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Rabbi David Sperling

Adar I 16, 5782
Question
Hi As part of my job I need to supervise ladies working with children to make sure they are using the right methods and working properly. I am paid by the insurance company to come usually for a block of 2 hours at a time. Am I allowed to look at the lady working or should I be trying to look away and does it make a difference if they are dressed properly or not , with regards to this question?   Thank you
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. It is wonderful to see that you are concerned about this issue, which certainly is an important one. Whilst there exist different opinions, a major normative halachic understanding differentiates between looking at women with a sexual intent (i.e. to enjoy their physical bodies), and seeing women in a normal framework of day to day interactions. The first is forbidden, while the second is permitted. Based on this, one may take such a job, and watch the women while they work to make sure they are working to standard. (Looking away is not an option here – you are being paid to supervise. If you decide that you cannot watch the women, then, in my opinion, you should leave the job, as it is forbidden to take pay for a non-performance of the job requirements). There is another halachic consideration, which rules that people employed in a job are less troubled by forbidden thoughts, as they are “busy with their jobs”, and have no time / room for their minds to go astray. This is the reason a doctor may examine female patients. In your case also, you will be “busy” judging the standards of their work and seeing they are fulfilling the rules etc, and be to busy to think about anything else. As to the clothing the women are wearing – I assume that women working with children are dressed in a normative fashion, that while maybe does not meet with halachic standards, is of a social norm. In such a case there is room to work with them, and try to focus your eyes only on the tasks they are performing, without looking with intent at that which is forbidden. However, one needs to take into consideration the following important point. This halachic ruling only explains why it is permitted to have normative interactions with women if you do in fact not have forbidden thoughts. If you find that working in such a job does in fact lead you into sinful thoughts (or, heaven forbid, sinful action), there is no permission at all to work in such a job. May you be blessed with ever success.
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