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1535 – Brachos and Tefilos – (Klal 4 Siman 2) – Tefach

D'var Halacha
D'var Halacha
1535 - Brachos and Tefilos - (Klal 4 Siman 2) - Tefach

 We are continuing in siman 2. The Chayei Adam mentioned that the shiur of (non-primary) ervah which creates a problem is a tefach.. The Chayei Adam will discuss this shiur further in siman 7. The Chayei Adam holds it applies equally to one’s wife as it does to other women. However, the Rema brings an opinion that this shiur is only for one’s wife. Vis a vis another woman, even less than a tefach is a problem. Furthermore, there is an opinion of the Taz that the shok of one’s wife is a problem even when less than a tefach. 

 We need to discuss how to define a tefach. Neither the MIshnah Berurah nor Chayei Adam discuss the shiur. The Chavos Yair, Rav Yair Bachrach, implies that the issue is specifically a tefach by a tefach, and that if the part uncovered is not in that shape, it is not a problem. A tefach is 4 etzbaos, so a tefach by tefach is 16 etzbaos. It would seem from the Chavos Yair that an area uncovered which is 2 by 8 etzbaos, or 1 by 16 etzbaos, would be fine. However, Rav Moshe disagrees, and writes that we calculate the tefach by tefach by area, not by the specific shape. Thus, even 1 by 16 etzbaos would be a problem. 

The sefer Beis Baruch, a peirush by Rav Binyamin Zilber on the Chayei Adam, writes that we never find the earlier poskim mention the shiur of a tefach as a tefach by a tefach, but rather they write the shiur of tefach alone. Thus, we can conclude that the issue is any time more than a tefach in length of ervah is uncovered, regardless of the width of the uncovered area.

 Rav Falk, in his sefer on hilchos tznius, understands that the primary psak is not like the Beis Baruch. However, he does follow the opinion of Rav Moshe over the Chavos Yair, that the area of tefach by tefach does not need to be an exact square. 

To review, the issue we are discussing is the ability to recite divrei torah or tefillah. The issue of hirhur or histaklus is a different discussion. 


  • The shiur of non-primary ervah which creates a problem for davening or learning is a tefach by a tefach. There a a few machlokes poskim in understanding this shiur:
    • Some hold this shiur only applies to one’s wife, and for other women there is no minimum shiur;
    • Some hold the tefach by tefach needs to be a square to be a problem, others hold any equivalent area is a problem;
    • Some hold a tefach is a problem regardless of its width

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