Volume 61 Number 34 
      Produced: Mon, 10 Sep 2012 12:05:43 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Gender Relationships 
    [Martin Stern]
Immersion in mikveh of single women (3)
    [Martin Stern  Martin Stern  Martin Stern]
Kidush Halvono 
    [David Ansbacher]
Modesty at the Shabbos Table 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 10,2012 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Gender Relationships

Judging by previous issues, this week's Weekly Halacha Discussion by Rabbi
Doniel Neustadt should provoke some lively discussion on Mail Jewish!

For those wishing to contact the author, he provides the following

Telephone: ISRAEL 02-569 5185 | USA (212) 202-6666 | UK 020 7043 7105 |
e-mail: <info@...>

Question: If a lady fell and the only way to help her up requires touching
her, may a man (literally) give her a hand?

Discussion: It goes without saying that if she fell and finds herself in a
life-threatening situation, anything and everything must be done to save her
life (1). While affectionate physical contact between the genders is
strictly forbidden (2), indeed, at times it falls into the category of
yehareig vaal yaavor (3), when the contact is not of an affectionate
nature (derech chibbah) it is permitted (4). The same halacha applies if the
lady is in danger of losing a limb or of if she were to suffer any other
permanent disabling injury. Even if she is not injured but simply cannot get
up by herself due to infirmity, a man may extend a hand to help her rise and
steady herself, especially if there is no one else around to assist her.
The halachos apply equally in reverse: if a man falls and only a woman is
available to assist him.

Question: May one accept change from a cashier if he is concerned that his
hand will touch hers in the process?

Discussion: If ones intention is merely to receive the change, he need not
be concerned about any unintended touch. Obviously, if ones intention is to
touch her hand and to enjoy the sensation, it is strictly forbidden.

Question: Is it ever permitted to shake hands with a woman? Is there a
dispensation to do so if otherwise one would suffer a substantial loss or
would embarrass the woman, possibly causing a chillul Hashem?

Discussion: As mentioned earlier, physical contact between the genders is
strictly forbidden when it is an expression of affection. When it is clearly
not so it is permitted. Shaking a womans hand in a social setting, e.g., at
a wedding or in order to establish a friendship or a personal relationship
is strictly forbidden according to all views and at times falls into the
category of yehareig vaal yaavor. Even if the woman extended her hand
first, one must not shake it; rather one must decline in the most sensitive
and gracious way possible. The concern that she will be embarrassed if the
man does not shake her hand is of no consequence; it remains strictly
forbidden (5). There are, however, some situations where a handshake is
offered as a matter of protocol, such as an introduction to a customer or an
employer, to a doctor or to a distinguished politician. In these situations,
the handshake is not a sign of affection, friendship or a personal
relationship and would, theoretically, be permitted. Still, the poskim are
in agreement that one must do whatever he can to avoid shaking hands under
these circumstances as well. This is because the yetzer hara for arayos is
overwhelming. An innocent handshake may lead to a casual embrace; a harmless
introduction may blossom into a full-blown illicit relationship. It is
extremely difficult to define what is and what is not derech chibah when it
comes to a handshake and it is therefore, the consensus of the poskim to be
stringent in this matter (6). Under extenuating circumstances, e.g., one
would lose his job were he not to shake hands with a female customer or if,
by refusing an extended hand, one would publicly humiliate a prominent
personality, there are some poskim who find some room for leniency to
return a handshake, if the hand is proffered in a manner which is clearly
not affectionate (7). All poskim agree that one must do whatever he can to
avoid being caught in such a situation. All of these halachos apply equally
to men and women.

Question: What, if any, are the restrictions on affectionate physical
contact (putting arm around shoulder, stroking cheek, hugging, kissing,
etc.) between a man and his female relatives?

Discussion: For the purpose of these halachos, we shall divide relatives
into three separate groups:

1) Affectionate physical contact between a man and his mother, daughter,
granddaughter or sister under the age of 11 is categorically permitted.

2) Affectionate physical contact between a man and his sister over the age
of 11 or a blood aunt (his fathers or mothers sister) is neither
strictly forbidden nor expressly permitted. Rather, in the words of the
Shulchan Aruch (8) it is most deplorable, a prohibited (type of) action,
and an act of foolishness. (9)

3) Affectionate physical contact between a man and all other female
relatives (such as cousins, nieces or inlaws) over the age of 3 is strictly

1 Sotah 21b.

2 See Shaarei Teshuvah 3:80 and Beiur Halachah, 339:3, s.v. lehakel.

3 Rama, Y.D. 157:1; Chayei Adam 21:13; Nidchei Yisrael 19:2.

4 Shach, Y.D. 157:10; Igros Moshe, E.H 2:14.

5 Oral ruling in the name of the Chazon Ish, quoted in Karyana Digarta 162
and Moadim uZmanim 4:316.

6 Igros Moshe, O.C. 1:113; E.H. 1:56; E.H. 4:32-9; Rav Y.Z. Gustman, quoted
in Halichos Yisrael, pg. 281; Az Nidberu 2:73.

7 See Nishmas Chayim (Rav Chaim Barlin) 135; Teshuvos vHanhagos 4:300,
quoting an oral ruling from Rav M. Feinstein; Emes lYaakov, E.H. 21, note
4; Rav C.P. Scheinberg, quoted in Halichos Yisrael, pg. 282.

8 E.H. 21:7.

9 Igros Moshe, Y.D. 2:137 explains that the Rabbis have deemed it
deplorable and foolish because it may lead to physical contact with
other relatives with whom physical contact is strictly forbidden


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 9,2012 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Immersion in mikveh of single women

I must thank Yisrael Medad, Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz and Avie Walfish (MJ
61#32) for drawing my attention to a possibly legitimate reason why an
unmarried woman might wish to immerse in a mikvah - to be able to ascend to
the Temple Mount. However, even if this were the case, this does not answer
my other point (MJ 61#31):

> Second, why do they need to petition the Supreme Court? Surely there is no
> way that a woman's marital status is so obvious that she can be prevented
> from using a mikvah if she so desires unless she declares it herself.

Not being a lady, I would not know if everyone turning up at a mikvah is
interrogated as to their marital status. In small communities where everyone
knows everyone that would be unnecessary, but in the relative anonymity of
large district mikvaot in Israel, this might happen. Perhaps some of the
ladies on our list could enlighten us on their experiences when using a
mikvah while on holiday in places where they were not known to whoever was
running it.

In any case, an unmarried woman could always tell the attendant she was married
if she really thinks she is entitled to use the mikvah despite what she
considers to be the rabbinate's 'religious coercion'. Why should she have moral
qualms since subsequently lying with her boyfriend is certainly a more serious
transgression than lying to the attendant!

Martin Stern

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 9,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Immersion in mikveh of single women

Seth Farber has written an Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post on the subject "The court
and the 'mikve'":


In it he argues that the petition to the Supreme Court is more a matter of
breaking the stranglehold of the 'ultra-Orthodox' on Jewish life. Perhaps
members may wish to discuss some of the points he raises. I have my own opinions
on the matter but I would rather hear what others have to say first.

Seth writes:

> This week, Israel's Supreme Court will hear a petition demanding that mikve,
> or ritual baths, controlled by religious councils be opened to single women.
> The state's ultra-Orthodox authorities have refused to let single women
> immerse in their mikvaot -- even though they are government operated -- 
> because they believe that mikvaot should only be used by married women.
> Since mikve use following menstruation is necessary -- in traditional Jewish
> law -- prior to sexual intercourse, and since only married women -- according
> to traditional Jewish law -- can have sex, single women are being locked out.
> ...
> But beyond the social dimensions of this case, I believe that what is really
> at stake is the question of power and particularly, the power of Jewish life.
> Mikvaot in Israel are built with public money and are overseen -- at least in
> theory -- by public institutions. But all too often, what goes on inside the
> mikve is not subject to any oversight.
> The keys to the mikve are left in the hands of a select few people. The ITIM
> hotline has received no small amount of complaints about mikve attendants over
> the past few years. To a large extent, what goes on in the mikve, stays in the
> mikve.
> The issue of control over mikvaot should be particularly concerning to the
> average Israeli citizen. Under the current administration, 69 mikvaot have
> been approved for construction (40 have already been built!) and another 200
> have undergone renovations. Hundreds of millions of tax shekels are being
> spent on the building and maintenance of institutions that are essentially
> locking people out based on their legal status.
> Even if one thinks that morally or according to Halacha it is inappropriate
> for single women to go to the mikve, it seems to me that the Supreme Court has
> a responsibility to rein in the religious council's power, and to stop them
> from extending their power outside of their jurisdiction.
> What's at stake here is not simply the rights of a number of single women. Who
> holds the power at the mikve is emblematic of who controls Jewish life in
> Israel. The time has come for the state to allow people to live full Jewish
> lives and not to put up obstacles in their way.

Martin Stern

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 10,2012 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Immersion in mikveh of single women

The Jerusalem Post carried a report on the current petition to the Israeli
Supreme Court on this matter.


> The Center for Women's Justice has welcomed a decision by the High Court of
> Justice demanding that Religious Services Minister Ya'acov Margi, Chief
> Rabbi Yona Metzger and the Council of the Chief Rabbinate explain within 45
> days why they have barred single women from public ritual baths.
> Under Jewish law, married women must immerse themselves in a mikve following
> the completion of their menstrual cycle, before they are permitted to have
> sexual relations with their husbands again.
> But the Center for Women's Justice (CWJ) says that many unmarried women also
> seek to use a mikve for different purposes, including immersion before Yom
> Kippur or going up to the Temple Mount, for which Jewish law requires
> immersion, as well as religiously observant, unmarried women who have sexual
> relations with their partner.
> However, the Chief Rabbinate argues that single women, whether they are
> unmarried, divorced or widowed, are forbidden by Jewish law from immersing
> in a mikve and that public mikvaot are for the exclusive use of married
> women.
> Metzger reiterated this stance in a 2008 letter to rabbinate-employed rabbis
> asking them to instruct mikve attendants to refuse entry to the mikvaot to
> unmarried women "under any circumstances."
> CWJ says that mikve attendants, employed by the rabbinate at all public
> mikvaot, routinely question women wishing to use the facilities about their
> marital status and refuse entry to those who are unmarried.
> In addition, CWJ claims that many women who wish to marry in a non- Orthodox
> ceremony and immerse in the ritual bath before the wedding, as required by
> Jewish law, are also refused entry to mikvaot.
> CWJ argues that these practices contravene Israeli law pertaining to freedom
> of religion and protection against religious coercion, constitutes an
> invasion of privacy, and is also discriminatory, since men of any marital
> status, as well as married women, may use mikvaot without hindrance.
> The High Court issued an order last Tuesday demanding that the state explain
> why it does not permit women who want to immerse in a mikve to do so without
> being questioned as to their purpose.
> "The state has no right to impose its values on these women," said Susan
> Weiss, the founding director of CWJ, speaking to The Jerusalem Post on
> Sunday.
> "This issue is also a microcosm for the many human rights problems women
> face in this country and highlights the egregious power the rabbinate has
> over women. It is right that they should have to account and justify their
> power over us proves how egregious," Weiss asserted.
> She also pointed out that mikvaot are publicly funded.
> "The bottom line is that we are asking state-funded authorities to refrain
> from becoming involved in women's personal reasons for wanting to immerse
> themselves in a mikve, and to recognize that each woman has the right to
> choose for herself," she added.
> In general, Orthodox rabbis are extremely reluctant to permit unmarried
> women to use mikvaot due to concern that it could be seen as giving rabbinic
> sanction to extra-marital sex, forbidden by Jewish law.
> The prohibition is of a rabbinic, and so slightly less severe, nature,
> whereas having sexual relations without having immersed in a mikve is
> prohibited by the Torah and incurs the punishment of "spiritual
> excommunication."
> Some observant women, who despite the prohibition on sex out of wedlock
> nevertheless have sexual relations with their partners, therefore wish to
> mitigate their infraction of Jewish law by immersing.
> During the times of the First and Second Temples, women were accustomed to
> use mikvaot in order to pray at the Temple and to engage in other rituals.
> However, the rabbis of the 10th century CE forbade unmarried women from
> immersing.
> This prohibition was enacted so that men would not be encouraged to think
> that it would be permissible to have sex with a woman who had immersed.
> Rabbis have also refused to permit unmarried women to immerse for the
> purposes of visiting the Temple Mount, which according to Jewish law can
> only be done after visiting a mikve, out of concern that it could act as a
> gateway for permission to immerse for the purposes of having extra-marital
> sex.
> CWJ argues that regardless of the issues with Jewish law, state bodies have
> no legal right to prevent someone from using public facilities. Weiss also
> argued that the increase in incidents of discrimination against women in the
> public domain on religious grounds is in part caused by a failure to protect
> women's legal rights, and that the rabbinate's refusal to allow unmarried
> women to use mikvaot is yet another example of the state sanctioning the
> violation of these rights.

I think what we are witnessing is a Kulturkampf between the proponents of
the supremacy of individual rights with those who prefer to uphold halachic
standards. While I am open to correction, this report seems to indicate that
the Center for Women's Justice considers it discriminatory, and therefore an
infringement on the civil rights of unmarried women, to restrict mikvah
usage to those who are married. I think the claim by Susan Weiss, the
founding director of CWJ, that "the state has no right to impose its values
on these women" says it all.

I am not sure that the article's claim that "the prohibition is of a
rabbinic, and so slightly less severe nature" is accurate - AFAIK it is
deoraita, even if only an ordinary lav [prohibition], under the heading of
"lo tihyeh kedeishah mib'not Yisrael" (Dev. 23,18) as understood by the
Torah sheb'al peh, which does not consider the term kedeishah as only
referring to cult-prostitute as some modern scholars would like to suggest.

Martin Stern


From: David Ansbacher <dansbacher@...>
Date: Mon, Sep 10,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Kidush Halvono

Does anyone have or know of an App for Kidush Halvono for my iPod? It would
be very useful in the dark.

Thank you.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 6,2012 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Modesty at the Shabbos Table

Frank Silbermann wrote (MJ 61#31):
> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#29)
>> Frank Silbermann  (MJ 61#28):
>>> For the record, my first "Local Orthodox Rabbi" poskened
>>> to me and my wife that if the husband's family custom
>>> is for the woman to cover her hair,  then the wife was
>>> obligated to do so, and if not, then she was not obligated.
>>> (It was not his family custom for the wife to cover her hair,
>>> so his wife did not do so, even though her own mother did.)
>> I find Frank's interpretation of this ruling strange.
>> According to him, his LOR said "she was not obligated"
>> to cover her hair NOT that "she was permitted" to leave
>> it uncovered in public.
> I was paraphrasing, but is there a logical difference?

Only a slight nuance - the former implies a more di'eved situation where her
husband objects whereas the latter implies that basically she can do so.

> ...
>> What this LOR might have been ruling was that, if her husband
>> objected to her covering her hair in the house when no strangers
>> are present, or shaving her head as is done in some chasidic circles,
>> she should do as he wishes so as not to be 'repulsive' to him.
> And how would this explain his wife's not covering her hair in public?

What I meant was that her husband might find her covering her hair in public
>> A husband's wishes might possibly override Dat Yehudit [custom]
>> but NOT Dat Moshe [halachah].
> Which again begs the question.
>> Perhaps Frank should consult the rabbi to clarify his ruling.
> Because?

Because Frank may have read more into his LOR's ruling than was intended. He
may have been referring to uncovered hair in private areas (Dat Yehudit)
rather than in public (Dat Moshe). People often hear what they want to hear
rather than what is said, so I would recommend Frank checks with him.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 61 Issue 34