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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Men and Women on Buses - Contemporary Rabbis' Opinions

Here are a few opinions of various Rabbanim I noticed that have to do with gender mixing on buses.  This is by no means a full and extensive list.

(Please be very careful commenting on this post.  Any comments that I believe disrespects any of these rabbis will be deleted.)
  • Rav Yaakov Ades: It would be better if there were 2 separate buses and bus stops for men and women.
  • Rav Elyashiv: There are conflicting reports as to what he said. Using gemara lingo: עסקני הוא אליבא דרב אלישיב
  • Rav Avraham Yosef: It is permissible for a man to sit next to a woman on a bus, just not to stare at her
  • Rav Amar and Rav Metzger: We cannot impose on women where to sit on public buses - Mehadrin buses for private use is fine
  • Rav Eliezer Melamed: Mehadrin buses undermine family structure
  • Rav Ovadia Yosef (per his son Rav Yitzhak Yosef): Mehadrin lines are a Hidur and something good, but only for those who want such lines of their own volition.  (Rav Yitzhak Yosef adds: To guard one's eyes, it's good to take a small sefer along and learn from it.  When my father was younger, he used to travel by bus with the Rabbanit sitting next to him, but he didn't notice as he was involved in his learning.  The Rabbanit had 2 baskets in her hands and before she got off the bus, she asked him to bring one basket home.  However, as he was so involved in his learning, he didn't even realize that she was talking to him, and he didn't bring the basket home.)
  • Rav Mutzafi was recently asked about saying Tehillim or reading Mishnayot opposite a woman who is not dressed properly on a bus.  He answered that one should place the sefer between one's eyes and the woman, and it would then be permitted.  Regarding Mehadrin lines, he refused to answer at the moment.


At Wed Dec 28, 06:09:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nothing to comment--you listed gdolim of different eidot, each with its own derech.
what would be nice if they all agree that frum jews should not hate other jews, regardless of which , if any psak they would follow....

At Wed Dec 28, 07:23:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was told that the only reason the men want to be separate from the women is so that they don't have to sit with their wives and look after their own kids. They need quiet time. And also, as Rav Melamed said, it is not halacha..... its a shtush basically. Religious men all over the world manage to get on buses and trains and avoid looking at women. It's not that hard. The Rebbe always said keep your head down and focus on the area directly around you, don't go looking at everything.

At Wed Dec 28, 08:43:00 PM 2011, Blogger Moriah said...

People have lost their accountability. It's not a woman's fault if a man gets aroused by her sitting somewhere near him on a bus. This is totally ridiculous. It's like the Taliban in Afghanistan -- the woman are forced to paint their windows black so the men don't look in.. Let's act like grown ups and take some responsibility for our own thoughts and actions..

At Wed Dec 28, 09:58:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Shiloh said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Wed Dec 28, 11:46:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Ben Waxman said...

Rav Moshe Feinstein: Sitting next to women on buses

Igros Moshe (E.H. 2:14): Nevertheless concerning other women even if they are married and nida and non-Jews – everyone agrees that there is no prohibition to come into contact with them since it is not done in a sexual arousing manner (derech chiba). Therefore there is no reason to be concerned about contact with women. Consequently there is no need to refrain from traveling on subways and buses to go to work when they are very crowded and it is not possible to avoid contact with women. That is because contact without intent for pleasure that results from the inevitable crowding and pushing is not done in a licentious manner (derech chiba)…. Similarly there is no prohibition for this reason to sit next to a woman when there is no other place available. That is because this is also not done for the sake of pleasure (derech chiba)…. However if it is known that this will bring about lustful thoughts then he should refrain from traveling in these circumstances if it isn’t necessary. But if he needs to travel on the buses and subways because of his work then it would be permitted even if it brings about lustful thoughts. He needs to fight against these thoughts by distracting himself and thinking about words of Torah as the Rambam (Issurei Bi’ah 21:19) advises. He can rely on this to allow him travel to work. However if he knows that he has a lustful nature and these circumstances will cause him to be sexual aroused – then it is prohibited even if he needs to travel on the buses and subways for his job. But G-d forbid that a person should be that way. This is a result of idleness as it states in Kesubos (49) concerning a woman but it applies also to a man. Consequently he needs to be involved in Torah study and work and not be that way.

(Translation by R' D. Eidensohn, author of Yad Moshe)

At Wed Dec 28, 11:48:00 PM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Anonymous 6:09, I can guarantee you that all the rabbis listed agree to what you said.

Anonymous 7:23, I agree people can travel in mixed company, but I must say Mehadrin makes it a lot easier. I was once sitting on a bus in Yerushalayim and a girl in shorts sat down next to me. Being a single Yeshiva boy at the time, this made me feel very uncomfortable. I did my best to stare out the window, but a mehadrin bus would have helped minimize those situations. Then again, as almost every if not every rabbi listed agrees, one cannot force it upon others.

Moriah, yes, men should take responsibility, but women should too - or else one can throw out all of Hilchot Tzeniut. This is why both men and women have halachot that need to be followed. Also, comparing this to the Taliban is not helpful. It's reductio ad Talibanum.

At Wed Dec 28, 11:55:00 PM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Ben Waxman, thanks.

I've seen that translation of Rav Moshe's psak on comment sections of various websites. I'm trying to keep it to rabbis who are still alive, which is also why I didn't bring down the famous story of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach either. But it definitely adds to the discussion. Thanks.

At Thu Dec 29, 12:01:00 AM 2011, Anonymous ben waxman said...

yak the question remains why should a state impose seating arrangements simply because "young yeshiva guys" have trouble controlling their eyes and minds? life has ein sof challenges and it is basically your responsibility to overcome them.

in the seminal work on avodat hashem, the baal hatanya gives the person working on his qesher to hashem many different ways of working on himself. none of them include telling the other guy what to do.

At Thu Dec 29, 12:04:00 AM 2011, Blogger yaak said...


Ein Hachi Nami. You're right. They shouldn't. I'm just pointing out the ideal situation in a pretend world where everybody agreed to it.

At Thu Dec 29, 12:23:00 AM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yaak: women need to take responsibility..... well the frum ones do, the non-frum wouldn't know the difference.
Ultimately, the men have to take responsibility. Not the women. It's a free world, and noone owns these buses, even the frummers!
Imagine if all the blacks in Brooklyn decided that the #22 bus would no longer allow whites to sit in the front of the bus..... it wouldn't happen, and it shouldn't happen in any form in Israel either. These men are not ''frum'', they are total hypocrits who have no problem causing embarasement to a woman at any time.

At Thu Dec 29, 12:35:00 AM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Anonymous 12:23,
Ultimately, the men have to take responsibility. Not the women.

No. The women have an equal responsibility.

It's a free world, and noone owns these buses, even the frummers!


Imagine if all the blacks in Brooklyn decided that the #22 bus would no longer allow whites to sit in the front of the bus..... it wouldn't happen, and it shouldn't happen in any form in Israel either.

Your analogy is flawed. The blacks do not have inherent Taavot for the whites.

These men are not ''frum'', they are total hypocrits who have no problem causing embarasement to a woman at any time.

Which men are you referring to? To the men that harass the women that sit in front? Then I agree. If you refer to men that want Mehadrin buses, then I vehemently disagree.

At Thu Dec 29, 03:52:00 AM 2011, Blogger Neshama said...

Yaak: isn't the "Halacha" on the men to "guard their eyes"? My husband always brings a tiny Sefer that he keeps his eyes on when possible.

I agree with Moriah.
It seems the Heavenly tikun is falling upon the men in this saga (to repair that of Adam).
I don't think it's mainly the yeshiva guys battling, but the older men. We see more of them berating women, and in awful headlines.

At Thu Dec 29, 04:11:00 AM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a middle-aged, unmarried, frum Jewish woman. My personal view (not based on halacha, but on my own sensitivities), I don't have a problem sitting across the aisle from a man, but I do NOT want to sit in a seat NEXT to a man where we will be touching shoulder to knee for a period of time. No, it does not turn me on, but it makes me feel very uncomfortable. That said, I also do not feel comfortable getting on a mehadrin bus and then having to walk the entire aisle in front of all the men sitting at the front before I reach the back where my seat is located. On some buses, women board at the back and this is helpful. But, I appreciate Rabbi Ades suggestion. I would love to have a women only bus available to me. The public buses are notoriously overcrowded in Israel and I have been a victim of wandering hands, shall we say? I have also had the experience of black African Muslim "refugees" purposely stationing themselves in the aisle and refusing to move on, so that you are forced to mamash rub against their bodies to get past. There are actually women like me who view the separateness as a blessing. And we're not alone. There are women in other countries who agree. The only difference is that religion is not at the root of it and this is what has the world up in arms. See this article.

At Thu Dec 29, 07:31:00 AM 2011, Anonymous Anon1 said...

Those who want buses to segregate passengers in conformance to religious beliefs should fund and operate their own private bus companies.

Public buses can't make these distinctions. It's not the government's job to do so.

At Thu Dec 29, 07:57:00 AM 2011, Blogger Daniela said...

Anon1, it is forbidden in israel to set up private bus lines.

At Thu Dec 29, 08:18:00 AM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon1 - The "public" buses in Israel are run by a private company - Egged. The "government" does not run a bus service. This private company offers a "mehadrin" service to a large community who pays for it, because it is a lucrative market for them. It's BUSINESS!

Signed "no excuse for ignorance"

At Thu Dec 29, 10:30:00 AM 2011, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are different halachic opinions in all directions. But even if this is a chumra, why shouldn't a community have buses that are separate seating if that is what they want? No-one is forced to get on them and there are plenty of mixed buses. The mehadrin buses should be clearly marked as such on the outside, and anyone getting on should be considered to have accepted that.

Having said that, it goes without saying that Torah Jews must behave with derech eretz and not harass anyone even if in violation.

At Thu Dec 29, 03:32:00 PM 2011, Blogger Devorah said...

Yaak you said: The women have an equal responsibility.

This is why I don't agree with you... [this could be a first!]

A person cannot base their own behaviour on someone else's. The only thing a person can change is themselves, not anyone else.
If, by chance, a woman would sit next to a man on one of these ''women to the rear'' buses.... the man must not lower his standard of behaviour because of it.
As they say s...t happens.
A person needs to be in control of themselves in any situation that may arise.
You can't put the responsibility for your own actions/reactions onto the other party.

At Thu Dec 29, 03:34:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Anon1 said...


When a government charges even a privately owned company with the responsibility for public mass transit service, that company becomes an agent of the government doing public functions. In such a case, providing services to the public in a discriminatory fashion is very problematic.

If smaller, truly private operations really are illegal, that is wrong, too.

At Thu Dec 29, 03:40:00 PM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

Neshama and Devorah,

I don't disagree with you in anything you said. I'm just saying that women have an equal responsibility to dress and behave in ways that don't unduly get men to stare at them. Of course, men share the responsibility to behave properly in all situations. (Did I ever say differently?)

At Thu Dec 29, 11:41:00 PM 2011, Anonymous Shiloh said...

Yaak, women have a responsibility to dress and behave in ways that don't unduly get men to stare at them.

Sure in a taliban style Judaism. This is why we need the geulah, so we return to haShem and his ways and not this nonsensical Erev Rav style of controling every aspect of ones life. Yehovah is our God, not the takanot and extra stringincies of self emposed Golden Calf style holiness which is in itself another form of idol worship.

If you don't like how someone is dressed Yaak, mind your own business. Take the plank out of your own eye Yaak, before you try to take the speck out of anyone else's eye.

At Fri Dec 30, 12:41:00 AM 2011, Blogger Devash said...

Do you realize that the closer humans come to being nothing more than animals - living for nothing but the next sensual pleasure - the less clothes they wear... Just like animals?

Do you realize that every human imagining of royalty involves layers of rich clothing?

The more refined a person is, the more clothing he wears. Everybody knows and acknowledges this, if he is honest.

We are called by our Creator to be a holy people, children of the King of the Universe. We should dress as befits that station in this life. Anything less pains Hashem and pains those who love and honor Hashem.

This idea that we have no right to call others to account; that we should live and let live, is an assimilated Western idea. Judaism teaches us the opposite; that we are responsible for one another. It's a mitzvah to give tochachah.

Also, there is a sense that secular society has gone so far to the other extreme, that in order to maintain balance in the world, we have to move toward the opposite extreme as well.

It's not so pashut.

At Fri Dec 30, 12:55:00 AM 2011, Blogger yaak said...

It's amazing how many people are misunderstanding my position. It must therefore be the way I'm stating it. I'll restate it in a hopefully clearer way:

1) I think Mehadrin buses are a good thing for a community that wants it.

2) I think Mehadrin buses are a bad thing to impose on a community that does not want it.

3) I think that a woman who sits in the front of a mehadrin bus - no matter if she does so unwittingly or as a provocation - should be left alone

4) I think that men have a responsibility to look away from inappropriately dressed women

5) I think that women have a responsibility to dress and act appropriately so as not to cause men to stare at them

6) I think that if a woman dresses inappropriately, men or other women should not say or do anything that is outside the very strict boundaries of Hilchot Tochaha. These boundaries include:
a) Not embarrassing the woman
b) Only saying something if she will listen
c) Only saying something if you yourself are exemplary in that area
d) and more.
Being that rarely do all conditions apply, a general rule of thumb is to keep quiet.

I hope that clears it up. If not, ask.

At Fri Dec 30, 04:18:00 AM 2011, Blogger Cosmic X said...


Rav Eliezer Melamed's opinion is now on line in English. What he says is very close to what I wrote on my blog. Baruch SheKivanti.

At Fri Dec 30, 06:08:00 AM 2011, Blogger Daniela said...

Halacha and modesty and personal choice in clothing do not seem to be the key point here. According to halacha, a nonjewish lady dresses however she wants. Yet, we do not see Russian or Filipino ladies deliberately boarding this sort of busses (which only travel in very definite areas, and, there are many mixed busses even on these lines). These acts are exclusively provocations.

At Fri Dec 30, 08:05:00 AM 2011, Blogger Neshama said...

Kol haKavod Yaak, second time around sounds good.


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