Food Under The Bed (Part 2)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

The Food-
1. The Gemara (Pesachim 112a) states that one should not place food or drink under one’s bed. This clearly indicates that all foods are susceptible to the evil spirit. However, the Yerushalmi (Terumos 8:3) warns against “placing a cooked food dish under the bed.” According to the Yerushalmi if the food is raw and inedible (see Imrei Shmuel on Maaseh Rav 95) one may place it under the bed.

2. The Shulchan Aruch writes that one may not place “cooked food or drink” under the bed. It seems that even the Shulchan Aruch agrees that one may place raw food under one’s bed. [This is very relevant for people who are low on storage and keep food under their bed.] However, Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:20) wonders why the Shulchan Aruch would rule like the Yerushalmi and disregard the ruling of the Gemara in Pesachim. He therefore explains that it makes more sense to say that the Shulchan Aruch does rule in accordance of the Gemara in Pesachim and that he agrees that one may not store raw food under one’s bed.

3. Indeed, the Chochmas Adam writes that he heard that the Vilna Gaon zt”l ruled that one may not eat raw food that was stored under one’s bed. The Pischei Teshuva writes that this is supported by the Gemara in Bava Basra (58a), which states that a Torah scholar should keep only his shoes under the bed, Rashi explaining that this is because of the ruach ra’ah which dwells on food. This Gemara implies that only shoes should be placed under the bed and not any form of food, even if the food is raw.

4. However, other authorities maintain that the evil spirit does not rest on inedible raw food. The Gaon of Butchetch zt”l, in his Sefer Mili D’Chasidusa (548) writes that “there is more room to be lenient regarding raw food that still needs to be cooked.” Similarly, the pirush Imrei Shmuel writes that only cooked food or edible raw foods are vulnerable to the evil spirit. However, raw foods (that are currently inedible) may be placed under one’s bed. The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 116:11) cites both views and he writes that “the common custom is to rule leniently regarding raw food and ‘shomer pesaim Hashem.’”

5. The Beis Yosef and Shach rule that the evil spirit rests on food under the bed even if the food is covered. As the Gemara states, “the evil spirit rests on these foods even if they are enclosed in a vessel of iron.” It would seem that the same law would apply if the food is sealed. Indeed this is the view of the Ben Ish Chai, Pri Hasadeh and Sdei Chemed. However, the Misgeres Zahav writes that if the food is sealed it is permissible. The Gemara was referring to food merely covered with a metal vessel, if the food was sealed it is permissible. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue and rules that initially one should rule in accordance with the strict view of the Ben Ish Chai and not place sealed food under the bed. However, b’dieved, if the food was placed under the bed and there will be even a limited financial loss (hefsed muat) by discarding the food, one may partake of the food. (see Yabia Omer 4 O.C. 5:6)

The Bed-

6. Harav Binyamin Zilber zt”l that one should not place food under a sofa if one occasionally sleeps on the sofa (Az Nidberu 7:73). According to Harav Zilber zt”l the prohibition applies to any food stored under an area that someone slept on even though it is not specifically designated for sleep. The Sefer Binyan Olam cites a similar ruling from the Vilna Gaon. He writes that the Vilna Gaon forbade eating sugar that was stored in a box that someone slept on. However, the Sefer Shaarei Rachamim (156) cites the ruling of the Binyan Olam and comments that “this is not in line with those who maintain that the evil spirit only rests under a bed that is designated for sleep.”

7. The Gaon of Butchetch zt”l writes that perhaps the whole problem only applies to beds on which a married couple has relations. Food stored under the bed of a single person would be permitted. It seems that the Vilna Gaon and Harav Zilber (cited in the previous halacha) do not agree with this view as they prohibit food under a sofa or a box that one slept on even though those are not surfaces that are designated for marital relations.

8. As cited above (Previous Post) the Toras Chaim explains that the evil spirit that rests under the bed is akin to corpse contamination and stems from the sleep of the person, which is a sixtieth of death. Therefore, argues Harav Chaim Palag’i (Lev Chaim 66) and the Sefer Nahar Mitzraim (page 81b), the evil spirit only exists if the food was under the bed while someone slept on the bed. If however someone stored food under the bed during the day (while no one slept there) there is no concern.

9. However, the Ohr Yitzchak (14) and Pri Hasadeh (1:4) write that initially one should not place food under a bed at any time even if one is not sleeping on the bed. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (1 Y.D. 9) writes that initially one should rule stringently and not place food under a bed at any time. If however, the food was placed under the bed while no one was sleeping on it the food is permissible. He then adds that this is in disagreement with the sefer Ein Habdoilach who writes that if food was placed under a bed at any time the food must be thrown away.

10. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l cites the Yafeh Lalev, Mizmor L’David and Harav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld zt”l who maintain that the evil spirit rests on the ground under the bed. Therefore, one may place food between the pillow and the mattress. Harav Zonenfeld zt”l also rules that if one slept with food in his pockets the food is permissible. However, it seems that Harav Yitzchak Elchonon Spekter zt”l (Ein Yitzchak 24) disagrees since he writes that the evil spirit rests on foods that are placed under the head of the person who is sleeping.

11. The poskim debate whether the evil spirit rests upon food that is placed under the bed of a non-Jew. According to the Teshuros Shai, Pri Hasadeh and Shulchan Chai rule that the food is permissible. However, the sefer Degel Efraim (cited by the Sefer Shemiras Haguf V’Hanefesh page 61) writes that the bed of a non-Jew is the same as the bed of a Jew for this hallachic discussion.

12. Many authorities maintain that one may place food under a crib or child’s bed. (Shemiras Haguf V’Hanefesh page 62)

13. The Tzitz Eliezer (10:35) discusses whether one may place food under a bed on a boat. He writes that there may be room to be lenient. He cites the Yafeh Lelev who explains that the evil spirit rests on the ground under the bed. And that if the ground is covered with beams and stones one may be lenient since those materials separate between the food and the ruach ra’ah. Therefore, argues the Tzitz Eliezer, on a boat there is no real “ground” and the evil spirit may not apply. He adds that although the common custom is not to follow the view of the Yafeh Lelev and we assume that the evil spirit applies even if the ground is paved. That is only because the pavement is considered part of the ground and does not separate the food from the “ground.” However, in a boat where there is no connection between the inside of the boat and the surface of the ocean floor one may rule leniently according to all materials.

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Food Under The Bed (Part1)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

Section 1: The Source-

1. The Gemara in Pesachim (112a) states that if any foods or beverages are left under a bed, even if they are enclosed in a vessel made of iron, an evil spirit rests on them and it is prohibited to partake of them. This ruling is cited by the Tur and Shulchan (Y.D. 116:5) Aruch as normative halacha.

2. The Toras Chaim (Baba Basra 58b) suggests that this evil spirit is akin to corpse contamination: The Gemara (Berachos 57b) teaches that “sleep is a sixtieth part of death.” The law is that items placed beneath a corpse become contaminated by it. Accordingly, food placed beneath a sleeping person should contract a semblance of impurity as well. This semblance of impurity manifests itself in the form of an evil spirit.

3. The Gemara clearly states that the reason that one should not eat food that was under the bed is because there is an evil spirit that rests on the food. However, the Rambam (Rotzeach 12:5) offers an alternative reason. He writes, “A person should not place a cooked dish under the couch on which he is reclining, even though he is in the midst of his meal, lest an entity that could harm him fall into the food without his noticing.”

4. According to the Rambam if the food is covered it would be permissible since there is no concern of anything falling into the food. However, the Gemara clearly states that one cannot eat the food even if it is sealed, due to the evil spirit. The authorities question why the Rambam does not rule in accordance with the Gemara. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer 1 Y.D. 9) cites several authorities who explain that the Rambam felt that the evil spirit, referred to in the Gemara, no longer applies. Therefore, he did not cite the exact ruling of the Gemara. He does, however, add his own concern of a foreign entity falling into one’s food.

5. Most authorities disagree with the Rambam and maintain that the evil spirit still applies today and one should act accordingly.

6. There is a great debate amongst the poskim whether b’dieved one may eat food that was left under the bed. Many poskim, including the Shvus Yaakov, Rav Yitzchak Elchonon zt”l and the Malbim, maintain that although one should not place food under the bed, if the food was placed there one can eat it. (Shvus Yaakov 2:105, Shemiras Haguv V’Hanefesh page 56 and Yabia Omer ibid.)

7. According to other authorities, including the Vilna Gaon, Chida, Ben Ish Chai and Marcheshes, one must throw the food away. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l discusses this issue and he writes that in case of great financial loss one may rule leniently. The Chazon Ish (Taameh D’Kra 28) would rule leniently for others to eat food left under a bed. In his home, however, he was particular that the food not be eaten. Rather, it was given to poor people.

8. The poskim debate whether one may place an empty pot under a bed. The Gaon of Butchetch (Mili D’Chasidusa 458) writes that the evil spirit does not rest on pots and pans left under a bed. However, it seems that according to Rabbeinu Gershom Meor Hagolah (Baba Basra 58a) the evil spirit does rest on pots left under the bed.

9. The evil spirit does not rest on people under a bed. Therefore, one may sleep on the bottom bunkbed without concern of ruach ra’ah. (Az Nidberu 7:73)

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Shana Rishonah (First Year Of Marriage)

Shana Rishonah-

1. The Chinuch (582) writes that during the first year of marriage (Shana Rishonah) the chosson should rejoice with his wife. He should not leave the city without her in order to fight in a war or for any other reason. The Chinuch concludes, “A chosson who leaves his kallah during the first year, even with her permission, has nullified a positive commandment. Yet, if he wishes to leave in order to fulfill a mitzvah or in order to rejoice with his friends for a few days, with the intention of returning, perhaps this is not nullifying a positive commandment. Some say that if the kallah gives permission he may leave.”

2. Many achronim forbid the chosson from leaving his wife during the shana rishonah, even if he is doing so for reasons of parnassah (see Binas Adam 129:37). Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l rules stringently. However, if there is great need for him to leave or if he must leave for parnassah purposes, he may do so with his kallah’s permission (see Yalkut Yosef Nisuin page 237).

3. The Minchas Chinuch notes that this ruling of the Chinuch cannot be found in the works of other rishonim. (see also Chasam Sofer E.H. 2:155) Based on this assumption, some poskim did permit the chosson to leave during the first year, especially if the kallah grants him permission (see Radvaz 1:238 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 149:13). However, it seems that the common custom is to rule stringently.

4. The Chasam Sofer maintains that even the Chinuch would permit the chosson to leave in order to learn Torah.

5. The custom among Belz Chassidim is that the chosson does not serve as a chazzan during the shana rishonah. (Nisuin Kesidram 316)

6. Many do not wear a kittel during the shana rishonah (see Maharam Shick 28 and Ketzei Hamateh 619:11). The custom of Square Chassidim is not to wear the kittel on Pesach during the shana rishonah. The custom of Chabad Chassidim is not to wear the kittel on Yom Kippur during the shana rishonah. A similar ruling is expressed by Harav Yosef Greenwald zt”l of Pupa and Harav Yekutiel Yehuda Halberstam zt”l of Sanz Kloisenberg.

7. Others maintain that it is preferred to wear the kittel during the shana rishonah. Vizhnitz, Nadvorna, Sanzer, and Munkatch Chassidim wear the kittel during the shana rishonah.

Peeled Eggs, Onions or Garlic Overnight (Part 3)

Other Possible Exceptions-

1. The Gemara states a possible exception to the rule and that is if some of the original outer layer, peel, shell, or root hairs remain, then one need not worry about Ruach Ra’ah, as it is not considered to be peeled.

2. The Smak (171) understands this to mean that the shell or hair can protect the food even if they were completely removed and later added back. Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l, in his Sefer Divrei Yetziv, maintains that the basic understanding of the Gemara is that the food is only protected if there is at least one piece of hair or shell which was never removed from the food but it would not suffice to add pieces of peel or hair to a fully peeled egg etc. He feels that this is also the view of Harav Yaakov Emden zt”l (Divrei Yetziv Y.D. 31:14). In the Daf Hakashrus (ibid.) it states that Rav Belsky shlit”a rules in accordance with the Divrei Yetziv.

3. The Sefer Yad Meir (19) introduces a novel concept. He writes that one may wash the food to remove the ruach ra’ah. However, most authorities disagree and feel that rinsing the food does not help. (see Minchas Yitzchak 6:74, Divrei Yetziv ibid. Malbim in Ortzos Hachaim 4:32 and Shemiras Haguf V’Nefesh page 27)

4. The Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l discusses his uncertainty if the prohibition applies to foods that were peeled during the night, and therefore were not peeled for the entire night. He writes that in his view the custom seems to be that there is only a concern if it was left peeled for the entire night.

5. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:20) was asked whether there is a leniency for a commercial bakery, which has trays of unused leftover eggs etc.. Harav Moshe suggests that since we do not understand how ruach ra’ah operates we cannot extend the Gemara’s warning to any cases other than those mentioned specifically. Therefore, we can assume that the Gemara is discussing a typical case of a housewife who peeled an egg and accidentally left it overnight or who peeled an egg today with the intention of eating it tomorrow. However, the Gemara is not discussing a company which cracks eggs which will not be used for many weeks or months. Therefore, we do not have to be concerned for ruach ra’ah in such cases.

However, the seforim Mishnah Halachos (11:21) and Divrei Yatziv (ibid.) did not allow any dispensation for industrially produced items, and exhorted extreme caution with all facets of this halacha, ruling that peeled overnight eggs, onions or garlic are strictly prohibited.

In the Daf Hakashrus it states, “Rav Belsky and Rav Schachter were both of the opinion that the OU could rely on Igros Moshe. This would provide a basis for the certification of all commercial egg, garlic and onion products but would not permit a caterer to crack eggs for the next day’s breakfast or to cut onions and garlic for the next day’s salad.”

Moreover, it is worthwhile to read Rav Yisrael Belsky’s (Shulchan Halevi page 211) strongly worded defense of Rav Moshe’s opinion. He writes that since the issue at hand is one of spiritual danger, once the universally recognized Gadol HaDor rules that it does not apply, it is certain that no spiritual contamination will affect someone who relies on his ruling – see Gemara Pesachim 112b.

6. The Gemara explicitly states that even if the peeled onion is covered and wrapped up, it is still susceptible to ruach ra’ah. Therefore many authorities rule that even if one wraps the peeled egg or garlic up well and then puts it in the fridge, it is still forbidden to be eaten.

7. Harav Belsky, based upon the previously mentioned view of Harav Moshe Feinstein, notes that although the Gemara rules that placing the peeled egg in a sealed container does not protect it from the ruach ra’ah, this may not apply to eggs which are placed in a hermetically sealed container.

8. Another opinion cited by the Darkei Teshuva is that ruach ra’ah does not affect dried onion powder, garlic powder or powdered eggs, as not only are they not considered the original food item, but they are not even considered a food at all, rather a powder. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer Y.D. 2:8) agrees with this opinion and says that Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank permitted powdered eggs for this reason. In the Daf Hakashrus it states, “Rav Belsky held that the only basis for such a difference would be the view of Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l cited above who states that the danger only applies to eggs prepared in the typical manner.”

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Peeled Eggs, Onions or Garlic Overnight (Part 2)

Overnight Peeled Eggs-

1. Overnight peeled eggs might actually be permitted according to several authorities, as Rashi when explaining the prohibition omits eggs from the criteria. Rashi did not have the word “eggs” in his edition and accordingly eggs that were left overnight would not be prohibited. Harav Yaakov Breisch zt”l (Chelkas Yaakov Y.D. 39) also writes (albeit hesitantly) that Rashi would permit eggs that were left overnight and that this is also the opinion of the Tashbetz. Indeed, the Ben Ish Chai writes that “one should not eat peeled onions and garlic that were left overnight.” He clearly omits eggs from the prohibition. Perhaps he is following the view of Rashi who did not have the word “eggs” in his edition of the Gemara.

2. However, almost all of the later authorities include eggs in the prohibition and therefore one should act stringently.

3. The Darkei Teshuva (116:74) cites the Seforim Yad Meir and Degel Efraim who maintain that only cooked eggs are dangerous. Shelled raw eggs that were left overnight are permitted.

4. The Beis Shlomo (cited by Darkei Teshuva ibid.) and Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 504:1), however, maintain that the prohibition applies only to raw eggs and not to cooked eggs.

[Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer Y.D. 2:8) notes that the Maharam M’Rutenberg implies that there is danger on cooked eggs.]

Harav Ovadia suggests that according to the view of the Beis Shlomo and Kaf Hachaim dried onion would be permitted since they are dried with heat which provides a minimal cooking as well.

5. The Tzitz Eliezer (18:46) cites both opinions and writes that in essence there is legitimate basis to eat both raw and cooked eggs and that one should not rebuke those who act leniently. He explains that since many poskim feel that this entire prohibition no longer applies (as we explained in Part 1) coupled with the fact that there are authorities who permit cooked eggs and authorities who permit raw eggs, one always has legitimate basis to rule leniently. Contrastingly, Harav Yisroel Belsky shlit”a (Shulchan Halevi page 211) maintains that we should assume that the halacha applies to both cooked and raw eggs.

Food Mixed With Other Ingredients-

6. The Smak (171) writes that the reason why many eat garlic that was left overnight is that “since there is bread mixed with the garlic there poses no danger.” Indeed, many other poskim, including Zivchei Tzedek, Ben Ish Chai and Kaf Hachaim, rule that if the egg etc. is mixed with other ingredients before they are left overnight there is no concern. The Chazon Ish (Shemiras Haguv V’Nefesh page 25) also ruled in accordance with the Smak. Based upon these poskim many eat salads with onions even if the salad was made the day before.

7. The Chazon Ish and Harav Ovadia Hadaya zt”l both permit a fried egg that was left overnight since the egg has oil mixed in with it. (Orchos Rabbeinu page 209 and Yaskil Avdi 7:44. See however Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a in Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 4:186 for a dissenting view.)

8. The Tzitz Eliezer cites the Sefer Mataamim that a way to fix garlic etc. that was left overnight is by adding salt. The Tzitz Eliezer deduces that adding salt would permit the food even if the salt was added the next day (after the food was left overnight). However, the Sefer Beis Shlomo implies that adding other ingredients only suffices if they were added before the night.

9. The Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l rules that one may not use eggs, garlic or onions as the other ingredient in the mixture. Rabbi David Cohen (Daf Hakashrus ibid.) writes, “Rav Belsky also agreed that eggs, onion or garlic could not serve as the ‘other ingredient.’”

10. Most poskim do not write any criteria as to how much of the other ingredient must be added to allow the food. It would seem that any amount would suffice. However, the following poskim offer specific amounts:

Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 3:256) writes that the common custom in Israel is to be lenient if the salt or sugar is at least 2% of the mixture. Rav Moshe Sternbuch himself is only lenient l’chatchila if the color is changed by the mixture.

The Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l, in his Sefer Divrei Yetziv (Y.D. 31:14), maintains that one may only rely on this if the taste is actually changed by adding the salt or sugar.

Rabbi David Cohen (Daf Hakashrus ibid.) writes, “Rav Belsky felt the OU should follow Divrei Yetziv that there must be some threshold at which point the ‘other ingredient’ is insignificant and does not protect the peeled egg, but not with the suggestion that the criteria is nisenas ta’am (affecting the taste). Rather, as long as the other ingredient had some effect on the egg it would be significant enough to not be ‘batel.’ Thus, it would be sufficient if the other ingredient acted as a preservative or balanced the pH (acidity level) in the egg.”

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Peeled Eggs, Onions or Garlic Overnight (Part 1)

The Source-

1. The Gemara (Nidah 17) cites an extremely strong statement by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. He states that one who eats a peeled onion, egg or garlic that has been left sitting out overnight is literally endangering his life, and will be ultimately judged as a person who took his own life.1 The cause of this prohibition is a “ruach ra’ah,” a type of ‘spirit of impurity’ or spiritual contamination that rests upon these three foods when peeled and left overnight.

2. Astoundingly, there is absolutely no mention of this proscription in any of the works of the the Rambam, Rif, Tur, nor Shulchan Aruch. Yet, many later authorities, including the Pri Chadash (Y.D. 116:9), Shulchan Aruch HaRav(Shmeiras Haguf 7), Chida (Birkei Yosef Y.D. 116:10), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2 Pinchas 14), Chofetz Chaim (Likutei Halachos note 9) and Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 116:22), all do cite the Gemara’s statement, and consequently rule that eating a peeled egg, onion or garlic that sat overnight is strictly forbidden.

3. The assumption amongst the poskim is that this danger of “ruach ra’ah” is a spiritual danger and not a danger that a doctor would warn against. (see Shevet Halevi 3:169)

4. According to most authorities if the food was left overnight (b’dieved) it must be discarded. (Chida ibid. and Shemiras Haguf V’nefesh 3:6. See also Minchas Yitzchak 9:28)

Does This Halacha Still Apply-

5. The aforementioned poskim (Pri Chadash, Shulchan Aruch Harav etc.) who cite this halacha as normative, clearly feel that this halacha is in full effect today. However some wish to explain that the reason that the Rambam, Tur and Shulchan Aruch do not cite this ruling is because they feel that this ‘ruach ra’ah’ is no longer applicable. (See Shevet Halevi 6:111:5, Pri Hasadeh 2:61, Beis Meir 19, Yaskil Avdi 7:44. See also Igros Moshe Y.D. 3:20)

6. This is not a new debate, but rather one between the rishonim. Maharam M’Rottenberg, cited by the Mordechai (Shabbos Chapter 8), writes, “Regarding your question why we are lenient with peeled eggs and we do not concern ourselves with the “ruach ra’ah” stated in the Gemara. Perhaps the “ruach ra’ah” is no longer applicable.” [Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Yabia Omer Y.D. 2:7) explains that although the Maharam prefaced his heter with the word “perhaps”, one should not misconstrue this for uncertainty on his part. Rather, this is a terminology that many poskim use out of modesty.]

It seems that this is also the view of the Maharshal (Chullin Yam Shel Shlomo 8:12). The Maharshal discusses different concepts found in the Gemara dealing with medicinal issues and whether they still apply today. In his discussion he writes, “Many times the Gemara will warn against a certain action because of ‘ruach ra’ah’, however, none of these concerns still apply today.” Indeed, the Sefer Zivchei Tzedek (vol.2 116:61) explains that the reason why many are lenient regarding these halachos (onions, eggs or garlic) is because they are relying on the view of the Maharshal that “ruach ra’ah” no longer applies. Harav Yitzchak Weiss zt”l (Minchas Yitzchak 2:68:13 and 6:64) also writes that although one should be machmir, those who wish to rule leniently have legitimate basis to do so.

[In the May 2005 edition of The Daf Hakashrus (“A Monthly Newsletter For The Orthodox Union Rabbinic Field Representative”), Rabbi David Cohen discusses this issue and he writes, “Rav Belsky ruled that we should follow this second (stricter) opinion, while Rav Schachter is of the opinion that in the United States it is generally accepted to follow the first (lenient) opinion. Nonetheless, Rabbi Schachter agrees that we should not allow OU certified caterers or restaurants to leave peeled eggs etc. overnight since undoubtedly there will be customers who are machmir and we must serve them as well.”]

However, it should be noted that the prohibition is mentioned by several other Rishonim including Tosafos (Shabbos 141 and Beitzah 14), Rosh (Beitzah 14), the Sma”k (171), and Trumas HaDeshen (cited in Leket Yosher Y.D. page 6). They obviously feel that the concern of “ruach ra’ah” still applies today. And as noted above most later authorities also cite this Gemara as normative halacha. This seems to be the common custom and should be strictly adhered to. The poskim do, however, take the lenient view into consideration and allow for some leniency in certain questionable situations, as we shall discuss later on in this chapter.

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Reciting Blessings In Front Of Improperly Dressed Women And Uncovered Hair

1. The Gemara in Brachos (24a) states that one is not allowed to pray in the presence of a married woman whose hair is uncovered. This may cause problems for those reciting blessings under the chuppah, since many times there are women present who are not properly covering their hair.

2. Many rely on the well known heter of the Aruch Hashulchan (75:9). The Aruch Hashulchan writes that in a locale where the majority of married women do not cover their hair, the sight of uncovered hair will not cause men to have inappropriate thoughts, and it is therefore permitted to pray and recite blessings in the presence of a woman whose hair is uncovered. A similar view is expressed by the Ben Ish Chai, the Siridei Eish, Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l, and Harav Shlomo Zalman Aauerbach zt”l. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l writes that, in case of great need, one may rely upon the opinion of the Aruch Hashulchan (for the full list of sources see Sefer Umekareiv Biyamin 1).

3. It is important to stress the fact that there is a biblical obligation for all married women to cover their hair (Kesubos 72). That obligation is in complete effect to this day. The Aruch Hashulchan was not ruling or implying that married women need not cover their hair. He was addressing the rabbinic prohibition of praying in the presence of uncovered hair. That prohibition, feels the Aruch Hashulchan, is only in affect in an area where women cover their hair properly. In those areas, the presence of uncovered hair may lead to inappropriate thoughts and should be treated like an ervah (nakedness), and therefore one may not pray in it’s presence. In an area where, unfortunately, women stopped adhering to the law and began to uncover their hair, the sight of hair is mere commonplace and one may pray in it’s presence.

4. Many authorities, including the Chazon Ish, Mishnah Berurah, the Satmer Rebbe zt”l, and ybc”l Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a, disagree with the ruling of the Aruch Hashulchan and they feel that one may never pray in the presence of a married woman whose hair is uncovered (see Umekareiv Biyamin ibid.).

5. The permissible view of the Aruch Hashulchan would only allow for one to pray in front of a women whose hair is uncovered. It will not permit prayer in the presence of a woman who is not dressed properly.

6. The poskim debate what the proper procedure is for praying or reciting blessings in front of an improperly dressed woman. Some poskim maintain that one may recite the blessings as long as his eyes are closed or he is looking in a siddur and not at the woman. Others maintain that merely closing one’s eyes does not suffice, and one must completely turn away from the woman in question. One should try to adhere to the strict view and turn away from those that are not dressed properly and then recite the blessings. However, in case of necessity one may close one’s eyes and recite the blessings, and he need not turn his body in a different direction (see Beis Yosef and Shulchan Aruch 75, Taz, Bach and Mishnah Berurah on 75. Ishei Yisrael page 665 and Yabia Omer 3:7).

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