THE PROHIBITION OF YICHUD
Copyright: © 2015 ABA – EYBO
THE PROHIBITION OF YICHUD
אסור להיות ביחוד
GATE 1 / SHAAR I – WHAT IS YICHUD WITH THE OPPOSITE GENDER?
The word Yichud mean seclusion, which in this prohibition is referring to being alone with somebody from the opposite gender without the presence of other people. Our teachers (Rabbeinu) and our Sages (Chachameinu) have demonstrated with clear examples that if we spend time with someone from the opposite sex without the company of other people, we can cause serious damages to our present and future life, affecting greatly our spiritual standing and service to G-d.
Abiding by the laws of Yichud could be extremely difficult in this society, but it is not impossible for those who are serious about living life like the Tzaddikim (Righteous). In addition to obeying to the prohibition of Yichud, the real Tzaddikim must also protect their eyes (Shemirat Einayim). Those who protect the windows of the head; specially the eyes from looking at a woman that is not his wife; and those who make the efforts to surmount the challenges of the prohibition of Yichud, do benefit immediately by reaping its fruit now in the Olam Hazeh (This lifetime); the forces of Tumah (unclean forces) do not have power over him. On the other hand, lusting with your eyes could cause someone to lose his life here, and be sent to Gehinom to be punished. “One who gazes lustfully upon the small finger of a married woman, it is as if he has committed adultery with her.– Kallah, Ch. 1”
The restrictions of the Yichud prohibition are quite challenging to abide by, but it is well worth the efforts. Those who succeed experience real freedom in the area of temptations, wet dreams (night emission of semen), nightmares, sexual purity, and could grow enormously in their Avodat Hashem. This prohibition mainly restricts a man and a woman from being secluded unless they are married or very close relatives. Abiding by this Halacha (law) is, however, an essential component in maintaining a Torah lifestyle and Kedushat Yisrael (the holiness of the Jewish People).
THIS IS A VERY SERIOUS PROHIBITION
The seriousness of this prohibition when we obey it, could save our life sometimes in very dangerous circumstances; and when we disobey it, Has VeShalom, could cost us the life, by dying prematurely. The following story illustrates very well how serious this issue is:
“This story is about a Rabbi by the name of Rabbi Ya’akov Lorberbaum of Lissa who died in 1832. He was the author of a Sefer (book) called ‘Netivot Hamishpat,’ and another one called Chavat Da’at. He had a granddaughter that was engaged, and one day his daughter and granddaughter journeyed in a vehicle of a Goy (non-Jew) to a nearby city to buy items for the upcoming wedding. The driver veered off the road knowing that the two women had money, he took them to his house. He, along with some co-conspirators robbed them of their money and were getting ready to burn them alive in order to suppress all the evidences from their crime. But suddenly the door opened and some German officers came into the house. The gangsters escaped by running away, and the German officers saved the ladies and returned their money back to them. This was a great miracle. That same night, Rabbi Ya’akov of Lissa appeared to his daughter in a dream, and he explained to her that from heaven he saw what happened to them today. He told her that on the act he had to go to one of the levels in heaven to plead in a heavenly court for her salvation, but his intercession was immediately rejected because she had transgressed the Law of Yichud, as she was alone with the driver in that vehicle. So the Rabbi then went to a higher level in heaven and pleaded his case in front of The Bore Olam (The Creator), and he beseeched that in the merit of the books that he had written may his daughter and granddaughter please be saved. Finally his petition was granted the last attempt to save them worked, and that’s how the ladies got to be saved, when help was sent down from the Creator in the form of the German officers that showed up right on time before the inevitable.” Rabbi E. J. Mansour
From this story, we can clearly see how important it is to be careful and not treat the prohibition of Yichud lightly. This is a very serious prohibition that must be followed. We can also see from this story that observance of this law is monitored very closely in heaven, so much so that it can jeopardize someone’s safety and well being. Besides, it is also important to mention, that even if this wasn’t the case, it is noteworthy to cite the teaching that when someone is in danger on earth, his books are immediate opened in the courts of heaven, and a debate begins, the angels debate whether that person or persons deserve that a miracle be performed in order to save him / them or not.
The parameters discussed in this booklet will help you succeed if you desire the freedom intended with this prohibition and it will be quite beneficial to understand how to abide by this prohibition in the modern context.
CHAPTER 1 – THE SOURCE OF THE YICHUD PROHIBITION
1. The Creator of Heaven and Earth is the source of all Jewish laws, whether they are from the Torah or from our Rabbis; the written and Oral Torah or from the authorities that Hashem has ordained in Israel (amongst the Jewish People). The Rabbis, the Judges, the Teachers of Halachah, etc. Moshe used to seat all day long to judge the people according to what G-d gave him. And after him we have Rabbis (Teachers and judges), Kohanim, Levites who sit in the seat of Moshe, so to speak. All of them are mandated by the Creator, and they all are legal successors of Moshe Rabbenu. And to make sure that we obey them, G-d gave us this warning on Parashat Shoftim in the Book of Devarim (Deuteronomy 17:9-11)
2. “And you shall come to the Kohanim (priests), the Levites, and to the Judge (Rabbi) that shall be in those days; and you shall inquire; and they shall declare to you the Halacha (Law, Judgement, decision). And you shall do according to the tenor of the sentence, which they shall declare to you from that place which G-d shall choose; and you shall make sure you do according to all what they shall teach you. According to the law which they shall teach you, and according to the Halacha (judgment) which they shall tell you, you shall do; you shall not deviate aside from their teachings which they shall declare to you, you shall not deviate to the right, nor to the left.”
3. Some will so quickly disregard the teachings of our Rabbis, others who are deceived by their fake pagan ways will disrespectfully engage in argument with our authorities which show their ignorance of this warning from G-d himself and thereby demonstrate their arrogance and lack of humility. Some for their own demise, might even think that G-d has changed His mind concerning His commandments like this particular one which is a very serious one, indeed.
4. The Gemara (Kiddushin 80b) notes that the Torah (Devarim) hints at this prohibition for a man and a woman to be secluded unless they are married or very close relatives. The Rishonim debate whether this is a Torah level or a rabbinic level prohibition. The Beit Shmuel (Even Haezer 22:1) cites this debate but does not decide which view is accepted. The Aruch Hashulchan (E.H. 22:2), however, rules that it is a Torah level prohibition. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 21b) that states that Yichud is a Torah level prohibition appears to clearly support this view. Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (Teshuvot Ein Yitzchak 1: E.H.8:4) notes, however, that even those Rishonim who believe that this prohibition is only rabbinic in nature agree that it is a very stringent prohibition, especially since this is a restriction that predates the time of David Hamelech (King David) and has a basis in the Torah.
5. The Torah prohibition includes a man’s seclusion with a woman defined as an “Erva” in the Torah, such as a married Jewish woman. David Hamelech (King David) added the prohibition to engage in Yichud with an unmarried Jewish woman (Sanhedrin 21). Later the prohibition included seclusion even with a non-Jewish woman (Avodah Zarah 36b). This prohibition includes also an unmarried woman who is Nidda according to the Aruch Hashulchan.
CHAPTER 2 – PERMITTED YICHUD – WHO IS EXCLUDED FROM THIS?
1 ) FAMILY MEMBERS ARE PERMITTED
It is permitted for a man to seclude himself with his mother, daughter, granddaughter, or wife even when she is in her state of Niddah (Menstrual periods). It is permissible for a man to seclude himself with his sister, however, it shouldn’t be done frequently. A brother and sister still living in their parents home may be left alone together for only a few days and not for an extended period of time.
2 If a woman’s husband is in the city, it’s permissible to seclude with her unless one has a close relationship with her such as if one grew up with her or is a relative.
3 When one’s wife is with him, there is no problem of being alone with other women as well. Most poskim assume that this leniency applies to one’s mother, daughter, and sister as well. Therefore, if a man is in a room with his wife, mother, daughter or sister, and one other woman he does not violate the yichud prohibition.
MULTIPLE MEN AND WOMEN ARE PERMITTED IN SECLUSION
4 It is permitted for many men and women to be secluded together. What constitutes many men and many women? Some leaders authorize Yichud only if there’s 3 men and 3 women, some say 2 men and 3 women, and some say 2 men and 2 women constitute many men and many women. Most authorities are generally strict and only consider it legal for 3 men and 3 women to be in Yichud. According to Sephardim, one man may not be secluded with multiple woman and one woman may not be secluded with multiple men.
OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
5 It is permitted for a man and woman to be secluded with one another in an area that is open to the public except at nighttime.
6 Some say that as long as the door is unlocked even if it is closed that area is considered open to the public, however, some say that it is only considered open if the door is actually open. Practically, some say that one can be lenient only if people in that area enter without knocking and getting permission. Some say that in cases of need one can be lenient regarding any rabbinical form of yichud.
Many poskim hold that it is forbidden to seclude oneself with a woman which one is comfortable around in an area open to the public.
The Gemara (Kiddushin 80b) states that the Yichud prohibition does not apply to a man and his mother. In fact, the Gemara (Kiddushin 81b) states that a man is permitted to dwell in the same house with his mother or his daughter even if no one else lives there. Rashi (ad. loc. s.v. Vedar) explains that the Yetzer Hara is not interested in such a case, as the Gemara (Sanhedrin 64a) records that the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah convinced Hashem with their Tefilot to curtail the Yetzer Hara for incest.
CHAPTER 3 – YICHUD IN THE CASE OF ADOPTION
Yichud with Adopted Prohibition
1 It is permitted to be in Yichud with adoptive parents. All authorities ruled that parents are permitted to engage in Yichud with their adopted children since the Yetzer Hara is not interested in such situations.
2 Rav Ovadia Yosef (see Yalkut Yosef, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch p.975) is essentially lenient about this issue, though he believes that it is preferable to adopt a girl so that the wife who is home most of the time can shield her husband from Yichud. Rav Waldenburg, though, restricts his lenient approach to a case where a girl was adopted before the age of three and a boy who was adopted before the age of nine. Rav Moshe also writes that his leniency does not apply to an adoptive father and daughter if the wife has died.
Many Poskim strongly dispute these lenient rulings. The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l (in a letter printed in the Otzar Haposkim 9:130) vigorously argues that Yichud is forbidden in the adoptive situation. He believes that the Gemara’s permission to have Yichud with a child is limited to a biological child and parent. He insists that in earlier generations, adoptive parents adhered to the Yichud restrictions regarding the adopted child. In fact, he urges that his position on this matter be publicized. Indeed, the Otzar Haposkim (9:132) records that Rav Dov Ber Weidenfeld (the Chebiner Rav, author of Teshuvot Doveiv Meisharim), Rav Yaakov Kanievsky (the Steipler Gaon), and Rav Ezra Ettiah (an important mid-twentieth century Sephardic Halachic authority) agree with the Lubavitcher Rebbe on this matter. Similarly, the Chazon Ish (cited in Dvar Halacha 7:20) and Rav Shmuel Wosner (Teshuvot Shevet Halevi 6:196) subscribe to the strict ruling on this matter. Obviously, anyone to whom this issue is relevant should consult his Rav for a ruling.
CHAPTER 4 – YICHUD WITH A SISTER
1 The Gemara (Kiddushin 81b) teaches, “A man is permitted to be secluded with his sister and to dwell with his mother or daughter.” But one is not permitted to dwell permanently with his sister. Indeed, the Bait Shmuel 22:1 and Chelkat Mechokeik 22:1 (the two premier commentaries to Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer) codify the rule that a brother is permitted to temporarily engage in Yichud with his sister. Accordingly, a brother and a sister may not dwell together in an apartment or house for an extended period.
2 The Gemara and classical codes, however, do not precisely define what is temporary Yichud. Rav Meir Arik (Teshuvot Imrei Yosher 2:43) permits Yichud with a brother for up to thirty days. Indeed, we find in the Gemara that thirty days constitutes a type of permanence in a number of contexts. For example, one who rents a home in Chutz Laaretz for less than thirty days is not required to affix Mezuzot to the dwelling (Menachot 44a). Another example is that we assume that one does not rent a dwelling for less than thirty days (see Rosh Hashana 7b). Finally, if one commits to be a Nazir but does not specify a time, he is a Nazir for thirty days (Nazir 5a). Rav Hershel Schachter (in a Shiur he delivered at Yeshiva University) ruled that one may follow this ruling of the Imrei Yosher.
3 Other Poskim disagree with the Imrei Yosher. The Encyclopedia Talmudit (23:668) cites Tzuf Devash who forbids Yichud between a brother and sister for more than two days. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe 4:64:3) presents an interesting approach to this question. He writes that there is no specific timeframe regarding this issue. He writes that Yichud in this case is permissible as long as it is in the manner of a guest staying at a host. Thus, a brother should not stay at his sister’s apartment for longer than a guest would stay at her apartment. Rav Moshe notes that this is subjective and varies from society to society. The beauty of this approach is that it fits with the fact that the Gemara and classic codes do not present a specific time frame regarding this issue. In practice, one should ask his Rav regarding which position he should follow.
CHAPTER 5 – AT WHAT AGE DOES THE PROHIBITION OF YICHUD BEGIN?
1 The Yichud prohibition begins for a girl at age three and a boy at age nine (Shulchan Aruch 22:11). This issue must be addressed in the context of babysitting. One should consult his Rav for guidance.
2 The Rambam (Hilchot Issurei Biah 22:1) and Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer 22:1) specifically mention that the prohibition of Yichud applies to an older individual as well. Teshuvot Divrei Malkiel (4:102) and the Chazon Ish (cited in Dvar Halacha addendum to page 19) write that this applies even to an exceptionally older individual. This ruling is supported by the Gemara (Kiddushin 81b) that relates how an exceptionally older gentleman acted inappropriately in this area.
3 However, Rav Moshe (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe E.H.4:65:10) and Rav Eliezer Waldenburg (Teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer 6:40:22) rule that if a doctor confirms that the older individual is no longer capable of violating the Torah in this area, then the Yichud prohibition does not apply. Indeed, the Rambam (ad. loc.) writes the reason for the Yichud prohibition is that it may lead to promiscuity. Accordingly, when this concern is not relevant then the Yichud restriction should not apply. See, however, Nishmat Avraham (3:98-99) where Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach expresses serious reservations about this leniency, in light of the aforementioned Gemara in Kiddushin 81b and other sources.
CHAPTER 6 – YICHUD BETWEEN MARRIED COUPLE
A Married Couple
1 Yichud is permissible for a married couple at all time, even at a time when they must separate in regards to physical touch, which is during her periods, if the couple has lived together at least once, then they are always permitted to be alone, although they are not allowed to touch each other during her periods (Sanhedrin 37a and Shulchan Aruch ad. loc.).
2 While the prohibitions of Yichud protects unmarried people from sins; such promiscuous behaviour. However, the special separations that couples observe while the couple is forbidden to each other also protects the couple from an even more dangerous sin (Rosh Kitzur Hilchot Nidda and Aruch Hashulchan, Yoreh Deah 195:5).
CHAPTER 7 – YICHUD AND THE SECULAR CULTURE
1 The prohibition of Yichud certainly runs counter to the prevailing secular culture. A skeptic might dismiss this prohibition as “making a big deal out of nothing.” However, it is the key to maintaining the integrity of Am Yisrael and keeping our lifestyle both healthy and holy.
2 He who knows that he is doing the right thing, that which G-d has commanded him, should not be ashamed from those who try to ridicule him
(Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 1, 1)
NEXT GATE: SHAAR II
READ GUARDING YOUR EYES HERE
Yichud Rabbi Howard Jachter
Talmud – Gemarah, Kiddushin 81a; Avodah Zarah; Kiddushin 80b
Rabbi E J Mansour
Rabbi Zvi Miller : Window of the Soul
Rav Ron Chaya: Yeshivah Yosef; Leava
Messilat Yesharim, by Rav Chaim Luzzatto (RAMCHAL)
The Shulchan Aruch (Even Haezer 22:8)
Chochmat Adam (126:6)
RABBI N. D. DUBOV