A Public Prayer Partition


Dear Rabbi,

The recent controversy in Tel Aviv on Yom Kippur about holding prayer in public without a partition has me wondering. What is the reason for having a physical separation in a place of prayer?




  1. I will address the matter of a partition, but it is worth noting that the recent controversy seems to be a result of the question of Jewish identity and tradition more than the idea of a mechitza, which is the Hebrew word for the partition you inquire about.

    The mechitza / partition serves as a division between the men and the women during
    prayer. It’s basically to help everyone focus on prayer and not on other things.
    The source for a mechitza is found more than two thousand years ago in classic Jewish sources.

    There are a number of reasons for this practice:

    One reason is in order not to cause those who are unmarried to feel left out by sitting alone. We come to synagogue to relate to God simply as Jews, not as spouses, husbands, wives, fathers or mothers. With a mechitzah, spouses do not sit together.
    In this way, we are more of a congregation than groups of individuals.

    Another reason for the mechitza is to prevent there being an atmosphere of socializing, and conversation during prayer. The atmosphere during prayer should be serious. One way to help achieve the proper atmosphere is by creating a separation between men and women.

    A third reason is to promote modesty and to prevent the distraction from prayer to both men and women from the presence of members of the opposite gender, to whom there is a natural attraction.

    May God help us to have the wisdom to end any controversy, whether it be in Tel Aviv or any other place in the world, quickly and for good!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team