Guidance Regarding Gaps in a Mechitza – Defining the Purpose of a Mechitza

QUESTION

Chicago, IL

Kevod HaRav, do concepts like gud asik mechitztah1 and lavud2 work for mechitzot in shul? It appears that there will be a six inch gap between a section of our new mechitza and the next section. It is not in an area that is highly visible—only a few people sitting in one spot would notice it. Is this a problem?

ANSWER

If one follows the position that a mechitza functions as a halakhic wall to divide the spaces, then—yes—as a halakhic wall, lavud would work. As a halakhic wall, it would also have to reach within three tefachim of the ground (Mishnah Sukkah 1:9), and a height of ten tefachim (Mishnah Sukkah 1:1) (about three feet) would suffice. This (the last) is not generally our practice.

Our practice is to look at it more functionally. Does it divide the spaces and prevent intermingling, etc. This is the basis for the 50″ height (see Igrot Moshe OH 1:39, Tradition, 23:4 (Summer 1988): Women and Minyan, note 89). From that perspective, the question to ask would be more practical. Does this gap allow for crossing from one place to the other? For people standing next to it to feel that they are in undivided space? I imagine that the answer is no. As such, it is fine.

In other words—lavud doesn’t apply in this case. The mechitzah is fine.


1 The halakhic concept that a pre-established wall continues upwards infinitely (Eruvin 89a, Sukkah 4b)
2
The halakhic concept that gaps of less than three tefachim as considered as if they are enclosed (Shabbat 97a, Sukkah 6b)

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