Hair Covering in a Private Yard

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Hello! The Rav of our shul recommended that I read through your articles on Hair Covering and I am so glad that I did! I have signed up to your email list and feel so glad that you are sharing such wonderful Torah in English!
We recently moved apartments and currently live on the ground floor in an apartment building. We have been blessed with a front and back garden. The front faces the road and the back faces the back gardens of other homes, a car park and neighbours in our building on the upper floors and other neighbours from surrounding buildings can look down into the back from their balconies. I am accustomed to covering my hair in public places and in front of non-family members. I am also accustomed to dressing modestly in public.
My questions are:
1. Can I be in my front garden with my hair uncovered and in pyjama t-shirt and pants (not tight and no cleavage showing, but I would not normally go out in short sleeves and pants or with my hair uncovered).
2. Can I be in my back garden the same way? Does it matter that the couple who currently live above us are frum?

Thank you so much! Appreciate your time!

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Asked on June 10, 2021 8:44 am
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Private answer

We are happy to hear that our site has been helpful to you!

Questions along these lines are best addressed more personally, so that a response can take specifics of a situation and a community into account. Our response is meant as a general discussion of the relevant issues.

Halacha leaves room for more relaxed coverage in more private spaces, and instructs people not to look into others’ private domains. We are also not responsible for others’ choices of where to look. Therefore, even with the sight lines as described, your back garden is fundamentally considered your private domain (akin to the Talmudic chatzer). This leaves room for you to find your own balance between comfort and tzeniut there.

If we understand you correctly, your front garden is fully visible from the street, a public domain. Additionally, the general public tends to feel comfortable looking into a front garden without a partition from street level. (Someone looking in from above is less of a concern in this regard.) For these reasons, the front garden as described is considered a sort of intermediate space, and you should take greater care with tzeniut there than in the back–for example, dressing there much as you would to open the door, including something on your head (though not necessarily full head-covering).

Longer term, we recommend constructing some sort of simple partition to provide you with more privacy, which would allow for dressing more freely. Such a partition would not need to be opaque or completely obstruct your yards from view, but a simple demarcation or visual cue to others at ground level of where your private space begins. Even with a partition, the ultimate choices here will not be a clear cut matter of Halacha, and will depend to a large extent on your sense of tzeniut and on social norms.

See more Q&A here.

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Answered on June 10, 2021 8:57 am