechitza say 40 inches).

The other areas of Jewish law where 10 tefachs come up are in --Tort law,
Sabbath law, Kriath Shma Law etc

IF the purpose however is to prevent LEVITY then one must have a shoulder
high mechitza (5 or 6 ft).

Rabbi Feinstein's statement that LEVITY=TALKING is really a statement that
LEVITY =/= (doesn't equal) EYE GLANCE EXCHANGES (one form of forbidden
flirting) since if we wished to prevent EYE GLANCE EXCHANGES we would have
to make the Mechitza HEAD HIGH (6 to 6.5 ft)

Since EYE GLANCE EXCHANGES is listed in Rambam, Forbidden Relationships as
prohibited (and is punishable even under American Sexual Harrassment Law)
it must be clarified why Rabbi Feinstein didn't require all Mechitza's to

It would appear to me that his basis is the fact that the Gemara discusses
separation of men and women on Succoth in the Temple. There is a related
law on the festivals which requires special police to patrol parks and
fields and prevent men and women from mixing. This law is obviously focused
on mixing and communication more than eye glances...and it is possible that
Rabbi Feinstein used it as a basis for an analogy.

Those (are there any?) who require Mechitza to be HEAD HIGH would hold two
things: The purpose of Mechitza is to prevent LEVITY and LEVITY = (even)

I hope this helps

Russell Jay Hendel;Phd; ASA;
rhendel @ mcs drexel edu