Elul 5761 – Walking Between Two Women

1 Elul 5761

L’chvod HaRav:

I have a shaila for you that has been floating around in my head for a little bit… What is the purpose of our not sitting/standing a woman between two men, a man between two women? Is it for tznius purposes?

Thank you for your help!

Name & Seminary withheld upon request

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Dear Name Withheld,

This is quite an interesting question, and it is something that most people don’t properly understand. The Gemara in Pesachim 111a says “The following three things a person should not walk between, nor let them come between him and another man, dogs, palm trees, and women”. Now obviously, if the issues was Tznius, there wouldn’t be a problem with palm trees and dogs!! How are we to understand this?

It is clear from the context of the Gemara there, which is talking about things that people should avoid doing so as not to expose themselves to the power of magic, that witches would be able to “do their spells” on a person who would do one of those things, i.e. they were exposing themselves to the power of witchcraft if they walked between two women, dogs, or palm trees. Therefore the Gemara is advising a person what precautions they should take so as not to fall into the hands of witches.

Today, since magic is not as prevalent as it once was, it isn’t as necessary to take these precautions. However, the Gemara in Horiyos 13b says that if a man does frequently walk between two women, this makes his “learning difficult”, and Rashi explains that it will be hard for him to understand his learning. This is probably why we find that even today many Yeshiva students and Talmidei Chachamim are stringent regarding this.

Take care,
Rabbi Aaron Tendler