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QUESTION

Chicago, IL

Kevod HaRav,  we are building a new bimah/platform and we would like to be able to divide it in half so that there is the possibility of having space for men and women during davening. Would a clear glass divider suffice for this or must the glass be opaque? It would only be used during keriyat HaTorah when a woman would ascend the bimah to read a MiShebeirakh.

ANSWER

A clear divider should be fine if the basic purpose is, as Rav Moshe would have it, to have single sex spaces and is not about הרהורים (Iggrot Moshe OC 1: 39). Rav Soloveitchik’s  position is that it should be 50 inches, the first 40 of which have to be opaque, though I do not understand this distinction. If it’s about הרהורים then it should all have to be opaque, and 50 inches should not suffice. If it is to separate and demarcate, then why do the first 40 have to be opaque? If it is to create greater separation, that would be better done through the top 10 being opaque.

I would say that I think me’ikar HaDin a clear divider should be fine as a mechitzah, but in a nod to norms and common practice it is best to make it opaque. However, it this situation, where the mechitzah is not for the entire tzibur it certainly would be fine to use a clear divider.

People in the hirhurim camp might object and hold that having a fully transparent mechitzah in this case is worse. The entire tzibur is watching a woman going up there and she is fully visible. You can decide if that’s a concern in your community.