We are continuing in siman 9, learning about the concept of libo roeh es haervah. We learned that when one is standing in the water, with their heart above the water and the ervah below the water, it is an acceptable separation and one could recite devarim shebikedusha.
The Chayei Adam clarifies that if one’s heart is underwater, they would need to create a separation between the heart and ervah, by pressing their arms on their body to create a separation. Alternatively, if the water is dirty, it is muttar even without pressing one’s hands against their body. However, one must be mindful that if the dirty water smells, it is assur to recite a bracha. Baruch Hashem, the problem of dirty water is generally not relevant to us anymore.
If a person is completely exposed, it does not help to cover their heart. The language of the pasuk warns not against seeing ervah, but that ervah should not be seen (yireh). On the other hand, if the ervah is covered, but one is bare chested, it is muttar to recite a bracha. It is a lack of tznius and kavod for the bracha, but technically speaking, it is muttar. It is also important to note that one must have their head covered when making a bracha. However, This heter does not apply to shmoneh esrei.
Thus, if one is swimming, and only wearing swimming trunks, the elastic of the swimming trunks approximates the separation between the heart and ervah, so they can put on a yarmulke and make a bracha.
The Chayei Adam adds that, in his opinion, if one sees ervah through a window or thin covering, the ervah is technically considered covered mideoraysa. However, they must still close their eyes. The Chayei Adam writes that one should only rely on this heter regarding an ervah derabanan (ie, a non-primary ervah).
The concept of libo roeh es haervah is that it is assur for the heart to be exposed directly to one’s ervah. One must create a separation between the heart and the ervah with a tight fitting garment, one’s hands pressed against the body, with half of their body under water, or with dirty water
As long as the ervah is covered, it is muttar meikar hadin to recite a bracha, even if they are bare chested..