Kol Isha in Chinuch

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How does kol isha work with chinuch? For example, if I am davening/ bentching with my children and e.g. my father in law is present. Or running children services in shul with men present.

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Asked on December 26, 2021 8:40 pm
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The answers to these questions really depend on the specifics of the situation and on the position that you and your community typically follow regarding kol isha.

One could argue that a woman singing, especially solo, raises an issue regardless of content or context.

Alternatively, one could argue that a woman singing a religious song for the important religious purpose of chinuch (mitzva education), as in these cases, does not raise a kol isha concern, or that awe in a tefilla setting relieves concerns, or that kol isha is not at issue when a man does not intend to enjoy a woman’s singing. If the children (or men present) sing along, so that the woman isn’t heard solo, that also can alleviate halachic concerns. (Learn more about the halachic discussion of kol isha in our series: Kol Isha I: Halachic Basis, Kol Isha II: Mutual Responsibility, Kol Isha III: In Context.)

At Home: Based on the above factors, there is a strong halachic basis to rely on more lenient interpretations of kol isha in chinuch situations at home. Shalom bayit and healthy family relationships are themselves important considerations in the mitzva education of children. Therefore, if a woman leading kids in birkat ha-mazon and the like in her father-in-law’s presence would make either of them uncomfortable, it should ideally be discussed, possibly through her husband. Discussion is also important because these types of situations within the family tend to repeat themselves.

If one is unsure how to act in a given situation, communication could be direct (e.g., ‘I’d like to bentch with the kids. How should we handle this in terms of kol isha?’) or more indirect (e.g., ‘I’m about to sing bentching with the kids.’ Leaving a moment for a reaction. Or even: ‘Would you like to lead the kids in bentching?’).

Even if not relying on more lenient views, there are a number of options for the father-in-law in handling the situation, from singing along to briefly absenting himself.

At Tefillat Yeladim: Although the halachic factors relevant to the two cases have some overlap, a children's service at synagogue is a trickier case for two reasons: One, it is communal. Two, halachic opinions allowing kol isha in a prayer setting vary, and exactly how they would apply to a children's service is unclear. Additionally, even if male attendees have reached their own conclusions about handling kol isha in this context, a female leader might feel constrained by men’s presence, while not wishing to dissuade men from attending.

A schul’s Rabbi is the best qualified and authorized address to set guidelines on this matter, taking the nature of the community and of its children's service into account. (Where there is concern, a female leader could ask a specific male attendee right before getting started if he could lead the singing following her cues or, depending on community norms, could invite all adults to sing along on cue.)

See more Q&A here.

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Answered on December 26, 2021 8:55 pm