The mechitzah. Love it or hate it, it is part of the religious world. Men and women are to be separated at most events – davening, weddings, community meetings. In some communities it’s enough that the men sit on one side and the women on the other. In other communities there is one way glass, or thick wooden dividers.
From what I am given to understand, during prayer, it’s the men that must not look at the ladies, and not the other way around. I have been to a few shuls where the mechitzah is one way glass – so we can ogle the cute guys in the designer suits, with him having no idea that he is the centre of attention. I guess this is because men’s obligation to pray is much stronger than women’s so if we get distracted it’s not the end of the world.
Another shul I have been too has thick office dividers down the centre of the shul, very effectively separating the sexes. But when they do VeZot HaTorah – well, I can’t very well raise my pinkie to said Torah because I cannot see it. I cannot see who is davenning, or even if my sons are behaving, I can’t even see the rabbi when he is talking. I may as well not be there for all the spirituality I feel there.
Hopping on to a different shul. This one has the women’s balcony at a right angle to the men, with a very sheer net curtain that hides nothing. Bliss – I can see what’s going on in the service, who gets an aliyah, I can even see my kids put their fingers in their brothers ears……….but I can also which guys are checking out which gals, or even if someone is checking me out. Interestingly enough this shul has the least decorum – talking throughout leining, davening etc. Also in this shul they give my little guy the privilege of opening the Aron Kodesh for Anim Zemirot, and allow him and his brothers or other small boys to sing Adon Olam from the Bima. And I get to see it. They also have great kiddushim. Great mechitzah – terrible decorum. Again, no spirituality there.
Does being behind a mechitzah take away spirituality, or is it just the shuls I am frequenting? What is it like being a man on the other side of the mechitzah?
Really when I decide where to daven, these days it’s all about where the boys feel the most comfortable. In one shul with thick mechitzahs I know they boys will be watched by some of the men that we know, where as in the decorum-less shul they run wilder until they get a furious eagle eye from me. And there I am, stuck in parenting limbo, being that I am the opposite sex from my children. Very frustrating.