This article is an excerpt from our Sefer
13. Intimacy in a room with Sefarim or Tashmishei Kedusha [i.e. Tefillin, Mezuzah, Sefer Torah]:
A. The general rule:
It is forbidden to have relations in a room that contains Tefillin or Sefarim [or a Meuzah], unless the Sefarim or Tefillin [or Meuzah] are either:
- Removed from the room.
- Placed behind a Mechitza. [See Halacha C for the full details of this condition]
- Placed within a double covering. [See Halacha E for the full details of this condition]
The detailed laws of Sefarim: See Halacha F for the full details relating to Sefarim. See Halachas B and C for the full details relating to the conditions of Mechitza and double covering.
The detailed laws of Tefillin: See Halacha G for the full details relating to Tefillin. See Halachas B and C for the full details relating to the conditions of Mechitza and double covering.
The detailed laws of Mezuzah: See Halacha J for the full details relating to Meuzah. See Halachas B and C for the full details relating to the conditions of Mechitza and double covering.
The law by a Sefer Torah: See Halacha K for the full details relating to a Sefer Torah.
The law by a Megillah: See Halacha L for the full details relating to a Megillah.
The law by a Tallis: See Halacha I for the full details relating to Tallis.
Must the door of the room be closed if the Sefarim/Tefillin/Mezuzos are in another room?
Some Poskim rule that even when the Sefarim/Tefillin/Mezuzos are in another room, they are required to be covered if they can be seen from the room in which marital relations are taking place, or alternatively, the door of the room is to be closed. Other Poskim, however, rule that it is not necessary to do so, and intercourse is permitted even if the Sefarim which are outside their room can be seen from their room. Practically, one may be lenient regarding printed Sefarim, although one certainly is to be stringent regarding a Sefer Torah.
In a time of great need, may a couple have intercourse in a room with Sefarim, Tefillin or Mezuzos even if he cannot cover them properly, or place them behind a Mechitza or remove them from the room?
Some Poskim rule that in a time of great need, such as due to worry of Zera Levatala, one may be lenient to have intercourse in front of revealed Sefarim if he is absolutely unable to remove them from the room or to cover them properly. In such a case, one is to completely cover his and her body with a sheet during the intercourse. Some Poskim, likewise, permit this even in front of Tefillin and Mezuzos, if abstaining can lead to Zera Levatala.
May a couple have intercourse in a room with Sefarim, Tefillin or Mezuzos if they fully cover themselves under a sheet?
Initially this may not be done, and rather the items are to be properly covered or removed from the room. However, in a time of need, one may be lenient, as stated above in the previous Q&A.
Pulling out in middle if one notices a Sefer in the room or the covering fell:
If in the midst of intercourse one notices that a Sefer was left in the room, or that its cover fell off, then if one is close to ejaculation and separating from his wife can cause Zera Levatala, then he is to finish the intercourse and ejaculate, despite the above discovered issue. If, however, it will not cause ejaculation, then if the matter was not his fault, such as if the Mechitza he made in front of the Sefarim suddenly fell, then some Poskim rule that he is not required to pull out and may complete the intercourse. If, however, it was his fault and he simply did not notice the Sefer, then he is to immediately pull out from her and take care of the issue. Other Poskim, however, rule that in all cases one is to separate from his wife unless he is certain that it will cause Zera Levatala.
May a couple engage in intimacy in a Shul or Beis Midrash?
See Halacha 15 in Q&A!
May a couple have intimacy in the husband’s office which he uses as his private Beis Midrash?
See Halacha 15 in Q&A!
B. Being in bed with one’s wife [without marital relation] while Sefarim or Tashmishei Kedusha [Tefillin, Mezuzahs, Sefer Torah] are in the room:
If one’s wife is with him [in the same bed] but he does not plan on having relations with her, then it is considered as if his wife is not there [and the Tefillin and Sefarim and other Tashmishei Kedusha are therefore not required to be placed in a covering while he is in bed with her]. However, some Poskim rule that it is forbidden to be on the same bed with one’s wife [even if he does not plan to have relations with her] until the Tefillin and Sefarim within the room are placed in a double covering. (Practically, it is proper to suspect for the stringent opinion.) [However, if one plans to have relations [or has not decided to not have relations], then according to all it is forbidden to lie with one’s wife in bed until he removes the holy items from the room, or places them in a double covering.]
It is proper to remove all holy items, such as Tefillin and Sefarim, from one’s presence, or to double cover them, when one lies in the same bed as his wife, even if they plan to not have relations. [If they did not plan to not have relations, and certainly if they have decided to have relations, then this is required to be done from the letter of the law.]
If one’s wife is impure, may he have Sefarim or Tefillin in the room?
Yes. This is permitted according to all, as the stringency only applies if the couple is allowed to engage in intimacy [and only if they are on the same bed, which is forbidden in the state of Niddah].
May one place a Sefer on the marital bed?
One is not to leave Sefarim on a bed on which he and his wife engage in marital relations, as it may contain semen, which is belittling to the Sefer.
C. The law of a valid Mechitzah:
It is valid to have marital intimacy in a room that contains Tefillin, which is behind a valid Mechitza, as explained above in A. The following are the detailed qualifications a valid Mechitza.
The dimensions of a valid Mechitza: The divider must be at least ten Tefachim high [80 centimeters]. [Some Poskim rule that it likewise must be four Amos wide, which is 196 centimeters. Other Poskim, however, rule that it must be only four Tefachim wide, which is 32 centimeters.]
The strength of the divider – Using a sheet: The Mechitza may be made of thin material, such as a sheet, and does not have to be a permanent structure. However, if a sheet is being used as a divider, it must be tied on well enough so that it does not move with [a common] wind. [This applies even though the sheet is inside the home and practically there is no wind. If it does move with the wind, then it is not considered a valid Mechitza at all, and does not permit intimacy in the room. Nonetheless, even if the sheet can move with the wind, it is nevertheless valid as a single covering, and only one more covering is required, as explained in E.]
Must the Mechitza block the Sefarim/Tefillin? If a divider fulfills the above conditions, then it is valid even if the Mechitza does not reach a height to block the Sefarim/Tefillin, and the Sefarim are revealed or Tefillin are uncovered, and can be seen from above the divider.
A perforated Mechitza: Some Poskim rule that a Mechitza with [large] perforations, through which the Sefarim can be seen [even from a distance], is invalid. Other Poskim, however, rule that a Mechitza with perforations is valid. Practically, one is to initially be stringent to cover the holes so the Sefarim cannot be seen, although in a time of need one may be lenient with Sefarim, although not with a Sefer Torah.
A glass or transparent covering or Mechitza: It requires further analysis if a transparent Mechitza [i.e. glass or plastic], which allows one to see the Sefarim, is invalid. Practically, it is proper to cover the Mechitza with a covering, although one may be lenient in a time of need, as stated above regarding a perforated Mechitza.
A bed canopy: See Q&A!
Setting up a divider on Shabbos to block the Sefarim/Tefillin: It is forbidden on Shabbos to set up a divider in order to block Sefarim/Tefillin and serve as a single covering Mechitza in order to permit marital relations. However, it is permitted even on Shabbos to set up a divider in order to block the books and serve as a second covering in order to permit marital relations. Likewise, it is permitted to add to a divider that was already set up a Tefach width [8 centimeters] from before Shabbos. This applies irrelevant of the direction in which the Tefach divider was set up before Shabbos. One may later undo the divider, so long as the original Tefach that was left opened before Shabbos remains.
May one ask a gentile to set up a Mechitza on Shabbos in order to permit marital relations?
No, unless the matter is being done in order to fulfill his minimum Onah obligation, or the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu, or he is unable to withhold his desire for intimacy.
On Shabbos, may one close his bedroom closet door in order to permit marital relations [such as if it contains Sefarim]?
Yes, it may be closed even if both doors were left open from before Shabbos, as it is similar to a divider attached to the wall which may be opened and closed. See Chapter 2 Halacha 4A in Q&A!
A bed canopy – May a couple have intercourse in a room with Sefarim, Tefillin or Mezuzos if their bed contains a canopy which surrounds it as walls?
If one’s bed contains a canopy with drapes surrounding it on all four sides, as is commonly done to protect from mosquitoes, then if the canopy sheets are tied to the bottom of the bed in a way that they do not move with the wind, then it is considered a valid Mechitza to permit intercourse. It is thus permitted to have marital relations inside the bed even if there are Sefarim in the room. If, however, it moves with the wind, then it is not a valid Mechitza and another covering is needed. However, in a time of great need one may be lenient, as stated above in A in Q&A.
May a couple have intercourse in a tent that is inside a room with Sefarim, Tefillin or Mezuzos?
Yes, as the tent is considered a valid Mechitza.
D. The law if the Sefarim or Tefillin are in a box, cabinet or closet:
If the box, closet or cabinet is ten Tefachim high: If the box or closet/cabinet is ten Tefachim high [80 centimeters] and at least 4 Tefachim wide [32 centimeters], then it is considered a valid Mechitza, as stated above, and thus does not require any further covering for its Kedusha items [if the items are closed within it and cannot be seen, as explained in the Q&A].
If the box, closet or cabinet is less than ten Tefachim high or four Tefachim wide: Some Poskim rule that if the Tefillin or Sefarim are found in a box [or closet or cabinet], then they are considered to be found in their own domain, if the box [or closet or cabinet] is large enough to hold 40 Seah. [This applies even if the box is less than ten Tefachim high, or four Tefachim wide, in which case it is an invalid Mechitza. In such a case, there is no need to add another cover to the box, so long as the items cannot be seen. If, however, the box or cabinet contains glass doors or windows through which its Holy contents can be seen, then the window needs to be covered.] Other Poskim, however, argue and rule that even Sefarim/Tefillin found in a closed box which holds 40 Seah requires another covering, [unless the box or closet or cabinet is ten Tefachim high, in which case it serves as Mechitza]. Practically, one may be lenient by today’s printed and bound Sefarim, of which many Poskim rule that the binding itself is considered like a cover, and hence when inside a box it already has two coverings. However, regarding Tefillin and Mezuzos that are revealed inside the box, one should be stringent to cover the box. Regarding a Sefer Torah, one is certainly to be stringent, as explained in Halacha K.
If the closet is attached to the wall: If the closet is attached to the wall with screws and nails, then according to all it is considered its own domain and does not require any covering.
Must one cover the Sefarim in an open bookcase?
A typical bookcase holds 40 Seah, and is over ten Tefachim high and four Tefachim wide, thus turning it into its own domain and not requiring it to be covered. Nonetheless, since the Sefarim are visible inside the room, therefore it is to be covered by at least one covering. [Furthermore, it is proper to cover it with even two coverings to suspect for the opinion which states that it is not its own domain, as stated above.]