Hilchos Yichud For Shovavim Tat 5774

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kraThe following is meant as a convenient review of Hilchos Yichud (written by Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski).  The Piskei Din for the most part are based purely on the Sugyos, Shulchan Aruch and Ramah, and Nosei Keilim unless stated otherwise. They are based on my understanding of the aforementioned texts through the teachings of my Rebeim. As individual circumstances are often important in determining the psak in specific cases, and as there may be different approaches to some of the issues, one should always check with one’s Rov first.

Our Sages, with their deep understanding of human nature, understood well that should people be left to decide on their own what they could or could not do – especially with regard to the powerful issue of intimate relations – men and women might easily put themselves in very problematic situations. Without intending to, they might commit capital transgressions.  For these reasons our Sages constructed a number of ‘barriers’, of steps, to keep people from falling into such traps.

Over the past century our lifestyles have changed drastically. Travel has become much easier and it is more common to have questions regarding Yichud in situations that didn’t come up in days of yore. Likewise the dynamics of the workplace has changed tremendously.  Perhaps not surprisingly, there are at times differences of opinion among the Poskim with regard to many circumstances.  Nonetheless it is very important to be familiar with the basic Halachos of Yichud.

It is forbidden to seclude oneself with any woman other than one’s wife, sister, mother, or daughter (for a woman, obviously, the opposite is true: it is forbidden for her to seclude herself with any man other than her husband, father, brother, or son).

The minimum amount of time required for a transgression of the Issur of Yichud (seclusion with a forbidden woman) is about two minutes. It is a matter of dispute if it is at all permissible to seclude oneself with a woman if one’s plan is only to do so for half a minute. One should therefore not seclude oneself even for a few seconds (Maharil Diskin)

  1. It is Biblically forbidden to seclude oneself with any Erva (with anyone Biblically forbidden with regard to sexual relations)
    1. There are a few exceptions: a parent with an opposite gender child, or siblings with each other, and a husband with his wife when she is Nida (so long as they have already been intimate prior to her Nida status) are allowed to be alone with one another.

                                                               i.      It is likewise permissible to seclude oneself with a grandparent/grandchild etc.

  1. Chazal forbade secluding oneself with a pnuya (single woman) even if she isn’t a Nida.

                                                               i.      Nowadays, since Chazal forbade single women from going to the Mikva to end their Nida status, single women are generally prohibited Biblically from secluding themselves with a man.

  1. Chazal forbade Jewish men from secluding themselves with non-Jewish women, and Jewish women to seclude themselves with gentile men.
  2. It is permissible to seclude oneself with any woman if one’s wife is also there together with them.
    1. Obviously, if it is permissible for the man to seclude himself with his wife and another woman, it is also permissible for his wife and the other woman.
    2. It is forbidden for a Jewish woman to seclude herself with a Goy even if his wife is together with them.
  3. It is forbidden for one to allow one’s child to be in seclusion with a goy.
    1. As the reason for this rabbinic enactment is a matter of dispute amongst the Rishonim, it is forbidden to seclude a Jewish child with either a male or female Goy. Likewise it is prohibited to seclude a Jewish child (and/or multiple Jewish children) with multiple Goyim.

                                                               i.      All the aforementioned (3, 3a) applies to all scenarios i.e. tutors, doctors etc. One should consult competent Halachic authority whenever a particular Shaila arises.

  1. A woman may seclude herself with two or more men, if they are Ksheirim, in an inhabited area during the daytime. However, if there are not at least two Ksheirim, it is Assur.
    1. The Mechaber maintains that a regular person is considered a Parutz while the Ramo maintains that most Jews are Ksheirim.

                                                               i.      Rav Moshe Feinstein maintains that anyone who watches television or movies is considered a Parutz even according to the Ramo (note there are others that differ in opinion and maintain differently. Rav Moshe is the only one who maintains this).

  1. If one of the many men in a particular place is there with his wife, it is then permissible for other women and/or men to be there with them.
  2. It is permissible for a man to seclude himself with three or more women as long as three or more of the women present are not ones he works for or with on a regular basis.
    1. If someone has a job that provides a service for women on a regular basis (i.e. sells women’s clothing, makeup etc.) it is then forbidden for him to seclude himself even with three or more women even if he doesn’t work for, or with, them on a regular basis.

                                                               i.      If a person’s job is explicitly with or for women he must then either have his wife with him at all times, or make sure that his workplace visible to frequent passersby. If he cannot help but be secluded with women (even multiple women at one time) he then is obligated to quit his job.

                                                             ii.      It is likely that someone who teaches girls (or any other form of Mechanech to females) on a regular basis is considered to “work with women” and as such must be more particular with hilchos yichud as mentioned in 5a and 5ai.

  1. It is permissible for three or more men to be together with three or more women.
  2. It is permissible for a woman and a man to be secluded together if the woman’s husband is in town and the woman knows that he can theoretically appear any minute.  However, if the woman and man know each other well (i.e. they are relatives, childhood friends, familiar work associates or the like) it is then prohibited for them to be in seclusion even though the woman’s husband is in town.
    1. Therefore, special care should be taken in professional, or medical and other caretaking situations, to insure that a friendly relationship shouldn’t develop.

                                                               i.      If a friendly relationship develops or is apt to develop one should consult with a competent halachic authority.

  1. It is wise to avoid being on first name basis with opposite gender co-workers as this will automatically place distance between one another and make things more formal. (Note: not being on a first name basis does not eliminate the issue of co-workers and secretaries. (The Aruch Hashulchan maintains that all (permanent) work relationships are considered to be friendly).
  1. While one’s wife being in town doesn’t make it permissible for a man to seclude himself with another woman, if the man knows that his wife is supposed to appear any minute (e.g. she went out to the grocer next door etc.) then it is permissible for him to be secluded for a short period of time.
  2. It is permissible to be secluded (with someone with whom it would otherwise be forbidden) in an enclosure that opens to an area frequented by passersby provided that any of those could come at any time into the enclosure. Alternatively, seclusion is also permissible if there is a window or other opening making what is happening inside visible to all.
    1. It is forbidden to be secluded with a forbidden person in any area that isn’t frequented even if it is entirely open.

                                                               i.      If people generally pass by every 10 minutes or so then it definitely can be considered a frequented area.

  1. If a place is frequented less often than at least once every 10 minutes ask a competent halachic authority.
  2. It is permissible for one man to seclude himself with a woman and her daughter in-law, or a woman and her stepdaughter.
  3. It is permissible for a man and woman to be secluded together if there is a child old enough to repeat what happened during their seclusion, and it can safely be assumed that the child wouldn’t commit any forbidden acts.
    1. Even though it is possible that the child could in theory be coerced into forbidden acts, it can also be safely assumed that the presence of another adult would enable the child to resist.
  4. There isn’t any prohibition to be secluded with a girl under three, or with a boy under nine.
    1. Nowadays, as there are unfortunately supposedly “frum” pedophiles, one should not allow any child, but certainly not one older than three to be secluded with a man who could fit the profile of such a menuval.

                                                               i.      It is advisable to have a way to check-up periodically on a child’s situation with a tutor, mentor, or therapist etc. (This could include such things as video surveillance, for instance).

  1. It is prohibited to appoint a male watchman/guard over an area with only women, even if that person is a Kasher. This is true even if the guard is outside the premise and the women are all inside.
    1. If the guard is on the street itself (or another very public area) then it is ok.
    2. One shouldn’t have a male caretaker for one’s estate.
    3. A woman should not hire permanent male help, nor should an unmarried man hire help from a single woman.

                                                               i.      A single woman should not live alone with a dog.

                                                             ii.      It is preferable that a single man shouldn’t live alone with a dog either.

  1. Although Chazal didn’t prohibit the seclusion of two males the Mechaber maintains that two males shouldn’t seclude themselves together.
    1. The Bach argues on the Mechaber seemingly like the Rema (4a).

                                                               i.      Rav Moshe Feinstein suggests that seclusion of two males on a regular basis should be avoided. Therefore many Yeshivos are makpid not to have locks on dorm rooms (so as to allow frequent traffic between dorm rooms), or to have always more than two boys per room.

                                                             ii.      Married men who live away from home during the week etc. (but go home to their wives occasionally) may seclude themselves together even on a regular basis.

  1. While there isn’t a prohibition for a brother and sister to be secluded on a temporary basis they should not live together on a permanent basis.
  2. It is permissible to drive on in-town streets even if there is only one man and one woman in the car.
  3. It is permissible to drive with only one man and woman in the car on trafficked roadways (highways). However it is prohibited to travel on non-trafficked roadways (without there being the right combination of people).
    1. This may sometimes be relevant to dating couples.
  4. It is prohibited for a man and a woman to take a walk together in desolate areas.
    1. This may be relevant to shiduch dating and the like. Therefore, it is best to plan dates in locations that are lightly trafficked (at least one person every 10 – 15 minutes or so).

                                                               i.      The passing of one time period of more than 15 minutes without any traffic does not render the area in question ‘non-trafficked’ as long as on average there isn’t more than a 10-15 minute time lapse between people. (Really 10-15 minute is too long, but the assumption is that if something is frequented on an average of 10-15 minute than there are the times that there is only a 1-2 minute time lapse as well).

Hilchos Yichud may at times complicate work and social life. Here are a few ways to alleviate the difficulties that may arise from proper adherence to Hilchos Yichud:

  1. Leaving the door open – if one leaves the door to the house open and one knows that a neighbor might pop in at any time, there isn’t a problem of Yichud.
  2. Give a key to someone else – if you give a key (or code) to one or more people and you tell them that they may come in at any time, and it is practical for the person to come in at any time (i.e. a neighbor or the like),one may then even lock the door (it is crucial in such a situation that the third party exercise their right to enter periodically).
  3. In a professional setting (e.g. doctors office etc.) one can request from a co-worker or assistant to peek in in the office every now and then.
    1. Alternatively (as is becoming increasingly popular in US doctor offices) one can have an assistant (or anyone else) sit in on the visit.
    2. If one knows that he has co-workers or assistants who come and go as they please than it is also permissible to close the door.
    3. 5.       If there is continuous surveillance via video camera etc., it is permissible to be secluded in an otherwise prohibited fashion (it is questionable if non-constant surveillance will remove the issur of Yichud; in such situations ask a competent Halachic authority).

 Frequent scenarios in Halacha:

  • A wife may be at home with a worker (male) if her husband is in-town (in the same city). This applies as long as she doesn’t specifically know that he is right now on the other end of town and it will take him a half hour to get home(e.g. if she just spoke to her husband on the phone and he said he is in the office…).
  • A husband can stay in the house with a cleaning woman or baby sitter… if his wife runs out to the local convenient store or neighbor but is likely to return any second. One may not stay alone with such a woman if one’s wife is likely to be gone for a while.
  • As in many office settings it is likely that friendly relationships will develop with opposite gender co-workers (especially with secretaries), it is recommended to have video surveillance.  If one does not have such a system one should make sure that there are people who could enter at any point in time.

Dating:

Dating can present special challenges as a dating couple may want some privacy and they are often trying to build a relationship – if they are not already in the middle of one  . Therefore it is important that a dating couple take special care to insure that the places they are going to for dates should be appropriate:

  • A single boy may drive a single girl in his car even at night so long as they are in a populated area on a road that has frequent traffic.
  • A single boy can be alone with a single girl in a parked car even at night if they are in a populated area, they can be seen through the windows, and they are likely to be seen by people passing by. It is certainly ok to stay in a parked car on the girl’s driveway if her parents or family are home.
  • Dark, quiet, and unfrequented roads should be avoided especially at night, but preferably even during the day.
  • Quiet (unfrequented) walking paths/trails and seldom visited parks should be avoided.
  • A boat ride (i.e. a row boat, canoe…) is fine as the couple stays in an easily visible area.

Therapists and counselling:

Since when someone is counselling another person it is crucial to be open and personal, it is likely that there will be more shailos that arise. It is therefore very important that someone who works in such a capacity should consult with a competent Halachic authority to receive guidelines as to what is ok and what isn’t. Remember hilchos Yichud is not a matter of Hashkafa but rather one of Halacha.


2 COMMENTS

  1. 1. The issue of dogs only applies to a woman with a male dog because of suspicion. It would seem that if people do not suspect these things it might be OK.
    2. In most office settings not calling co-workers by first names could leave someone open to ridicule. I have not seen people being makpid on this.
    3. In most office situations there is no seclusion. Doors to private offices can be left ajar so that someone might peek. Video surveillance is Orwellian.
    4. It would seem that hired help only applies to a live-in not to a cleaning person who comes when the tenant is not home.

  2. Avi K

    Well done, every one of 1-4 is wrong.

    1. Gezeros because of chashash cannot be undone because you ascertain there is no chashash.
    2. Most of Judaism is open to redicule, down that road lies being entirely porek ol
    3. Video surveillance is common sense if you want to limit your potential legal liability.
    4. Huh? Are you meyached or not?