Monday, March 14, 2005

Mechitza Argument

Notes from an old shiur, given in a traditional synagogue, as to why they should install a Mechitza in the Main Sanctuary

To address this issue from a proper perspective, we must review the central ideas of each of the six classes that we have held in the course of this lecture series:

Medical Ethics: Halacha is the basis of a Jewish approach to significant issues. God gave us the Torah and its principles at Sinai to guide us in our attempts to navigate the pathways of this world.

Moshiach: It is essential that we seek to follow the proper paths, as the world must be perfected to the point where we merit redemption (Tikkun Olam).

Kashruth: In its attempt to refine humanity, Halacha concerns itself with the minutiae of human experience. Details are of critical importance.

Resurrection: These minutiae impact very significantly and very precisely on the human soul. They affect a person's spiritual essence for all eternity.

Torah to non-Jews: Jews are "hard-wired" with a spiritual affinity to Torah, its study and its fulfillment. Their modalities, therefore, are not comparable to those of other peoples and religions.

Sanctity (Kedusha): A Jew should aspire to designate him or her self to the purpose of emulating God, to be a Giver, and to single mindedly focus on that which advances the Jewish nation in its attempts to fulfill its manifest destiny.

One reason we are so strict in matters of separation:
"The first law given to Adam was a prohibition. The negative precepts are at the core of Judaism, because they require a greater effort and demand a more sacrificial spirit than the positive commandments. William James saw happiness as the goal of religion. Judaism sees greatness as the goal. Not the greatness of business or political or military success, but the greatness of heroism of the spirit. The acid test for moral heroism or cowardice is compliance with the negative precepts, since they compel man to engage in heroic restraint. This is especially true of sexual morality where enormous self control is necessary to control the almost overpowering sexual drive, and where the halacha is almost ruthlessly strict. Judaism is not concerned with what is not heroic." (Rabbi J. B. Soloveichik zt"l)

Other reasons are more directly connected to the nature of Prayer:
"The world holds that they pray before God, but it is not that way. Prayer is actually the essence of divinity." (Rabbi Pinchas of Koritz zt"l)

"And prayer in a community (tefilla b'tzibbur), is when the community prays as well, but they are not minding him and he is not minding them, and though others are present, one must imagine himself alone, as if no others surround him." (Rabbi Tzadok of Lublin zt"l)

"Prayer must be extended like a thread. The slightest interruption, and the thread breaks and rips."
(Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi zt"l)

(The Halacha of Mechitza is derived from a passage in the tractate of Sukkah, 51b-52a: (Our Rabbis have taught: Originally the women used to sit within [the Court of Women] {in the Holy Temple} 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 (Soncino: On the gallery) and the men below. (But how could they do so (Soncino: 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 (Soncino: I Chron. XXVIII, 19, referring to the construction of the First Temple)? - Rav answered, the y found a Scriptural verse and expounded it: And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the House of David apart, and their wives apart (Zech. XII, 12). Is it not, they said, an a fortiori argument? If in the future (Soncino: The time alluded to in the text cited) when they will be engaged in mourning and the Evil Inclination will have no power over them (Soncino: So that levity is least to be expected), the Torah (Soncino: Sc. Scripture, in the statement `and their wives apart') nevertheless says, men separately and women separately, how much more so now (Soncino: At the festivities of the Water Drawing) when they are engaged in rejoicing and the Evil Inclination has sway over them (Soncino: And undue levity is most likely).)


  1. O, BTW - the shiur did not have the desired effect - they fired the rabbi who wanted it installed instead. Oh well.

  2. May I offer that it might not have worked because the argument was too good, too strong and hence a threat. T'phosta meruba ...