| Halachah |

From the Other Side of the Mechitzah

Women (and men) do not recite v’zos haTorah unless they can see the open, unrolled klaf 


Prepared for print by Faigy Peritzman

Are the halachos different in the ezras nashim, since we can’t see the aron kodesh or the sefer Torah? For example, may you give another woman a mazel tov kiss in shul?

The ezras nashim, a place designated for women to daven, is considered (to a large degree) as part of the shul itself and the rules of kedushas beis haknesses apply to it. It is forbidden, for instance, to use the ezras nashim as a shortcut from one side of the building to another, just as it is forbidden to use the shul as a shortcut.

Still, a mazel tov kiss would not be forbidden in the ezras nashim, since technically, it is not forbidden in the shul itself either. Although it is forbidden to kiss children (or grandchildren) while in shul, since it is inappropriate there to display a love other than our love for Hashem, a mazel tov kiss does not fall into that category and is permitted. (Rav Elyashiv ruled that kissing children in the ezras nashim is permitted as well, since its kedushah is a bit less than the kedushah of the shul itself.)

I heard that the reason men shouldn’t talk among themselves during Torah reading is so that they shouldn’t miss hearing Krias HaTorah. Based on that, would there be a more lenient approach to women speaking, since we are not obligated in hearing Krias HaTorah?

Although some poskim connect the prohibition of talking during Krias HaTorah with missing out on the reading, many other poskim, including the Mishnah Berurah, rule that talking is forbidden as soon as the sefer Torah is opened, even before the reader begins to read, as it is considered disrespectful to talk once the Torah scroll is unrolled. This applies to the women in the ezras nashim as well. In addition, talking during Krias HaTorah is disruptive and insensitive to those women who, despite being exempt, would still like to follow the parshah and pay attention to Krias HaTorah.

When the Torah is picked up to be put away, I cannot see it. Should I still be saying v’zos haTorah? If I can move the mechitzah curtain for a second to see the Torah, is that appropriate?

Women (and men) do not recite v’zos haTorah unless they can see the open, unrolled klaf upon which the words of the Torah are written (and in fact, during their monthly cycle women should specifically avoid gazing at the open scroll), but it is not necessary to be close enough to be able to read the actual words. Whether or not it is appropriate to move the mechitzah curtain depends on the type of the shul you belong to and the logistics of the mechitzah. This is a question that needs to be presented to the rav of your shul.

There are many times in the machzor where it says that one should stand because the aron kodesh is open. If I cannot see the open aron kodesh, must I stand?

Standing when the aron kodesh is open is not a halachic obligation but a widespread, proper minhag Yisrael. But if you cannot see the open aron from the ezras nashim, then there is no reason to stand.

In general, when is it crucial to stand during chazaras hashatz and when not?

It’s never crucial to stand during chazaras hashatz. Indeed, in many communities, the tzibbur (both men and women) sit throughout chazaras hashatz, and even during the Kaddish that follows it. In other communities, it is customary to stand during chazaras hashatz, but even in those communities, elderly or weak men and women are allowed to sit down.

If the chazzan is davening in a low voice and it’s hard to make out all the words, can I answer Amen when I know what brachah he just made, but didn’t actually hear the words?

If you are aware of which brachah the chazzan said, you may answer Amen even if you didn’t hear all the words, although l’chatchilah, a special effort should be made to hear, at the very least, the last few words of the brachah (from Baruch Atah… and on).

Sometimes I am still in the middle of my own silent tefillah when the chazzan starts chazaras hashatz. Should I be answering anything while still davening?

You should not be answering anything while in the middle of your Shemoneh Esreh (until you reach elokai netzor). But when the chazzan reaches Kedushah (or yehei shmei rabba), you should stop your davening. While remaining silent, you should concentrate on listening to the words of Kedushah as they are being recited by the chazzan.

When coming late to shul, I never know what to do. Should I say the entire davening as I usually do? Or should I skip certain parts so that I can catch up with the tzibbur?

Men who are obligated to daven tefillah b’tzibbur but came late to shul should skip most of Pesukei D’zimra (except Baruch She’amar, Ashrei, and Yishtabach, as well as Nishmas on Shabbos and Yom Tov) so that they will be able to start Shemoneh Esreh together with the congregation. Women, who are not obligated to daven tefillah b’tzibbur, are not required to do so and may daven at their own pace regardless of where the congregation is holding.

Still, a woman who wishes to daven tefillah b’tzibbur is permitted to skip most of Pesukei D’zimra in order to be able to start davening Shemoneh Esreh with the congregation.

I was taught that when you finish Shemoneh Esreh, you take three steps back, then say the yehi ratzon, and when you get to the end, you bounce three times on your heels at the word kadmoniyos. I’ve seen this countless times, but someone just told me that this practice is incorrect. Are we mistaken?

I am not familiar with any source for this “custom.”

I know that it is not permitted to walk within daled amos of someone davening Shemoneh Esreh. If I am done with my silent Shemoneh Esreh but the woman standing directly behind me is not, may I take the three steps back even though I will enter her daled amos?

You may not step back the three steps if by doing so you will enter her daled amos (approximately seven feet). If you cannot wait until she has finished her silent Shemoneh Esreh, then take the three steps back diagonally (sideways), thus avoiding walking directly in front of her.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 858)

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