What are the varying halachot (and sources) for a mechitza at a simcha? What is the halachic difference between an L-shaped mechitza and one down the middle at a simcha? Also separate vs mixed seating at a simcha?
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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.
We discuss the halachot of mechitza and of separate seating at a simcha, as well as in other situations outside of prayer, here. There is a range of halachic opinion on when a mechitza or separation is necessary, from requiring it at any type of gathering to requiring it only in specific circumstances.
As in synagogue, a mechitza at a simcha serves chiefly to prevent men and woman from mingling, which could lead to kalut rosh, excessive frivolity. In many contexts, separate seating can achieve the same goal. There is a halachic basis for allowing for mixed seating in communities where mixing between genders is a social norm.
Sometimes an additional panel is added to the mechitza at a simcha in order to close off sight-lines in addition to preventing mingling. An L-shaped mechitza is sometimes placed around the women’s dance floor at a semachot with mixed seating, to facilitate women dancing more freely without men watching. If the dancing is more sedate, then visibility is less of an issue. (See Rav Henkin on this point in footnote 15 of the article).
See more Q&A here.
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