Yud Shevat, 5775
The members of an early-twentieth-century shul once decided to renovate the ezras nashim, which was located in a small, cramped room adjacent to the ezras anashim. The proposed plan entailed elevating the roof of the ezras nashim, which would cause two-thirds of the height of the shul's windows to be obscured, significantly decreasing the illumination of the shul. Were they allowed to continue with their plans?
The rov of the community, R. Dov Te'omim, sent a letter to the famous Galician rov, R. Meir Arik, detailing the question under discussion. In the last issue we explained that obstructing the windows and thus diminishing their ability to illuminate the shul was not tantamount to destroying them, because they still can bring in a certain amount of light to the shul. B'ezras Hashem, we will now examine an additional problem, based on the premise of horadah mikedushah chamurah likedushah kalah-decreasing the holiness of an object. Until now, the windows had served the ezras anashim; now, they will serve the ezras nashim as well, which possesses a lesser degree of holiness. Might this reason obligate them to withdraw their plans?
R. Meir quotes the Magen Avraham who writes that one may place possul sifrei torah in the aron kodesh together with the kosher sifrei torah (Orach Chaim 154:14). The reason this is not considered as a decrease in the holiness of the aron kodesh is because it is still being used for the kosher sifrei torah. The same is true in our case. Since the windows will continue to serve the ezras anashim as well by bringing in some degree of light, there is no issue of horadah.
Upon contemplating the matter further, though, one can differentiate between the two cases. In the case of the aron kodesh, placing the possul sifrei torah inside does not diminish the capacity of the aron to house the kosher sifrei torah; but in our case, allowing the windows to serve the ezras nashim will decrease their ability to illuminate the ezras anashim. So perhaps this can indeed be seen as a reduction in the holiness of the windows.
Nonetheless, R. Meir concludes that the community may elevate the roof of the ezras nashim. The Alter Rebbe rules that the issue of horadah is only mid'rabanan (Orach Chaim 34:9), and in our case there is a distinct need to renovate the ezras nashim to provide the women with much-needed light and air. Another factor to take into consideration is the fact that large windows will be built in the outside walls of the ezras nashim, enabling light to enter the ezras anashim as well. In light of all the above, the proposed renovations may be carried out.
(Shu"t Imrei Yosher 1:22)