How to properly arrange the seating at the Shabbos meal?



When there are a group of families, bochurim, and older single men and women together for the Shabbos meals, how should they be seated? Is mixed seating allowed? Is it okay for men and women of the opposite gender to sit next to each other or face each other (if they’re not in the same family)? Should there be separate tables? At what age should children not be allowed to sit with the opposite gender? I’d like to know please both for a small group in the house, and a large group in Shul, does that make a difference?



At a public meal, communal meal, such as in a shule hall, men and women must be seated separately, with a mechitzah dividing between the men and the women, to ensure that there should not be any intermingling of men and woman and to prevent the issur of histaklus (men gazing at women).

At a small Shabbos meal at home, the common custom is not to have a mechitzah, even when non-family members are invited as guests. Nonetheless, the men and the women should be seated separately as much as practically possible.

The general age for when to separate kids is when they start maturing to understand the concept of separation between men and women. This is generally between the ages of 6 and 9. Children of 9 years and older, must be educated not to mingle and should be seated separately.

Men and women should be seated in a way that a man isn’t seated between two women or a woman between two men.

When having several families together, the men should preferably face men, and women should face women. It is important to note that this is especially important when eating by a table without a full divider underneath, as it is a common possibility for one to stretch his legs only to touch the person at the opposite side.

The best would be to designate separate tables for men and women or at least separate tables for each family. Even if this is not possible, the families should be sitting at other ends of the table.

As for hosting singles, while technically it’s not forbidden to host single bachurim and girls at the same meal, this is considered inappropriate. One should go to great lengths to arrange their hosting of meals in such a way that bachurim and girls aren’t invited at the same time. Rumor has it that the Rebbe instructed that Yeshivos not allow bachurim to eat out at families who have girls home, even if they are little girls.

Where circumstances require such an arrangement, they should be seated at different tables.

The following is a suggested seating arrangement, where all are seated together, at one long table. Of course, the more tables you have the better:

All single men seated at one end of a table. For example, if there are 7 men, then one at the table end and 3 on each side. Then families, with a male representative seated next to the 2 men on each side of the table where the families start sitting.  Then after the families, the single women (understandably seated next to a female family member at the end of the families’ place on the table).

The best way to flow from men to women between families is by husband and wife, as they are the only ones that can have either gender (from the same family) on the other side. Alternatively, the seating between families can be where the same gender from different families are seated near each other, i.e. a man next to a man and a woman next to a woman.

Any sibling of the opposite gender can be a divider, so for example a sister can separate between her brother and a row of girls.



כמה פרטים בדבר: האיסור שישבו איש בין ב׳ נשים. איסור להסתכל אפילו על הפנוי׳. איסור תערובת אנשים ונשים.

והנה, כתבו הפוסקים שאין לברך שהשמחה במעונו כשאנשים ונשים בבית אחד (ראה ב״ח אה״ע סב. ב״ש שם יא. והוא מס״ח שצג ותתשכ. וכ״ה במנהגים לר״י טירנא ע׳ קסו. ועוד. והובא גם במשנ״ב שלט בבה”ל שלט, ג ד״ה להקל). אבל כבר כתבו לחלק, דהתם שאני דמיירי בשמחת נישואין עם ריקודים או בסעודה של שמחה.

והארכנו בזה בקובץ היובל ח״א ע׳ 266 ואילך. וראה שם שוה״ג הא׳ להערה 16. הערה 60 בסופה.

וראה גם הנסמן בספר תורת המחיצה (שהעתיק מדברינו – בד״כ בהשמטת שם אומרו, למרות דבריו במבוא הספר ע׳ ה – לאורך כל הספר, ולפעמים בתוספת נופך מדילי׳, ועכ״פ – כ״ה בסידור וסגנון והרצאת הדברים שעשה דבר טוב ומועיל. וכשנטה קו – נלפענ״ד שלא דק. ואכ״מ בזה) ע׳ קד ואילך. ורוב דבריו בנדו״ד – דחויים לפענ״ד, זולת מש״כ שבסעודה גדולה יש להחמיר טפי, ולפענ״ד – הוא מן הדין. והמעיין היטב בכל המקורות אצלנו ואצלו – ישר תחזינה עינימו מה לקרב ומה לרחק.

ומפורסמת השמועה שכן הורה הרחמ״א ע״ה חדקוב לישיבות, כמדומה בשם כ״ק אד״ש. וכעת לא עלתה בידי לברר. וראה אג״ק ז ע׳ פז, ע״ד לסדר ארגון והתוועדות לבחורות, שמובן ופשוט שלא ביחד עם בחורים, ושולל שם ניגונים גם כשהן בפ״ע.


Follow up questions:

In lieu of this answer and the way things are where I live, I would like to know:

  1. In an out of town community where most of the community is not frum, is there a heter not to have a mechitza in Shul when there’s a kiddush (and for the men and women together sit together)?
  2. Since I am not the one to make that decision, if the mixed meals (which usually have a lot of mingling) continue, what should I do? The idea of not being there will be hard. In our community, almost everyone is in Shul for the Shabbos day meal. My husband very likely won’t go along with that decision, since this is the way it’s been since before we were here. He also feels that he is like a shliach and should be with the community. It would probably be either me by myself or with just my 11-year-old son and no one else in our house for the se’uda.
  3. Regarding children, a number of years back, I thought my son was too old to be with the girls a little younger than him. My husband said that since we’re in a small community, they’re like family. They aren’t related to us in any way, but there seems to be no way to avoid it. He has no siblings. The other Chabad children in our community are girls at least 2-3 years younger than him, and the boys are all much younger than that. They are with him in carpool and in Shul. He is already 11 years old, and I am not sure what to do about this. He is very careful about negiah, and when I hear him speaking to the girls, it’s usually connected to learning or something similar. Should I be discouraging this, despite that it might seclude him socially?

I know these questions might seem more personal and like questions for a mashpia. When I spoke to my mashpia about this, she was shocked and didn’t know what to say. She can’t imagine being in a place with these tznius issues. She thinks I should firstly push for a mechitza during Shabbos meals in Shul, which is the least in my hands. I felt that I should first find out if these really are halachic issues before pushing for it (although it has been making me very uncomfortable) and that is why I felt I should ask a Rav.



  1. There is room, with great difficulty, to be lenient, as long as the men and women sit separately.
  2. Discussion for mashpia.
  3. Family means family, the size of the community is irrelevant. But shalom bayis overrides a lot of things. Your son belongs in a frum environment at this age. You should discuss all this with your mashpia including the heter to live in a non-frum community if not on shlichus.