A. The Definition of Yichud

Yichud is defined as the seclusion of a man with a woman.1 Such seclusion is prohibited even for a short while.2

B. The Reason for the Prohibition of Yichud

The seclusion of a man and a woman is the first step towards a forbidden relationship; hence, the Torah forbids Yichud. However, let it be made absolutely clear that if a man and a woman are in a Yichud situation, even though nothing improper takes place, they are still in violation of the prohibition of Yichud.3

Even if a person is “absolutely sure” of him/herself, believing that “nothing will happen,” there still exists a serious prohibition of Yichud. Furthermore, there is a rule: “There is no guarantee when it comes to Arayos.” When a person places himself in a Yichud situation, the Yetzer Hara is extremely powerful, and no person can be absolutely sure that under such conditions he or she will withstand temptation.

C. Where is Yichud Prohibited?

Yichud is not only prohibited in a closed room or house, but Yichud also applies in any secluded area such as a quiet country spot, beach, park or forest. As long as the man and woman cannot be seen by other people and they are not afraid of intrusion, then Yichud applies.4

With Whom is Yichud Forbidden?

1. It is forbidden for a man to be in seclusion with a woman or girl above the age of three years,5 and it is forbidden for a woman to be in seclusion with a man or boy from age nine and above.6 The prohibition of Yichud applies whether or not the man or woman is physically attractive.7

2. Yichud is forbidden: a) even if the woman and man are not conversing; b) even if not pre-meditated, i.e. even if one just found out that one is in a Yichud situation; c) even though one may make a fool of oneself if one does something (e.g. ask that the door be left open) to prevent the Yichud.

3. The following people are permitted to be in seclusion together: a husband and wife,8 a mother and son, a father and daughter,9 a grandfather and granddaughter,10 a grandmother and grandson, a great-grandfather and great-granddaughter, and a great-grandmother and great-grandson.11

4. It must be stressed that Yichud with any other family member is forbidden.12 Therefore, a woman may not be in Yichud with her father-in-law, brother-in-law, stepfather, uncle, nephew, cousin or son-in-law. A man may not be in Yichud with his niece, cousin, mother-in-law, daughter-in-law or sister-in-law.

5. Yichud is forbidden even if the man or woman is elderly.13 Regarding the sick and infirm, see footnote 35.

Non-Jews

6. Yichud is forbidden with a non-Jew, and in some cases the prohibition is more stringent than Yichud with a Jew.14

7. A non-Jewish man is permitted to be in Yichud with a Jewish girl under the age of Bas Mitzvah, and a non-Jewish woman is permitted to be in Yichud with a Jewish boy under the age of Bar Mitzvah.15

Children Below Bar/Bas Mitzvah Age

8. It is permitted for a girl below the age of Bas Mitzvah to be in seclusion with a boy below the age of Bar Mitzvah.16

Brothers and Sisters

9. A brother and sister are permitted to be in a Yichud situation for a short while but may not live in the same dwelling permanently.17 How long is considered a short while? There are various opinions among the Poskim:

a) Some are stringent and only allow up to three nights.18

b) Others are more lenient and allow up to thirty days.19

c) Still others say that if the sister and brother live separately and one comes to visit the other, then it would depend on the duration of the visit as to whether Yichud would be permitted. If it is clear that the sibling is “visiting” and the duration of the visit is not longer than normal, then it is permitted. This would obviously depend on where the sibling is coming from; it is obvious that an out-of-town visitor usually stays longer than a visitor who resides in the same city. However, when a sibling moves in on a permanent basis, then Yichud is forbidden even for one day. One should be stringent in questionable situations.20 If the brother and sister live at home together with their parents, then a) the parents may leave a brother and sister alone for a few hours if they wish to go out. However, they should not do this on a nightly basis for many hours, and if they were to do so, then such a Yichud situation would be prohibited.21 b) If the parents would be going away on a trip, e.g. to Eretz Yisroel for a week or two, they may not leave the brother and sister alone together;22 rather, they should ask a relative or friend to stay with the children.

In practice, if a brother and sister live permanently together with their parents or grandparents — which is fully permitted23 — then the parents may leave the brother and sister alone if they wish to go out for a short while (e.g., to attend a simchah).24 If they will be traveling away from home, then if they will be away only for a night or two, leaving the siblings alone is permitted. If they will be away for a week or two, a Rav should be consulted. 25

Parutz, Libo Gas Boh, Asoko Im Hanoshim

10. In the following halachos the terms Parutz, Libo Gas Boh and Asoko Im Hanoshim will recur many times. We will therefore define these terms here, and later we will learn their halachos.

11. Parutz — A Parutz may be defined as a person who does not keep the guidelines of tznius. For example, a man who feels uninhibited about embracing another woman or girl is definitely a Parutz.26

12. Libo Gas Boh — A Libo Gas Boh may be defined as an individual with whom one has a warm and cordial relationship. Examples of a Libo Gas Boh are: a) a woman whom a man has known as a child and with whom he has grown up; b) a close family relative, such as a cousin with whom one has grown up; c) a close family friend; d) a co-worker, such as a partner;27 e) a therapist; f) a housekeeper or maid.

13. Asoko Im Hanoshim — A man who is classified as Asoko Im Hanoshim is a man whose profession or trade is with women. Examples include a man who runs an office with female co-workers;28 and a shopkeeper who sells women’s clothing, shoes, hats or jewelry. (However, if the business is not specifically connected with women, e.g. a food store, then even though the majority of customers are women, he is not classified as Asoko Im Hanoshim).29

One Woman with Two or More Men

14. A woman may be alone with two30 kosher (i.e. tznius31 ) men in the city and during the day. The reason is that the second man is an effective shomer, and the first man would be embarrassed to do anything improper in the presence of another man.32 However, at night33 (which includes the very early hours of the morning34 ), or even during the day, if she is out of town on the road35 or in the countryside in a secluded place where there are few passersby,36 then three men must be present in order to permit Yichud.37

15. If the men are prutzim then she may not be alone with them, even if there are many of them.38

16. A Jewish woman may not be secluded together with a group of non-Jewish men even if they are accompanied by their wives.39

17. Although halachically the Yichud of one woman with two kosher men is permitted, it is a middas chassidus to be stringent.40

One Man With Two or More Women

18. A man is forbidden to be in seclusion with two women (even if all three are kosher).41 The second woman is not considered an effective shomer, for both women may be susceptible to improper conduct.42

19. A man is permitted to be in seclusion with two women if one of the women’s husbands is in the city — Baaloh B’ir.43

20. In the case of one man secluded with three women, some Poskim44 are lenient and permit such Yichud during the day and in the city, on the condition that the man is not Asoko Im Hanoshim 45 or a parutz.46 Other Poskim47 forbid it under all such circumstances. In practice, one should be stringent48 and only rely upon the leniency in time of need.49

21. Therefore, if a man comes to a private home to give a shiur to a group of three or more women, then lechatchilah the door should be left open or unlocked (during the day or early hours of the night when the heter of Pesach Posuach is effective). If one of the participants’ husbands is in town (Baaloh B’ir), then Yichud is permitted.

22. The heter of one man secluded with three women applies only if they are in the city during the day. However, if they are out in the fields or on an inter-city journey,50 the presence of four women is necessary to permit Yichud.51

23. At night, some Poskim52 permit the Yichud of one man with four women and other Poskim53 are stringent. In practice, when necessary one may be lenient.54

24. A man may be in seclusion during the day with a woman in the presence of his mother, daughter, sister or grandmother, or in the presence of the woman’s father, son, brother or grandfather. At night, two shomrim are required.55

25. Yichud is permitted with: a) a woman and her mother-in-law, b) a woman and her step-daughter, or c) a woman and her sister-in-law.56 Yichud with two sisters is forbidden.57

Two Men with Two Women

26. It is permitted for two kosher men to be in Yichud with two women.58

Three Men with Three Women

27. Three men are permitted to be in Yichud with three women both during the day and at night, whether in the city or out in the fields, according to all opinions.59

28. Some Poskim limit the heter of three men and three women to a case where all present are kosher; however, if they are prutzim, it would be a forbidden case of Yichud.60 In practice, one should be stringent and only rely on a leniency in time of need.61

Intermingling

29. Even where there is no prohibition of Yichud, care should be taken that there be no mingling of men and women even for mitzvah purposes — and how much more so for non-mitzvah purposes such as a trip or the like.62