SECTION 75 The Obligation to be Mindful of a Woman’s Exposed Body or Uncovered Hair {or Singing Voice} when Reciting the Shema, and the Prohibition to Recite it in View of Nakedness. (1–10)

סימן עה לְהִזָּהֵר מִגִּלּוּי וְשֵׂעָר [וְקוֹל אִשָּׁה] בִּשְׁעַת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע וְכֵן שֶׁלֹּא לִקְרוֹתָהּ כְּנֶגֶד הָעֶרְוָה וּבוֹ י' סְעִיפִים:

1 An uncovered handbreadth1 of any part of a woman’s body that she customarily covers is considered “nakedness.”2 [This applies] even with regard to one’s wife, for it arouses erotic thoughts when he gazes at it. It is therefore forbidden to recite the Shema or Shemoneh Esreh in view of3 [an exposed part of a woman’s body that is customarily covered], (as is [forbidden] in view of actual nakedness, unless one turns his face to the side.)4

Some authorities permit [the recitation of these prayers] if one does not gaze at [the uncovered handbreadth],5 even if he happens to see it in passing. [The rationale is that] it is not [actual] nakedness and [is forbidden] only because it arouses erotic thoughts — and this is a concern only if one gazes at it, not when one happens to see it. How much more so is permission granted if one closes his eyes and does not see [the uncovered handbreadth] at all, in which case he need not turn his face to the side. (One may rely on their words when there is no alternative.)6

(Some authorities maintain that according to the first view, the measure of a handbreadth relates only to one’s wife; with regard to any other woman, [reciting the Shema in view of] even less than a handbreadth is forbidden.7 The halachah does not follow their opinion.)

Since a woman’s face and hands are customarily exposed, it is permissible to recite [the Shema] in view of them. Since one is habituated [to seeing] them, erotic thoughts will not be aroused.

It is, however, forbidden [to recite the Shema] in view of her lower leg. Though it is not considered immodest for a man to have his lower leg uncovered, for it is commonly exposed (in places where [men] go about without socks), this is [not the case] with a woman, and [hence its exposure is] considered nakedness. Some authorities maintain that even less than an exposed handbreadth of a woman’s lower leg is considered nakedness, even with regard to one’s wife. It is proper to give weight to this opinion.

א טֶפַח מְגֻלֶּה1 בָּאִשָּׁהא בְּמָקוֹם שֶׁדַּרְכָּהּ לְכַסּוֹתב – עֶרְוָה הוּא אֲפִלּוּ הִיא2 אִשְׁתּוֹ,ג מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמֵּבִיא לִידֵי הִרְהוּרד כְּשֶׁמִּסְתַּכֵּל בּוֹ, וְלָכֵן אָסוּר לִקְרוֹת וּלְהִתְפַּלֵּלה כְּנֶגְדּוו,3 (כְּמוֹ כְּנֶגֶד עֶרְוָה מַמָּשׁ, עַד שֶׁיַּחֲזֹר פָּנָיו לְצַד אַחֵרז).4

וְיֵשׁ מַתִּירִיןח (א) אִם אֵינוֹ מִסְתַּכֵּל בּוֹ5 אֲפִלּוּ רוֹאֶה אוֹתוֹ בְּהַעֲבָרָה בְּעָלְמָא, כֵּיוָן שֶׁאֵינוֹ עֶרְוָה אֶלָּא מִשּׁוּם שֶׁמֵּבִיא לִידֵי הִרְהוּר, וְאֵין לָחוּשׁ לְהִרְהוּר אֶלָּא כְּשֶׁמִּסְתַּכֵּל בּוֹט וְלֹא בִּרְאִיָּה בְּעָלְמָא. וְכָל שֶׁכֵּן אִם מַעֲצִים עֵינָיו וְאֵינוֹ רוֹאֵהוּ כְּלָל שֶׁמֻּתָּר, וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לְהַחֲזִיר פָּנָיו (וְיֵשׁ לִסְמֹךְ עַל דִּבְרֵיהֶם כְּשֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר בְּעִנְיָן אַחֵר).6

(וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםי (ב) דִּלְפִי סְבָרָא הָרִאשׁוֹנָהיא לֹא אָמְרוּ טֶפַח אֶלָּא בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ, אֲבָל בְּאִשָּׁה אַחֶרֶת אֲפִלּוּ פָּחוֹת מִטֶּפַח אָסוּר.7 וְאֵין דִּבְרֵיהֶם עִקָּר).

אֲבָל פָּנֶיהָ וְיָדֶיהָ שֶׁדַּרְכָּן לִהְיוֹת מְגֻלִּים – מֻתָּר לִקְרוֹת כְּנֶגְדָּן, שֶׁכֵּיוָן שֶׁרָגִיל בָּהֶן אֵינוֹ בָּא לִידֵי הִרְהוּר.יב

אֲבָל כְּנֶגֶד שׁוֹקָהּ אָסוּר,יג אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהַשּׁוֹק אֵינוֹ מָקוֹם צָנוּעַ בָּאִישׁ שֶׁדַּרְכּוֹ לִהְיוֹת מְגֻלֶּה (בִּמְקוֹמוֹת שֶׁהוֹלְכִין בְּלֹא אַנְפִּילָאוֹתיד), כֵּיוָן שֶׁהוּא מָקוֹם צָנוּעַ בָּאִשָּׁה – עֶרְוָה הִיא.טו וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִיםטז שֶׁאֲפִלּוּ פָּחוֹת מִטֶּפַח שֶׁמְּגֻלֶּה בְּשׁוֹקָהּ עֶרְוָה הִיא אֲפִלּוּ בְּאִשְׁתּוֹ. וְנָכוֹן לָחוּשׁ לְדִבְרֵיהֶם:

2 All this applies with regard to [the recitation of the Shema by] men. A woman, though naked, is permitted to recite the Shema and Shemoneh Esreh, if she is sitting8 and her private parts are not exposed, as stated in sec. 74[:5]. The exposure of her entire body does not violate the directive “that He see no nakedness among you,” for it is considered nakedness only for men, [lest it evoke] erotic thoughts. Therefore another woman is permitted to recite the Shema and Shemoneh Esreh in view of a naked woman if her private parts are not visible. There is an authority who forbids another woman [from doing so], (but the halachah follows the first view).

ב וְכָל זֶה לָאֲנָשִׁים, אֲבָל הָאִשָּׁה עַצְמָהּ אֲפִלּוּ הִיא עֲרֻמָּה – מֻתֶּרֶת לִקְרוֹת וּלְהִתְפַּלֵּל אִם הִיא יוֹשֶׁבֶת8 שֶׁאֵין פָּנֶיהָ שֶׁלְּמַטָּה נִרְאִין,יז כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן ע"ד.יח וְאֵין בְּגִלּוּי כָּל גּוּפָה מִשּׁוּם "וְלֹא יִרְאֶה בְךָ עֶרְוַת דָּבָר", לְפִי שֶׁאֵינָהּ עֶרְוָה אֶלָּא לָאֲנָשִׁיםיט וּמִשּׁוּם הִרְהוּר. וּלְפִיכָךְ אַף אִשָּׁה אַחֶרֶת מֻתֶּרֶת לִקְרוֹת וּלְהִתְפַּלֵּל כְּנֶגֶד אִשָּׁה עֲרֻמָּה, אִם אֵין פָּנֶיהָ שֶׁלְּמַטָּה נִרְאִין.כ וְיֵשׁ מִי שֶׁאוֹסֵר לְאִשָּׁה אַחֶרֶתכא (וְהָעִקָּר כַּסְּבָרָא הָרִאשׁוֹנָהכב):

3 If [a woman’s] clothes are thin and her body can be seen through them, it is forbidden [for a man to recite the Shema in view of her], just as this is forbidden when nakedness can be seen through glass, as will be explained.9

ג אִם לְבוּשָׁהּ דַּק וְנִרְאֶה בָּשָׂר מִתּוֹכָהּ – אָסוּר,כג כְּמוֹ בָּעֶרְוָה בַּעֲשָׁשִׁית כְּמוֹ (שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר) [שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר]:כד,9

4 [Exposed] hair that a woman customarily covers2 is considered nakedness because it arouses erotic thoughts, and it is forbidden to recite the Shema and Shemoneh Esreh in view of it, as was explained.10 [This applies] even with regard to one’s wife.

By contrast, it is permitted to recite the Shema in view of unmarried women who customarily go about with their hair uncovered,11 or the hair of women that extends12 outside their snood13 as is the practice in certain countries.14 Since one is habituated to such exposure, it will not arouse erotic thoughts.

It is permitted to recite [the Shema] in view of [a woman wearing] a wig, even if she is accustomed to cover it. Moreover, it is permitted to uncover [the wig]. [Wearing a wig] is not included in the category of “[going] out with her head uncovered,” which is forbidden for a married woman according to Scriptural Law.15

ד שֵׂעָר שֶׁל אִשָּׁה שֶׁדַּרְכָּהּ לְכַסּוֹתָהּ2 – עֶרְוָה הִיא,כה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁמֵּבִיא לִידֵי הִרְהוּר,כו וְאָסוּר לִקְרוֹת אוֹ לְהִתְפַּלֵּל כְּנֶגְדָּהּ עַל דֶּרֶךְ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר,10 אֲפִלּוּ הִיא אִשְׁתּוֹ.כז (ג) אֲבָל בְּתוּלוֹת שֶׁדַּרְכָּן לֵילֵךְ פְּרוּעוֹת רֹאשׁ,כח,11 וְכֵן שְׂעָרוֹת שֶׁל נָשִׁים שֶׁרְגִילִין לָצֵאת12 מִחוּץ לְצַמָּתָןכט,13 בִּקְצָת אֲרָצוֹתל,14 – מֻתָּר לִקְרוֹת כְּנֶגְדָּן,לא שֶׁכֵּיוָן שֶׁרְגִילִין בָּהֶן אֵינָן מְבִיאִין לִידֵי הִרְהוּר. וּפֵאָה נָכְרִית אֲפִלּוּ דַּרְכָּהּ לְכַסּוֹתָהּ – מֻתָּר לִקְרוֹת כְּנֶגְדָּהּ, וְגַם מֻתָּר לְגַלּוֹתָהּ,לב וְאֵין בָּהּ מִשּׁוּם "יָצְאָה וְרֹאשָׁהּ פְּרוּעָה" שֶׁהוּא אָסוּר מִן הַתּוֹרָה בְּאֵשֶׁת אִישׁ:לג,15

5 It is permitted to recite [the Shema] in view of a man’s pubic hair that emerges through holes in his clothing.16

ה שֵׂעָר שֶׁל עֶרְוַת אִישׁ יוֹצֵא דֶּרֶךְ נֶקֶב שֶׁבְּבִגְדוֹ – מֻתָּר לִקְרוֹת כְּנֶגְדּוֹ:לד,16

6 The voice of a woman singing17 — whether an unmarried or married woman, even one’s own wife — is considered nakedness and it is forbidden to recite the Shema while hearing it. The same applies to reciting Shemoneh Esreh or to speaking words of Torah. The voice of a woman speaking, by contrast, is not considered nakedness, for one is habituated to it. [This applies] even to a married woman.

[Moreover,] it is permitted [to recite the Shema] even [when hearing] the voice of a woman singing if one can focus his heart on his prayers to the extent that he does not listen or pay attention to [her voice].

ו קוֹללה זֶמֶרלו שֶׁל אִשָּׁה17 בֵּין בִּפְנוּיָהלז בֵּין בְּאֵשֶׁת אִישׁ אֲפִלּוּ שֶׁל אִשְׁתּוֹלח – הוּא עֶרְוָה, וְאָסוּר לִקְרוֹת קְרִיאַת שְׁמַע כְּשֶׁשּׁוֹמְעוֹ.לט וְהוּא הַדִּין לְהִתְפַּלֵּלמ אוֹ לְדַבֵּר בְּדִבְרֵי תּוֹרָה.מא אֲבָל קוֹל דִּבּוּרָהּמב כֵּיוָן שֶׁרָגִיל בּוֹ – אֵינוֹ עֶרְוָהמג אֲפִלּוּ שֶׁל אֵשֶׁת אִישׁ.מד וַאֲפִלּוּ קוֹל זֶמֶר, אִם יָכוֹל לְכַוֵּן לִבּוֹ לִתְפִלָּתוֹ בְּעִנְיָן שֶׁאֵינוֹ שׁוֹמְעוֹ וְאֵינוֹ מֵשִׂים לֵב אֵלָיו – מֻתָּר:מה

7 The nakedness of an animal is not considered nakedness and it is permitted to recite the Shema in view of it.18 As to gentiles, even though of them it is written,19 “Their flesh is the flesh of donkeys,” their nakedness is considered nakedness, as [implied by] the verse,20 “They did not see the nakedness of their father,” and it is forbidden to recite [the Shema] in view of it.

The same applies in view of the nakedness of a minor, even a one-day-old baby. Some authorities permit [the Shema to be] recited in view of the nakedness of a minor as long as he is not old enough to engage in intimacy, i.e., until he is nine years old.21 The halachah follows this view. Therefore it is not necessary to cover the nakedness of a baby when reciting the blessing over the circumcision. There is, however, an authority who maintains that, nevertheless, the mohel not hold [the baby’s] nakedness while reciting the blessing.22

ז עֶרְוַת בְּהֵמָה – אֵינוֹ נִקְרָא עֶרְוָה, וּמֻתָּר לִקְרוֹת כְּנֶגְדָּהּ.מו,18 אֲבָל הַגּוֹיִם אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בָּהֶםמז,19 "בְּשַׂר חֲמוֹרִים בְּשָׂרָם" – עֶרְוָתָם נִקְרָא עֶרְוָה,מח שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר:מט,20 "וְעֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם לֹא רָאוּ וְגו'", וְאָסוּר לִקְרוֹת כְּנֶגְדָּם. וְכֵן כְּנֶגֶד עֶרְוַת קָטָן אֲפִלּוּ בֶּן יוֹמוֹ.נ וְיֵשׁ מַתִּירִיןנא כְּנֶגֶד עֶרְוַת קָטָן כָּל זְמַן שֶׁאֵינוֹ רָאוּי לְבִיאָה, דְּהַיְנוּ עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה בֶּן ט' שָׁנִים וְיוֹם אֶחָד.נב,21 וְכֵן עִקָּר.נג וְלָכֵן אֵין צָרִיךְ לְכַסּוֹת עֶרְוַת הַקָּטָן בִּשְׁעַת בִּרְכַּת הַמִּילָה.נד וְיֵשׁ מִי שֶׁאוֹמֵרנה שֶׁמִּכָּל מָקוֹם לֹא יֶאֱחֹז הַמּוֹהֵל הָעֶרְוָה בְּיָדוֹ בִּשְׁעַת בְּרָכָה:22

8 It is forbidden to recite [the Shema] in view of nakedness that is behind glass and can be seen through [it]. Even if the nakedness is in another building, but can be seen through window-pane, [the prohibition remains], for its prooftext links it to sight: “So that He see no nakedness among you” — and [in this instance, the nakedness] is visible.23

ח עֶרְוָה בַּעֲשָׁשִׁית וְנִרְאֵית דֶּרֶךְ דָּפְנוֹתֶיהָ – אָסוּר לִקְרוֹת כְּנֶגְדָּהּ. וַאֲפִלּוּ הִיא בְּבַיִת אַחֵר וְנִרְאֵית דֶּרֶךְ עֲשָׁשִׁית שֶׁבַּחַלּוֹן, לְפִי שֶׁבִּרְאִיָּה תָּלָה הַכָּתוּב, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "וְלֹא יִרְאֶה בְךָ וְגו'", וַהֲרֵי הִיא נִרְאֵית:נו,23

9 One is permitted to recite [the Shema] when nakedness is within his sight [provided] he turns away his face and entire body so that [the nakedness] is to his side even though he is standing near it, at its side, and within four cubits of it. [This applies] even though it is written, “Your camp shall be holy so that He see [no nakedness] among you,” and a person’s “camp” is defined as extending four cubits in all directions, as will be explained in sec. 79[:1]. Nevertheless, since the Torah states “that He see no nakedness among you,” this prooftext made the [prohibition] dependent on sight and forbade [reciting the Shema] only [when] the nakedness is visible.

Nonetheless, if the nakedness could be visible, but one closes his eyes [lest] he see evil,24 or he is blind, or it is night, this is of no avail, for it is not written “that you shall see no nakedness” but rather, “that He see no [nakedness] among you,” as explained in sec. 74[:2].

There are authorities who grant license in this instance, because from the directive “that He see no nakedness among you,” we can derive [restrictions] only with regard to [reciting the Shema in the presence of] one’s own nakedness; i.e., when one’s own nakedness is exposed, it is forbidden to recite [the Shema] even if one closed his eyes, or is blind, or it is night, as is implied by the words, “that He see no nakedness among you.” [This,] however, does not [apply] to the nakedness of his fellow. The halachah follows the first view.

ט הָיְתָה עֶרְוָה כְּנֶגְדּוֹ וְהֶחֱזִיר פָּנָיו מִמֶּנָּהנז עִם כָּל גּוּפוֹנח עַד שֶׁנַּעֲשֵׂית לוֹ מִן הַצַּד, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעוֹמֵד בְּסָמוּךְ לָהּ מִן הַצַּד תּוֹךְ ד' אַמּוֹתנט – מֻתָּר לִקְרוֹת אֶצְלָהּ. וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר "וְהָיָה מַחֲנֶיךָ קָדוֹשׁ וְלֹא יִרְאֶה בְךָ וְגו'", וּמַחֲנֵהוּ שֶׁל אָדָם הוּא ד' אַמּוֹת מִכָּל צַד כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן ע"ט,ס מִכָּל מָקוֹם כֵּיוָן שֶׁאָמְרָה תּוֹרָה "וְלֹא יִרְאֶה בְךָ" – תָּלָה הַכָּתוּב בָּרְאִיָּה, וְלֹא אָסַר אֶלָּא עֶרְוָה הַנִּרְאִית. וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם אִם יְכוֹלָה לִהְיוֹת נִרְאֵית אֶלָּא שֶׁהוּא עוֹצֶם עֵינָיו מֵרְאוֹת בָּרַע24 אוֹ שֶׁהוּא סוּמָא אוֹ בַּלַּיְלָה – אֵין זֶה מוֹעִיל כְּלוּם,סא שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא נֶאֱמַרסב "לֹא תִּרְאֶה" אֶלָּא "לֹא יִרְאֶה" כְּמוֹ שֶׁנִּתְבָּאֵר בְּסִימָן ע"ד.סג וְיֵשׁ מַתִּירִיןסד בָּזֶה, לְפִי שֶּׁמִּ"לֹא יִרְאֶה בְךָ וְגו'" אֵין לִלְמֹד אֶלָּא לְעֶרְוַת עַצְמוֹ, שֶׁכְּשֶׁעֶרְוָתוֹ מְגֻלָּה – אָסוּר לִקְרוֹת אֲפִלּוּ עָצַם עֵינָיו אוֹ סוּמָא אוֹ בַּלַּיְלָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר "וְלֹא יִרְאֶה בְךָ וְגו'", אֲבָל לֹא לְעֶרְוַת חֲבֵרוֹ.סה וְהָעִקָּר כַּסְּבָרָא הָרִאשׁוֹנָה:סו

10 It is permissible to think about words of Torah when one is naked25 or, needless to say, when one is in view of another’s nakedness. [This permission is derived from] the phrase ervas davar. [This phrase is translated in the above-quoted prooftext as “nakedness,” but literally means “a naked matter.” The word davar (דבר — “matter”) shares the root of dibbur (דבור — “speech”). Implied is that only] speech is forbidden; thought is permitted. Nevertheless, [when naked,] one should not listen to a blessing recited by his fellow (with the intent of fulfilling his obligation), because [in that state] (we cannot apply the principle that)26 “one who listens [to a blessing being recited is considered] as if he had recited [it himself],”27 (since [in that state] he is unable to respond).28

י מֻתָּר לְהַרְהֵר בְּדִבְרֵי תּוֹרָה כְּשֶׁהוּא עָרֹם,סז,25 וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר כְּנֶגֶד עֶרְוָה אַחֶרֶת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: "עֶרְוַת דָּבָר", דִּבּוּר – אָסוּר, הִרְהוּר – מֻתָּר. (ד) וּמִכָּל מָקוֹם אֵין לוֹ לִשְׁמֹעַ בְּרָכָה מֵחֲבֵרוֹ (וְלָצֵאת יְדֵי חוֹבָתוֹ) (כִּי אִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹמַר26) שׁוֹמֵעַ כְּעוֹנֶהסח,27 (כֵּיוָן שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ לַעֲנוֹת):סט,28