|Ervah During Krias Shema
(Orach Chaim:Siman 73-75)
The Gemara in Berachos 25b says that if there is Ervah behind glass that is visible it is assur m’dorysa to say Krias Shema. This is learned from the passuk that says “and an illicit thing should not be seen in you. The chazal understood this passuk homiletically to mean that “thing” is the same word as “speech” as a result we can understand this verse to mean don’t speak words of holiness in the presence of an Ervah. This is an issur d’orysa that would apply to a man or a woman who have any ervah in their vicinity whether it be that of a man or a woman.
The Rashba says that the understanding of the Gemara is ervah should not be seen. Meaning if someone were watching you say the Divrei Kedusha would they see ervah in your vicinity or not.
The Rambam understood the Gemara to mean you should not see ervah when reading Krias Shema.
Shulchan Aruch (75:6):
He poskins like the Rambam. Therefore if there’s ervah in your vicinity and you want to say Divrei Kedusha you would either have to turn your head, close your eyes, or make it dark to the point of losing the ability to see the ervah.
He argues with the Shulchan Aruch and says that the majority of Achronim say we hold like the Rashba. Therefore none of the above eitzos would work since there is ervah that is in your vicinity even though you aren’t looking at it. If there’s ervah in your vicinity you have to turn your body entirely away from it not just your head. Closing the eyes would not help. It follows that if a person’s own ervah is showing there is nothing he can do to matir the Divrei Kedusha other then putting on clothes since he can’t turn his body away from it.
This is true for all ervah d’orysa but we will see coming up that there is a concept of ervah derabanan that even the Rashba would agree the above eitzos would work for.
Furthermore the Mishnah Brurah holds that regarding the eitzah of closing the eyes or turning the face there are other distinctions to be made. If the ervah is in another domain but still visible then these eitzos won’t help. If the ervah is covered even if it is only by a transparent material then these eitzos will help.
The Gemara in Berachos 24b said that even if Lebo is Roeh es Haervah it is assur to say Divrei Kedusha. That is to say that the ervah is covered just it is not covered in such way that his heart can’t see it. An example would be wearing a loose fitting robe with no undergarments or belt. This is not an issur associated with the place but rather with the person in this state.
The Rema brings down the Tur who says that this problem of Lebo Roeh es Haervah applies to the ervah of someone else as well.
Based on this Rema if two people are under the covers or in the water and one has his ervah covered but the other doesn’t then the one who has his ervah covered still can’t make a beracho because his heart sees the ervah of his friend.
He holds that women do not have a problem of Lebo Roeh es Haervah because of the positioning of the ervah. This does not mean that women can make a beracho while naked since they still have to worry about the ervah d’orysa being visible as explained above. If, however, they were wearing a robe then they would not have any Lebo Roeh es Haervah problems.
He claims that there is a problem of Lebo Roeh es Haervah at least when standing. Therefore women would not be aloud to say Divrei Kedusha with just a robe on unless they sit down or they put a belt around the waist to be mafsik.
Shulchan Aruch/ Rema:
They hold like the Orchos Chaim.
In terms of the halacha by saying Divrei Kedusha the Achronim are in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch. The Mishnah Brurah brings that by women going to the mikvah the Shach and Taz say that it would suffice to hold like the Shulchan Aruch and make the beracho of the tevila while they are submerged in the water. The rationale for this is that even clear water is considered a hefseik for the ervah d’orysa provided that the head is above the water and she doesn’t look down. As far as the ervah derabanan of Lebo Roeh es Haerveh women don’t have this problem.
The Mishnah Brurah says that it is better to be chosheish for the Bach if possible and therefore the woman should wrap her arms around her stomach, lift her heart above the water, or if possible cloud the water with foot motions. Any of these eitzos would work to fulfill the Bach.
Biur Halacha (Siman 74):
When there is ervah in the place it is assur to say Divrei Kedusha m’dorysa. In a situation of Lebo Roeh es Haervah it is assur mederabanan to say Divrei Kedusha.
In Siman 74:6 he points out that based on these two Gemaras there would be a chiuv to worry about two totally separate issurim for saying Divrei Kedusha. The first would be to make sure that your eyes can’t see your ervah or the ervah of anyone else. The second would be to make sure that your heart can’t see your ervah or the ervah of anyone else.
The Gemara in Berachos 24a says that Rav Yitzchak said a revealed Tefach of a woman is ervah. The Gemara questioned what is the chiddush of calling the revealed Tefach ervah. The Gemara concluded that it can’t be that by calling the revealed Tefach ervah that makes it assur to look at since even a small finger of a woman is assur to look at with intention to enjoy. It must be referring to his wife in regards to saying Krias Shema. The chiddush is that the revealed Tefach on his wife is muttar to look at in general but not when saying Divrei Kedusha.
The Rashba says that this Tefach is an ervah derabanan. The reason behind this issur is not based on the passuk that the Gemara brought before about the holiness of the camp and how illicit things should not be seen in it. This issur is of an entirely different nature it is to prevent sinful thoughts. Based on this foundation he says that it would only be assur for a man to say Divrei Kedusha in front of a woman with a revealed Tefach not a woman in front of a woman or man in front of a man with a revealed Tefach.
Based on a subtlety in the Rosh claims that women seeing the revealed Tefach of another woman is also assur during Krias Shema.
He says that the majority of Achronim disagree with the Rema and his understanding of the Rosh. Therefore only men have an issur of seeing the revealed Tefach of a woman during Krias Shema.
The shayla is where the revealed Tefach of Rav Yitzchak is on the woman’s body.
In Siman 75:1 he says that any place that is normally covered with clothing would be problematic for Divrei Kedusha if a Tefach from that place were revealed.
He adds that the majority of opinions understand the Gemara to mean that this is the shiur for all women not just a person’s wife.
He learned like the Hagahos Mamanios that the Tefach is only by his wife but by other women where the temptation is stronger then even less then a Tefach would be assur.
There is also a machlokes regarding the kavanah of the viewer when saying the Divrei Kedusha.
He holds that the issur of the revealed Tefach even applies if the person saying the Divrei Kedusha just sees the ervah but has no intent whatsoever to take pleasure in what he sees.
He says that the revealed Tefach is only assur if the person saying the Divrei Kedusha has intent to take pleasure from viewing it at that time.
He poskins like the Rosh but says if it is impossible any other way he can be lenient like the Rabbeinu Yonah. Of course this won’t help for ervah d’orysa since that issur is not based on what the thoughts are of the viewer but rather the Holiness of the Camp.
He adds that closing the eyes or turning the head don’t work. If there is no other choice then he can be meikal and close the eyes or turn the head.
The contemporary poskim have said that pictures or any two dimensional item with ervah on it is also assur because of the revealed Tefach which is assur since it leads to sinful thoughts. They say it is enough to close the eyes in this situation like by ervah behind a glass. This is unlike a live ervah where we are machmir not to rely on these leniencies unless there s no other choice.
There are a few other aspects to the laws of ervah for Divrei Kedusha.
The Gemara in Berachos 24a continues and says that the “Shoke” of a woman is ervah. This refers to some part of the leg of the woman as we will see further on. The question is what the chidush of the Gemara is here since we have already established that any revealed Tefach is assur.
The Bach explains the Gemara as follows. The “Shoke” is a more arousing place therefore even if less than a Tefach is revealed it is assur to read Krias Shema there.
The “Shoke” is defined as the upper section of the leg. He adds that the upper arm and the upper leg are “Das Yehudis” to cover. That means that this is the definitive custom of Jewish women from “Time Immimorial” to cover these areas. Even in places where the minhag of Jewish women is not to cover these areas it is still called ervah they are called promiscuous and it is certainly assur to say Divrei Kedusha in their presence. Below the knee and elbow is dependent upon the minhag hamakom whether women have to cover it and therefore whether it is ervah for Divrei Kedusha.
Therefore the Gemara means that any area on the woman’s body that is either a chiuv or a custom to cover, if it were revealed it would be assur to say Divrei Kedusha in that place.
Because of the laws of the revealed Tefach a person would have to be especially careful when there is a nursing woman in the room not to say any Divrei Kedusha unless he turns his body or at least closes his eyes if he has no other choice.
If a person did say Krias Shema or Shemoneh Esrei or some other beracho with ervah in his midst he does not have to daven again. The rationale is that b’dieved we can use the Rabbeinu Yonahmentioned above to say that unless the person had kavanah to look at the ervah for pleasure then it was not assur to say the Divrei Kedusha.
The Gemara in Berachos 25b says that although the skin of goyim is considered in the verse as likened to the skin of animals nonetheless they still pose a problem regarding the laws of ervah for Divrei Kedusha.
This is the halacha.
He says that the halacha of the revealed Tefach which is assur mederabanan is applicable to a small girl as well if she is above three years old. One’s own daughter would not have the issur of the revealed Tefach until she is eleven.
Some say that the Chazon Ish was meikal until 6 or 7 when the girl begins to be capable of arousing sinful thoughts
In terms of the ervah d’orysa of the genital areas of youngsters the halacha is that girls from three and older and boys from nine and older are problematic.
B’dieved by ervas katan we don’t have to daven again even without coming on to the Rabbeinu Yonah since it is a chumra that Shulchan Aruch took on to be chosheish for the opinions that ervas katan is a problem.
A boy who is younger then nine years old is permitted to daven even with his own ervah showing. But once he is old enough to be taught he should be instructed not to say Divrei Kedusha in the presence of ervah of an adult.
The next part of the body to deal with in regards to ervah is the hair.
The Gemara in Berachos 24a says that the hair of a woman is ervah.
They understood this issur to be a general issur not linked to Krias Shema. It is assur to look at a woman’s hair with intention to take pleasure. It would not be assur to say Divrei Kedusha in the presence of hair that is not covered if you were not looking at it.
They understood this Gemara to be another thing on the growing list of body parts that if revealed pose a problem for saying Divrei Kedusha in that place.
He poskins lechumra like the Rosh therefore it would be assur to say Divrei Kedusha in the presence of a married woman whose hair is not covered at its usual level of coverage.
Most women are accustomed to allow a certain small amount of hair out of the cover this would not pose a problem for Divrei Kedusha since it is customary for it to be like this constantly.
It is implied in the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema that women do have some hair that is not covered in general. The question to clarify in the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema is how much hair is muttar to be uncovered and still say Divrei Kedusha?
He learns the Shulchan Aruch and the Rema to mean that any amount of hair that is uncovered on the head is a problem of ervah for Divrei Kedusha. They were referring to the few small strands of hair by the temples that slides out that would not be ervah for Krias Shema unless the women in this place don’t even allow that to become revealed in general.
He poskins that up until one Tefach revealed is still a fulfillment of the d’orysa head covering. The coverage of the rest of the head is dependent upon the prevailing custom in the community. If a woman is not covering her hair at the community standard it would be assur to say Divrei Kedusha in her midst.
He understood the halacha to be that regardless of the d’orysa or derabanan standards of coverage if the women in the community don’t cover their hair at all it is muttar to say Divrei Kedusha in their presence since there is no generation of sinful thoughts due to the fact that it has become customary here to do this. This is in no way shape or form a justification for such a custom it is merely a statement of fact that in such a situation a person can still say Divrei Kedusha.
Rema/ Mishnah Brurah:
The sheitel is not a problem of revealed hair for Divrei Kedusha even if the hair in the sheitel itself is the woman’s own hair. Whether it is muttar or assur in general for a woman to go out with a sheitel is disputed by the Rema who allows it, and the Magen Giburim who forbids it because of maris ayin that people will think she is trying to hide the fact that she is married.
In terms of the preferred level of head covering the Mishnah Brurah brings down the Zohar. The Zohar says that a woman should be careful that even the walls of her own home never see the hair on her head. The chiddush is that even though the clear law in Shulchan Aruch is that inside the home a woman has no obligation at all to cover her hair even if visitors come, nonetheless a woman who wants to aspire to achieve Holiness should always cover her hair even in private.
The next issue to deal with in the issur ervah is the voice of a woman.
The Gemara in Berachos 24a says that the voice of a woman is also ervah.
Rambam/ Rif/ Rosh:
They all learn that this is a general issur not related to saying Divrei Kedusha. Therefore any time a woman who is an ervah is singing it is assur to listen since it brings to sinful thoughts. If your wife were to sing it would be muttar to listen. A single girl who has already begun menstruating would be an ervah to you since she is a niddah and doesn’t toveil yet.
Mordechi/ Rav Hai Geon:
This issur applies to Divrei Kedusha as well. Therefore it would be assur to say any Divrei Kedusha when there is a woman singing even your own wife.
The halacha is like the Mordechai and Rav Hai Geon. Therefore even girls who are not assur to a particular man would pose a problem for his Divrei Kedusha if they were to sing. All the more so women who are assur to a particular man pose a problem in that their singing brings him to sinful thoughts.
The speaking voice of a familiar woman regardless of whether she is muttar or assur to a particular man does not pose a problem for Divrei Kedusha since the sinful thoughts are not present.
He says that if a person was forced to be in a place that there are gentile women singing then it is muttar to say Divrei Kedusha. The rationale is that the voice of a woman is only an ervah derabanan. Therefore since the gentiles who will not listen to the rebuke and a person in this situation can’t be expected to forgo all Divrei Kedusha opportunities we can be matir.
He adds that even by a familiar speaking voice a person is not aloud to have express intent to take pleasure from the voice.
He discusses at great length the issue of being meikal in the issue of hearing Kol Isha for the sake of Kiruv Rechokim. His conclusion is that essentially it is mutar but only due to the combination of multiple leniencies.
Two voices can’t be heard as separate distinguishable sounds and therefore the Kol Isha is nullified.
For holy songs like Shabbos Zemiros we aren’t worried about sinful thoughts.
People who are singing Shabbos Zemiros aren’t intending to listen to the Kol Isha at all.
It is considered “Eis Lasos” a time of great need where the Torah might be lost.
He received great criticism for this psak on the basis that the leniencies are not applicable to the actual situation.
The heter of two voices is only when one of them is not “chaviv” desired more then the other. The Gemara’s proof that that Kol Isha is a problem is the verse that says “Your voice is desirable”.
Who is going to guarentee that there is no sinful thoughts during the Zemiros and who says that just because they are Holy songs people won’t come to sinful thoughts.
It may be an Eis Lasos but you can’t break Torah for this unless you have sound basis.
The Mishnah Brurah brings down a couple of general rules that will help bring this section to a close. The whole issur of Divrei Kedusha in front of ervah of any kind mentioned above only applies to speech not thoughts. It is perfectly muttar to think about Divrei Kedusha in the presence of ervah.
In terms of the concept of “Shomeya K’oneh” listening to a beracho is as if you said it yourself we can’t benefit from it in the presence of ervah since the potential to have said the beracho yourself isn’t there.
In addition to the basic issurei ervah when saying Krias Shema there is also an issur of saying Krias Shema when laying in the same bed with another person in certain situations because this could lead to “hirhurim” (illicit thoughts). We will now explore the details and ramifications of this issur.
Mishnah Brurah (73:6):
The Mishnah Brurah points out by way of introduction that the entire issur of saying Shema when laying in bed with another person is only dealing with two people who are undressed. Anytime both people are wearing clothes or there is a sheet between them then it is mutar for them to say Krias Shema even when facing one another regardless of who the two people are.
Tosafos in Berachos 24a preempts the Gemara by saying that the Gemara can’t be referring to any of the issurei ervah that we learned about before. Therefore the Gemara is definitely not talking about a case where your eyes see your own ervah or the ervah of the person laying next to you (i.e. the heads of the people laying in the bed are outside of the sheet). Furthermore the Gemara is definitely not talking about a case where your Lev sees your own ervah or the ervah of the person laying next to you (i.e. they are pressing the sheet to their skin at a point below the lev).
With these two introductory points in place we can now see the actual Gemara itself.
The Gemara in Berachos 24a brings down a machlokes Amoraim and Tannaim under which circumstances we are chosheish for hirhurim when laying in the same bed with another person.
According to all opinions if the two people are facing away from one another and their skin is not touching then it is mutar for them to say Krias Shema. The machlokes is in cases where they are facing away from one another but their skin is still touching or they are facing one another (even if their skin is not touching).
Shmuel: He holds that it is mutar to say Krias Shema when lying in bed with another person (regardless of who it is). No further adjustments are necessary if they are turned away from one another (even if there skin is touching from the hips and below). If they are facing one another then there must be a sheet separating their skin from the hips and below (even if there skin is not touching).
Rav Yosef: He holds that the above halacha only applies to a case where a person is laying in bed with his wife. If he is lying in bed with any other person then there must always be a sheet separating their skin from the hips and below even if they are not facing one another (except for a case where they are not facing one another and their skin is not touching-like we saw above).
Braisah: The Braisah holds that even when a person is lying in bed with his wife there must always be a sheet separating their skin if they are either facing one another or facing away from one another but their skin is touching.
The Rishonim argue about which opinion in the Gemara we poskin like.
They poskin like Rav Yosef.
They poskin like the Braisah.
Shulchan Aruch (73:1-2):
Meikar hadin he poskins like the Rif and Rambam but he adds that it is a very appropriate for a person to be chosheish for the opinion of the Rosh.
The Gemara discusses the halacha when lying in bed with your children.