Volume 26 Number 98
                      Produced: Mon Aug 11  6:26:15 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Shaya Goldmeier]
Falshe Frumkeit and Chumras
         [Susan Chambre]
Geographical spread - (sans Mixed Seating)
         [Joseph Geretz]
Mixed Seating (2)
         [Moishe Kimelman, Eli Turkel]
Mixed Seating at Weddings
         [Shoshana L. Boublil]
Mixed Seating/Dancing
         [Lon Eisenberg]


From: <JGoldmeier@...> (Shaya Goldmeier)
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 20:22:57 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Chumras

> Also, does it even ever occur to anybody out there that some people keep
> chumras because they are actually g-d fearing and believe that they will
> earn merit in the world to come.

Regardless of my opinion on mixed seating at a wedding, Keeping chumras
doesn't mean you're g-d fearing.  The fact that they keep what they call
a chumra doesn't mean it's a real halachic chumra.  People nowadays have
this notion about chumras that is simply incorrect and very dangerous.

Shaya Goldmeier


From: <Smchambre@...> (Susan Chambre)
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 10:15:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Falshe Frumkeit and Chumras

I have been reading the responses to Rabbi Rakeffet's shiur with
interest particularly in light of the fact that I am spending my time in
a 'Modern Orthodox' summer community where many parents are avowedly
'modern' and a majority of their children have moved to the right and,
almost universally, have spurned the exclusively mixed swimming
situation. There is a lot of tolerance about women dressing in shorts
and even bikinis at the pool, but not a lot of tolerance about the
'chumras' of the children of people in their forties through their

As I have watched the younger people in the community expand their
commitment, including my own children (and myself, given that I am a
BT), I ask: Why is the adoption of a mitzvah or the more consistent
performance of it defined as a 'chumrah'?

I would also like to raise yet a another issue on the flip side: Why are
people so concerned about chumrahs and unconcerned about a lack of
communal response to the rising divorce rate which in some cases was
preceded by adultery (or near adultery) where people have abandoned
their spouses (either literally or figuratively), sometimes with young
children, and quickly remarry without any negative response. Some months
ago, I posted a message on this list about remarrying Jewishly without a
civil divorce, and the only response I got was from a woman who was in
this situation herself.  The lack of response of people on this list
suggests that this is simply an area we don't want to think about.

In my mind, the adoption of so-called chumrahs by the young is both a
reaction to much of the negativity in the secular society but also its
impact on so-called 'Modern Orthodox' Jews who tolerate easily too many
of the features of the secular society that have become easily accepted
in our community.

Susan Chambre


From: Joseph Geretz <JGeretz@...>
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 14:49:33 -0400
Subject: Geographical spread - (sans Mixed Seating)

Originally I wrote...
>Nowadays, because of the way we all move around, in search of parnassa,
>Kollel, College, etc. (listed in no particular order :) ) a person's circle
>of friends and acquaintances are likely to be non-family members.
>Therefore, it is quite possible that our weddings nowadays consist of a
>lower concentration of family members and a higher concentration of
>strangers than they did in the days of the Chofetz Chaim zt'l.

Chana Luntz <heather@...> replied...
> I am living in England, my parents are in Australia, my grand-parents
> are in South Africa, and my aunt is in Israel (and before that in
> Canada).  That is about a geographically dispersed as one can get.  But
> look at it another way - I am twenty hours from my parents, about
> sixteen from my grandparents - and currently five from my aunt (it was
> seven).  There are planes going to each of these places several times a
> day.  Therefore I never need travel more than a day and a half to reach
> my family - and although it is not cheap to travel, certainly it is
> something that is affordable for a simcha.

This somewhat misses the point of my assertion, which, for the most
part, does not involve the logistics of attending a wedding in a far off
location.  Moreover, if rapid transportation allows *family members* in
far away places to attend a wedding it also allows *friends* in far away
places to attend as well. As such, this factor applies to both the
friend as well as family side of the equation and can be discounted.

My point deals with the impact of high speed mass travel on the
*communities which are formed* by individuals relating to one another
(shall we call these 'micro-communities'). Are they more likely to be
composed of a higher concentration of friends vs. families, than they
were in the days of the Chofetz Chaim zt'l? To address this question,
geographic location is more of a factor than high speed travel is
because close relationships are developed over time and not over the
course of a week or two when two people might meet over the course of a
vacation or business travel to a far away location.

Modern communication illustrates this. Consider, via the medium of
e-mail I am communicating with Chana and many other individuals all over
the globe.  However, I do not know most of you personally and despite
the fact that with modern transportation we could conceivably meet in
less time than it takes to go from Pinsk to Dvinsk, I would still be
more unlikely to form a personal relationship with any of you than with
someone in my neighborhood with whom I interact on a daily or weekly
basis.  (Oh well, my loss I guess. : ) )

Chana then presents several scenarios where people have indeed moved
from Shtetl to Shtetl, e.g. Rabbis, businessmen, etc. Are these
exceptional cases or are they indicative of the typical lifestyle of
those times? Perhaps someone has researched this on a broader communal
level as opposed to the family oriented research that Chana seems to
have done.

Kol Tuv,
Yossi Geretz


From: Moishe Kimelman <kimel@...>
Date: Wed, 06 Aug 1997 06:13:53 +1000
Subject: Mixed Seating

I believe that Rabbi Rakefet has misread the Levush. The Levush writes: They
said in Sefer Chassidim that wherever men and women see each other, such as
at a wedding meal, one should not say "shehasimcha bim'ono" in the blessing
as there is no simchah before Hashem where there is licentious thoughts. But
nowadays [people] are not careful about this, and perhaps the reason is that
nowadays it is very common to have women amongst the men, and there is not
as much licentious thoughts..." Clearly the Levush is merely justifying the
minhag of saying "shehasimcha bim'ono" in post facto mixed company. He is
not, as one poster alleged, allowing mixed seating at weddings. Furthermore,
the Levush does not write that in his times people were free of licentious
thoughts. Rather that since it was common for women to be amongst men, it
caused less licentious thoughts than it would have had the mixing of the
sexes been virtually non-existent.

Does this mean that the Levush holds that mixing of the sexes is desirable,
and that this would remedy the problem of licentious thoughts? I find that
hard to believe. In Even Haezer siman 20 the Levush himself concurs with the
hard line taken by all earlier authorities regarding the mixing of the
sexes. "Our Rabbis z"l said that the Torah rules that one must distance
oneself greatly from women... one may not joke with [a woman who is
forbidden to him, e.g. a married woman] nor be light-headed with her. (s'if
1)" I don't know what the mood was at weddings in the US in the 50s, but at
the weddings I go to light-headedness and frivolity are the order of the
day. Of course, I only attend separate-seating weddings, and I suppose the
mood at mixed-seating weddings might be a lot more somber.

I am reminded of something I read after the passing of the Gerer Rebbe,
Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter z"l, over a year ago. It seems that a group of
non-religious professors met with the Rebbe to find out why there was an
outcry after a mixed choir had sung at an army ceremony in the Kotel plaza.
During the course of the discussion one of the professors remarked that when
he hears women singing he is not affected at all, yet it seems that
religious Jews become "excited". (The implication being that the separation
of the sexes is the very cause of licentious thoughts.) The Rebbe replied
that Bedouins walk barefoot over sharp stones with no discomfort, while if
any of the professors were to feel a small piece of gravel in his shoe, he
could not continue walking before removing the gravel. "Yet," continued the
Rebbe, "we all agree that the professors are more refined than Bedouins."

I myself have heard non-religious Jews call religious men perverts because
they would not shake hands with a woman -- something which Rabbi Moshe
Feinstein z"l prohibits (see Igros Moshe Choshem Mishpat volume 2, siman 32,
sub heading 9). They claim that these actions mean nothing to them, but that
they excite people who have distorted views of women. Perhaps we religious
men do get affected in this area more than the non-religious, but perhaps
also that is preferable. As Abaye was consoled after surmising that he would
have succumbed to temptation where a lesser man did not, "The greater the
man, the greater the evil inclination" (Sukkah 52a).

Finally, I take exception to the alleged statements of Rabbi Rakefet in both
the original and the later posts that the Popover Rebbe was guilty of
indecent behavior. Despite his name being circulated when the story first
broke some two years ago, the Rebbe himself was never charged, and it was
his traveling companion who was convicted.

From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 11:42:19 -0400
Subject: Mixed Seating

   To back up Rabbi Rakefet's arguments I checked with another rabbi who
is a musmach of YU from earlier days. He told me that he was at Rav
Moshe Tendler's wedding which had mixed seating. Both sets of parents,
Rav Tendler and Rav Moshe Feinstein were well known roshei yeshiva.  He
also told me that he sat at several other weddings at the same table
with Rav Moshe Feinstein and his rebbetzin. He also said that both
weddings of Rav Soloveitchik's daughters had mixed seating and he
remembers Rav Soloveitchik walking down the aisle with his daughters.  I
find it hard to believe that these rabbis had mixed seating at their own
children's weddings because yiddishkeit was just beginning in America.

   As several other posters have mentioned it has been frequent at many
weddings (especially at hesder weddings in Israel including my sons) to
have a mechitza just for the women's dancing so that they are separate
from all the tables and certainly separated from the men's dancing.  The
Talmud mentions chazal dancing in front of the bride to increase the joy
of the bride. This obviously could not occur today.

   One thing that I found at many chareidi weddings is that there is no
problem for the men going into the women's section. First of all in most
weddings the waiters for both sides are men. Furthermore, the band is
frequently placed so that both sides can see them. I frequently go to
chareidi weddings and usually visit my wife sometime in the middle to
make various arrangements. My whole family then speaks to me and no one
ever asked what I was doing there.
   In Israel the chupah is frequently held outdoors (for ashkenazi
weddings).  For the chareidi weddings usually everyone stands around the
chupah.  In my experience this leads to a lot of mixing between men and
women which leads to the strange case of separate seating for the dinner
but mixed standing for the ceremony. At American style weddings the
audience is seated and usually separated.
   Finally, one thing that disturbs me about separate seating is the
sheva berachot. In some weddings the bride does not particpate at all.
In others they slightly move the curtain so that the bride is all the
way in the corner but can see the proceedings. I find it strange that
she is such a minor figure in her own ceremony.

Esther Posen remarks 
>> Also, does it even ever occur to anybody out there that some people keep
>> chumras because they are actually g-d fearing and believe that they will
>> earn merit in the world to come.

    The problem that I face is that these chumros frequently come at the
expense of others. Whenever I go to my family's weddings I sit alone as
all my cousins speak in yiddish. When we made our wedding we set up a
special section for them to sit separate. They complained that it was
not done to their taste and left before the dinner when special food had
been ordered (and paid) for.  Since Rav Feinstein and other gedolim have
attended mixed seating weddings with their wives I don't see the
justification for refusing to attend a wedding of relatives because of
the mixed seating. Rather than worried about their share in the world to
come I think they are more worried what their neighbors will say.

As a side comment Nahum Spirn says

>> "uncovering a tefach and covering a tefach and engaging in
>> relations 'as if coerced'".  Indeed, Rav Michel Twerski told me before I
>> got married that we do not do like that gemara, for it was intended only
>> for chasidim of a different era.

Rav Chaim Kanevsky in his "kitzur shulchan arukh" (based on the mishnah
brura and Chazon Ish - his uncle). Brings down this halakhah and gives
no indication that it doesn't apply for everyone in our generation.



From: <toramada@...> (Shoshana L. Boublil)
Date: Tue,  5 Aug 97 16:06:17 PDT
Subject: RE: Mixed Seating at Weddings

 From Rav Elinson ZT"L I learned that if a Seudat Mitzvah is seated -
then there can be mixed seating, while at a buffet dinner there has to
be a mehitza.

 From experience, we have B"H a large and mixed family.  We always set
up a few tables marked seperate seating - for those who want it (we
usually know how many such seats we need, in advance).  At my wedding,
we set up a whole area for the Yeshiva Bachurim alone, and another area
for my girl friends.  The Kollel couples sat together.

The customary order of seating in such cases was _hus._wife_wife_hus._
around the table so that no man was between 2 women etc.

There was a Mehitza set up for the dancing, in some cases a second
mehitza that prevented the rest of the people present from seeing the
women dancing.  The Mehitza's have been anything from a line of plants
(waist high) to full wooden mehitza's, depending on the celebration and
other circumstances.

Shoshana L. Boublil


From: Lon Eisenberg <eisenbrg@...>
Date: Wed, 06 Aug 97 07:49:00 EDT
Subject: Mixed Seating/Dancing

Esther Posen <eposen@...> wrote:
>Saying that some women feel uncomfortable dancing around men makes this
>sound like a social rather than halachic issue.  Do only the "orthodox
>right wing fanatics" believe that is it against halacha for men to watch
>women dancing?

Please site your source for stating that it is against halakha for men
to watch women dancing (assuming the women are properly dressed).  I
believe this is a new stringency being passed off as normative halakha.

On the other hand, if women do feel uncomfortable dancing around men,
then they should be accomodated (but it IS a social rather than halakhic

Lon Eisenberg  


End of Volume 26 Issue 98