Volume 30 Number 38
                 Produced: Sun Dec 19 12:36:36 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

A non halachik perspective on Negiah
         [Russell Hendel]
Ma'aseh Rav
         [Joshua Hoffman]
         [Ari Kahn]
Previous Generations (5)
         [Moshe Goldberg, Joel Rich, David I. Cohen, Warren Burstein,
Moshe Feldman]
Separate Seating
         [Carl Singer]


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 02:38:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject: A non halachik perspective on Negiah

The previous few issues of Volume 29 brought some excellent technical
discussions of Negiah. I would however like to supplement this
discussion with a non-halachic perspective.

Why do we observe negiah? It seems that there are two popular answers,
both unsatisfactory.

#1) We observe Negiah because it might lead to arousal which is
Biblically prohibited (The trouble with this approach is that not all
authorities agree that arousal is Biblical; it is almost as if someone
is exagerating the prohibition to make it prohibited to us).

#2) Negiah is a 'fence'. HENCE if we violate it we will start violating
major Torah prohibitions of intimacy.(The trouble again with this
approach is that it sounds exaggerated; certainly we see violations of
Negiah every day WITHOUT corresponding violations of major

Thus the goal of this posting is to formulate an acceptable reason for
the observance of negiah. By acceptable I mean that the reason is
consistent with reality and also consistent with the idea of Negiah as a
fence or preventative.(Note that the following remarks are valid EVEN
according to eg Rambam who holds that kissing and hugging is Biblically
prohibited (because of Lev 18:6). For even the Rambam would agree that
Lev 18:6 explicitly classifies Negiah as a Biblical prohibition whose
goal is to prevent other Biblical prohibitions--ie Negiah is a Biblical

The model I propose came from a statistical study of teenage habits.
This study reported that a certain percentage of (non jewish) teenagers
violated negiah by a certain age. From those that violated negiah a
certain percentage were doing other activities a few months later.  From
this group further activities were being done later. This continued till
from the original population we had a certain percentage engaged in full

What this study implied was that the Negiah-'fence' deals with a complex
'process'. The real point behind negiah is that if you start violating
it then several years down the road a certain percentage of such people
will violate major Torah prohibitions.  The key points to emphasize are
'a MAJOR percentage (not all) will violate' and 'they will EVENTUALLY
violate (not immediately)'. Such a perspective is deep and relevant,
consistent with both reality and the 'fence' notion of halacha. It also
would aid us in dealing with prevention of negiah.

I would like to publicly advocate that we supplement are halachic
discussions of negiah with cases histories. For case histories inspire
as much as legal responsum. I close with a case history I personally
heard as a teenager which influenced me. Rabbi Irving Greenburg was
lecturing about negiah at the college I was at.  He publicly said that
when he was younger he had thought the negiah prohibitions too
strict. But now that he was older and he sees the consequences of it he
strongly endorses it.

I hope the above adds perspective and depth.

Russell Jay Hendel;<RHendel@...>; http://www.shamash.org/rashi/


From: Joshua Hoffman <JoshHoff@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 06:51:11 EST
Subject: Re: Ma'aseh Rav

<<   My point was reserved for some of the "gedolim" of that
 generation, whose wives did not, for example, cover their hair. Now, one
 can safely assume that these wives (most of whom themselves descended
 from well-respected rabbinic families) did so, not because they did not
 care about the requirements of the halacha, but because they believed
 that the halacha allowed them to do so. >>

In at least one such instance, when the husband was asked what the
halacha is he said women must cover their hair.This kind of approach to
'ma'aseh rav' is hardly a responsible way to decide any halachos.


From: Ari Kahn <kahnar@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 09:57:07 +0200
Subject: Re: Nigiah

Regarding the term "Nigiah", which my friends Daniel Katzman and Shlomo
Pick have been discussing, I have a suggestion. The first 2 chapters of
Avot Drebbi Natan discuss an appropriate and inappropriate fence which
should (or not) be built around the Torah. The wrong type of fence which
Adam built and caused the sin of Eve is where he said not to touch the
tree - Nigiah, the next chapter speaks of a fence which the Torah built
around itself - the prohibition of sensual behavior, there the term
"nogah" is used in the context of a man having touched his menstruant
wife apparently even non-sensually. This passage is quite important for
the established halacha as can be evidenced by its citation in the Baeli
Nefsh of the Ravad as the source of the prohibition of Chibuk vi Nishuk,
and is cited by the Vilna Gaon in his gloss in Even Haezer as the source
for the Law in Shulachan Uruch.


From: Moshe Goldberg <mgold@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 13:55:54 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Re: Previous Generations

> From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
> One simple example:
> On the other hand I have heard from family that if the same wedding
> were held today it would be separate sitting. For whatever reason,
> the families felt that given life in NY many years ago that a separate
> sitting wedding would cause difficulties. Since no issur was involved
> they had mixed seating. However, both families felt that ignoring
> societal pressures that separate seating would be better.

Did the family members explicitly explain their reasoning, or is this
your interpretation?

In other words, it could be the other way around -- mixed seating is
fine, but because of societal pressures in Monsey these days, having a
mixed wedding "would cause difficulties."

Kol tuv, I hope all is well with you.

   Moshe Goldberg

From: Joel Rich <Joelirich@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 08:12:02 EST
Subject: Re: Previous Generations

Dear Eli,
 Is this your supposition or did the families report the decision as
such(ie is it societal pressures that require separate seating now or
that allowed mixed seating then?)

Kol Tuv,
Joel Rich

From: David I. Cohen <BDCOHEN613@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 13:56:17 EST
Subject: Previous Generations

In Vol. 30 #35, Eli Turkel writes:
>>It is well known that at the wedding of Rav Moshe Tendler to the
    daughter of Rav Moshe Feinstein there was mixed sitting even though
    both sets of fathers were roshei yeshiva. The obvious conclusion is
    that Rav Moshe did not feel there was any issur involved.
    On the other hand I have heard from family that if the same wedding
    were held today it would be separate sitting. For whatever reason,
    the families felt that given life in NY many years ago that a separate
    sitting wedding would cause difficulties. Since no issur was involved
    they had mixed seating. However, both families felt that ignoring
    societal pressures that separate seating would be better.>>

If we posit that the halacha is a legal system that tells one what he can and 
cannot do in leading his life, then the only conclusion from the above story 
is that at least Rav Moshe held that there is NO ISSUR involved in mixed 
seating at wedding. (This recalls a much earlier posting on this subject 
quoting Rav Rakefet.) that is the bottom line. I find it hard to believe that 
he held otherwise but gave in to "societal pressures" of life in New York 
City, at his own daughter's wedding. If something is forbidden, then social 
norms don't make it OK. Just because separate seating has become a standard 
of behaviour among certain groups does not change the objective halchic rule 
(unless, of course, you want to argue that the rule is based on subjective 
criteria, but if you do that, than one can just as easily allow something as 
prohibit it).

    <<Similarly, some gedolim may have felt that uncovered hair was not
    a cause for a divorce. Hence, given the circumstances they lived with
    a situation that was less than ideal. >>

Please see my earlier post in that same issue. Divorce is not the issue. The 
issue is the objective halachic standard that the gadol: a) either has his 
wife adhere too; or b) in case she does not, that he explains publically so 
that others will not be led astray.

    David I. Cohen

From: Warren Burstein <warren@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 02:12:08
Subject: Re: Previous Generations

>From: Zev Sero <Zev@...>
>Where is there an obligation to divorce ones spouse if he/she violates

With respect to immodest behavior, Gitin 90b (which explicitly mentions
uncovered hair, and says that it is a "mitzva min hatorah legarsha" (an
obligation from the Torah to divorce her)), Rambam Hilchot Gerushin
10:22 (which just says "einah tzenuah kivnot yisrael haksherot" (is not
modest like the proper women of Israel), but knowing the Gemara I think
it would not be unreasonable to assume that this includes uncovered
hair), Even Haezer 119:4 (ditto).

If a person who didn't learn said that uncovered hair is not grounds for
divorce, it would be a figure of speech.  For a Gadol (or even a lesser
Talmid Chacham), it seems to me that it refers to this halacha.  It
would be interesting to know if anyone ever asked a Gadol whose wife did
not cover her hair how he viewed this halacha.

Mentioning "the _proper_ women of Israel" would seem to rule out
"everyone does it" as a reason not to apply this halacha, "everyone"
might, but the "proper" women don't.

From: Moshe Feldman <MFeldman@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999 11:33:33 -0500
Subject: RE: Previous Generations

David I. Cohen wrote:
<< In Vol. 30 # 25 Chaim mateh writes:
<<It's clear (to me at least) that the Gedolim of then (and in Lithuania)
knew quite well that uncovered hair was a Torah prohibition, but could
not do much about it (for whatever the reasons), except divorce their
wives, which they felt they couldn't or didn't have to do.>>
 I don't get it. If a married woman must cover her hair or violate a
D'orayta (Torah level) prohibition, the it makes no sense that Gedolim
would allow their wives to do so and not divorce them. Would they allow
their wives to eat treif? to violate Shabbat?  >>

I have been told that Rav Soloveitchik told his shiur (Yaakov Blau told
me that his father Rabbi Yosef Blau was present) that while he does not
believe that married women may uncover their hair, there is no
requirement that their husbands divorce them.  The relevant gamarot are
in Ketubot 72 and Sotah 25.  The mishnah says that if a husband divorces
a wife because she uncovers her in public, she forfeits her ketubah.
The gamara in Sotah asks whether there is a requirement to divorce one's
wife in such a case, and does not answer the question.  Consequently,
most rishonim, including Rambam, Rosh, and Rashba hold that there is no
requirement to divorce.  (Raavad believes that it is not required, but
is preferable.)

As to whether the proper response for a gadol would be to divorce his
wife who does not cover her hair: I cannot judge, but I could understand
a decision not to divorce, especially if it does not impact the husband
that much (unlike mixing kosher and nonkosher in the kitchen).  Many
husbands realize that their wives speak lashon hara, yet they don't
divorce them.  Moreover, especially in Lithuania and in America prior to
the 1960's, this was a requirement that many were lax in, so a gadol may
not have been that upset that his wife was also lax (again, compare to
lashon hara), especially if the gadol did not feel that hair-covering
was the burning issue of the day.  Lastly, the gadol may paskened that
uncovered hair was prohibited, but that his wife had the right to rely
on a minority opinion that it is permitted (see Shmuel Himelstein's
posting in MJ 30:29); compare to a case where the gadol prohibits
gelatin but the wife eats it (based on opinions which permit it).

Kol tuv,


From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 12:29:22 EST
Subject: Re: Separate Seating

It's quite clear that the trend is towards separate seating -- parents
including Roshei Yeshiva, who had mixed seating at their own weddings,
are now opting for separate seating at their children's weddings.  I'm
not quite sure what to make of this, whether it has anything to do with
halacha or simply a change in customs or worse yet the "frumer than
thou" pressure that seems to prevail and pervade decisionmaking.

I'd like to offer one observation -- "mixed" seating was once "family"
seating.  Maybe it's economics (the high cost of weddings) or ease /
difficulty of travel, maybe it's the length and late hour of so many
wedding (don't you just love eating dinner at 11PM?) -- but today with
the exception of the Chosen & Kallah's immediate family, children (and
thus families) are often not invited.  In contrast, my Mother recalls
that this was not the case in Pre-war Europe.  When a cousin had a
wedding, her entire family was invited.  (She mentioned receiving
material from this cousin so that her Mother, ztl, could sew dresses for
all of the girls.)  When a family is invited, it seems to make more
sense that they sit as a family unit, so that both parents can supervise
the children, etc.

Carl -- I hope I don't miss the Smorgasbord -- Singer
Etiquette Consultant


End of Volume 30 Issue 38