Question: We are, G-d-willing, about to celebrate a wedding in the family. Unfortunately, a fiery disagreement has just erupted, for the bride’s family insist on having a partition (“Mechitza”) at the wedding but the groom’s family claims that there is no reason to have a partition at a wedding. Which side is correct?
Answer: First of all, it is clear as day that during the part of the wedding when dancing is being held and there are women dancing as well, there is an absolute obligation to have a partition installed in the hall which will serve to separate between the men’s and women’s dancing. This is because men watching women dancing is a grave prohibition without a shadow of a doubt.
Let us now discuss the part of the wedding when the festive meal is being held: Is it obligatory to have a partition during the meal in accordance with the custom of those who are truly G-d-fearing or is there no obligation to do so according to the letter of the law?
The Opinion of the Sefer Chassidim
Rabbeinu Yehuda Ha’Chassid writes in his Sefer Chassidim that the “Sheha’Simcha Bim’ono” blessing recited at a wedding is not recited at a wedding which in which men and women can see each other openly, for Hashem is not happy in a place where there are improper thoughts.
The Opinion of the Levush
On the other hand, Rabbeinu Mordechai Yaffe writes in his Levush (end of Orach Chaim, Minhagim, Section 34) that nowadays, people are not as careful regarding this law, for women now commonly mingle among men and this does not cause improper thoughts. This means that although in previous generations and in certain places there was a halachic requirement to separate between men and women during a wedding, nevertheless, during a time and in a place where this does not incite the Evil Inclination because people have already become accustomed to this, this is not prohibited according to the letter of the law and the “Sheha’Simcha Bim’ono” blessing may indeed be recited.
The Opinion of Maran zt”l
Maran zt”l quotes both of the aforementioned opinions in his Responsa Yabia Omer (Volume 6, Chapter 13) and proceeds to offer proofs to the opinion of the Levush.
Halachically speaking, he rules that it is certainly proper to install a partition at a wedding celebration, for this serves as a powerful deterrent to the Evil Inclination (it is especially important to conduct all aspects of a wedding celebration according to the rules of modesty and sanctity, for this certainly has a tremendous impact on the new couple who will thus merit building their home according to Torah values and Hashem’s presence shall dwell among them). Nevertheless, when this issue causes great strife between the two sides, such as in the situation at hand, this should not lead to bitter fights and one may rely on the opinion of the Levush in such stressful circumstances and not place a partition in places where the custom is not to (this is especially true in various places outside of Israel where the custom is not to and doing so will cause great strife).
There have many instances when exactly this kind of question has been posed to Maran zt”l by the two arguing families of the bride and groom whether or not to install a partition at the wedding and Maran zt”l troubled himself to persuade the sides to come to a compromise and allow the partition to indeed be installed at the wedding. Only when these words fall on deaf ears should one give in and allow there not to be a partition during the meal at a wedding for the sake of peace.
As we have mentioned above, all of this applies only to the time the meal is being held. However, when women begin dancing, there is an absolute obligation to place a partition there in accordance with the rules of sanctity and modesty. May the Jewish nation merit many more joyous occasions, Amen.