Yesterday, I wrote about the value and power of women in my dvar Torah for Parshas Pinchos. One of the topics I covered was the mechitza. In retrospect, I feel that I used the wrong words when talking about the screen which separates men and women in prayer. My words suggested that I saw the mechitza as a tool of oppression. A way of hiding woman. An obstacle to equality.
In reality, the opposite is true.
The mechitza is not oppressive or sexist, and indeed I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a shul without one. I have a great deal of experience with shuls of different denominations, and those with mixed seating make me feel uncomfortable. I accept that some women prefer to pray without a mechitza, but halachically, the mechitza is necessary and I appreciate it.
The mechitza I referred to was more a metaphor than anything. A metaphorical mechitza which hides women from public view- not allowing them to speak on their telephones in public, appear in adverts or newspapers, or wear clothes with the slightest hint of colour. Women are disappearing from the Chareidi public view- and this is the fault of a number of rabbis, committees, and vaads, but we can’t blame the mechitza in shul.
Having clarified this, I would like to wish everyone a wonderful Shabbes. In London, Shabbes candles should be lit act 8:54, and Shabbes goes out at 10:20. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chain Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Genya, Chashachana bas Bryna, Golda Shira bas Yenta Ruchel and Shai bas Odeya for a refuah shleimah. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!