Mixed Gender Functions

[Hat tip MD]

Recently, a question was asked of the Charedi Leumi Posek, Rav Aviner, about a 50 year reunion of a group of couples who had been part of a youth group 50 years prior. They would be attending, were frum, all with their wives, and the idea was that they would recollect memories and have an enjoyable evening. The question asked to him was

Is such a reunion permitted according to Halacha

I guess the mere fact that they asked Rav Aviner the question before going ahead with their reunion is testament to their frumkeit and fidelity to Halacha. Those who are not so beholden to their Rabbi, would not even ask a question.

At any rate, Rav Aviner’s answer was

“חלילה. זו מכבסת מילים לפעילות מעורבת. זה איסור חמור גם אם אלו יראי שמים. ולצערנו יש פעמים רבות פעילות המשך

In other words, definitely not permitted and is a serious halachic infraction even if the participants are frum! Rav Aviner opines that unfortunately, there are sometimes serious outcomes from such events.

In other words, age makes no difference, and one would assume, a fortiori, that this would be forbidden for younger couples. I won’t extrapolate to mixed tables of singles at a wedding who are looking for Shidduchim. Rav Aviner may have the same opinion as R’ Aron Soltoveitchik that this isn’t just permitted but desirable. It is dangerous to extrapolate in Halacha.

Upon hearing of this Psak, respected Rav Amnon Bazak (whose writings I am acquainted with and if I am not mistaken he may have visited Melbourne) of Har Etzyon, disagreed with Rav Aviner on three grounds.

  1. The attitude of the Rishonim and Acharonim on issues such as this, was and is tightly connected with the practices in such communities. In other words, if it was common place for men and women to meet, then Poskim such as the Bach, opined that it is permitted (if you want to read more about this examine the issue of whether to say שהשמחה במעונו at a mixed Sheva Brachos. If my memory serves me correctly, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch is Machmir and says no). The point of Rav Bazak was that this is something which may well change from community to community. I wouldn’t expect this to happen in Satmar, or Belz, where the women aren’t even allowed to drive cars, of course.
  2. If one wants to say “those who are stringent will get a blessing”, this leaves is a sour taste because the idea that they get a blessing on account of people who really are not doing anything wrong according to plain Halacha.
  3. What’s the point in putting out words like ‘absolutely forbidden’ when this happens all the time, at tables, which involve Chachomim and Roshei Yeshivah at their meals?

There is also the question of when you have two long tables at a Sheva Brachos one with men and the other with women without a Mechitza. Some will still say this is “mixed” other will not, even according to those who argue with the Bach.

Mori V’Rabbi, R’ Hershel Schachter relates that R’ Moshe Feinstein ז’ל and R’ Yaakov Kaminetzy ז’ל  and others made weddings and there were mixed tables. He does however caution that times have changed somewhat to those days. He doesn’t use Rav Bazak’s arguments but notes that

  1. Women tend not to wear the ornate thick dresses that they wore in yesteryear, and sometimes, perhaps too often, are on the boundary of Tzniyus with flimsy clothing which leaves little to the imagination
  2. The music in those days was much slower and it was rare to find a women or man return to the table shvitzing with all that comes from that phenomenon and fine cloth.

Accordingly, he suggests caution at weddings.

Your views? I believe this is societal and something according to הרגלם and will change from group to group to the extent that a blanket opinion is elusive and probably not advised.

There is a lot of “Ess Past Nisht” and I’m not arguing. I’m just quoting and adding to this article

בענין סתירת הרמבם שלא יתערבו או שלא יסתכלו זה את זה,  כבר דשו ביה רבים

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

6 thoughts on “Mixed Gender Functions”

  1. You will get the same answer when asking “Am I permitted to …”, in anything to do with Tzeniut, if you are asking Harav Aviner, or you are asking the Posek of Vaad Mishmeret Hatniut.

    http://www.thejewishpress.com/news_article.asp?article=5378

    Letters To The Editor
    Posted 9/7/2005
    By Jewish Press Readers
    Good Enough For Rav Moshe

    I would like to tell a story in support of Chanaya Weissman (”Mixed Seating Revisited,” op-ed, Aug. 19). More than 30 years ago I was in Rav Moshe Dovid Tendler’s shiur. Rav Tendler, shlita, told us that at his chasunah there was mixed seating. In his inimitable style he said about himself, “It was not because the chosson fought for it. The chosson was so thrilled with the shidduch he didn’t open his mouth.”

    Rav Tendler’s father-in-law, of course, was Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and if Rav Moshe felt he could have mixed seating at his daughter’s wedding, I hope reader Esther Perl (Letters, Sept. 2) will admit that mixed seating just might be Orthodox….
    I am writing this letter now, while Rav Tendler is alive and well and can confirm my story….

    Rabbi David Alan Willig
    Bayside Jewish Center
    Bayside, NY

    http://www.etzion.org.il/he/%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%99%D7%91%D7%94-%D7%9E%D7%A2%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%91%D7%AA-%D7%91%D7%97%D7%AA%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%AA

    למעשה, הרבה העידו על גדולי ישראל ששייכים לעולם החרדי, לפחות בארה”ב, שישבו בסעודות יחד עם הנשים שלהם ולא היה להם בעיה בכך: ר’ משה פיינשטיין, הרב הוטנר, ר’ יעקב קמינצקי, ר’ אהרן קולטר, הגרי”ד ועוד. מספרים, שמישהו שאל את הגרי”ד איך להושיב את האנשים בחופה, והגרי”ד ענה לו שיעשה איך שהציבור מעדיף. כלומר, למרות שהיה יכול לקבוע שישבו בנפרד הוא אמר שאפשר לשבת מעורב. מעבר לכך, שמעתי בשמו של ר’ אהרן סולוביצ’יק שהוא נפגש לראשונה עם אשתו באחת החתונות שבהן היה, והוא היה מקפיד להגיד לאנשים שמתחתנים שיכינו שולחנות מיוחדים מעורבים בשביל שהרווקים יוכלו למצוא את שידוך בחתונה! מעבר לכך, כשר’ אהרן עצמו היה בחתונות שהישיבה בהן הייתה נפרדת, הוא ביקש מבעלי השמחה לשבת עם אשתו.
    לסיכום, לדעתי יש בעיה באנשים שבשבת וביו”ט מקילים ויושבים במעורב, אולם בחופה הם מחמירים. מצד שני, גם אם מתירים לשבת במעורב, צריך להקפיד שלא יווצר מצב בו בעל אחד יושב ליד אשה של אדם אחר. בנוסף, כפי שראינו אין זה פשוט שישיבה מעורבת מותרת ולכן ברור שיש מקום להחמיר. אולי כדאי לסיים בסיפור על החתונה של הרב עמיטל, הרב צבי פסח פרנק ור’ איסר זלמן מלצר ישבו באותו שלחן – יחד עם נשותיהם.

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  2. I think that point can’t be stressed enough: you ask a question, you get an answer.

    But it’s worth distinguishing our case because it specifically concerned a group of people who wanted to come together and reminisce about their lives when they were single. Married persons can’t revert to the social relationships of their youth; the interactions that were appropriate then are not necessarily appropriate now.

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      1. No. He would not allow it. How can you play chess if there is a Queen present?
        The Queen mingling with males and Bishops on the same board?

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  3. If each individual Hareidi couple are in their day-to-day living environment, it is easy
    to comply and observe of Haloochos and that’s the way that it should be.
    But when Hareidi couples get together with other Hareidi couples in a social situation,
    no matter what the social situation may be, the level of observance of any given Haalocho which may otherwise be Machmir, may be compromised, waned
    and relaxed. And that’s the nature of four very being.

    All of us, even members of he Hareidi community, needs human contact.
    The challenge for us is the balance the very natur and the very impact that
    Halochos has and plays in our lives and the very human and imperfect makeup
    that beholds us.

    You bought up the point of the flimsy material and the way that Tznios can be
    bought into the fore. And that’s the very point of what I’m saying.

    Strictly speaking, in the pure light of day, and the very wording of the Halochos
    of what it teaches us, how it impacts on us and what it is trying to convey on us,
    I can see the point what the Rishonimm and Aharonim are trying to convey.

    But if talking about a social situation where Hareidi couples comes together
    and intermingles with each other, that’s where Halacho and human imperfections
    collide and in that, that what must be remedied

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    1. If driving a car is forbidden then close haymishe cookies where only women serve! The men meander in the kitchen area. Traditionally, the frummest women in a town, even the wife of the Rabbi would operate a shop. Should she have? What about serving men? Indeed, I wonder why all Charedi institutions in Melbourne don’t have a mechitza in the shop? I wonder why the serve the non frum community in all the hospitality industries and more. The answer in a word is: MONEY

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