The Concept of Baaloh B’ir

55. It is permitted to be in seclusion with a woman whose husband is in the city.1 This heter is called Baaloh B’ir. As for the parameters of a city, see footnote.2

56. The heter of Baaloh B’ir also applies at night.3

57. There is a difference of opinion among the Poskim as to the reason for this heter.4 Some Poskim say that if a woman’s husband is in the town, she will be worried that he may arrive unexpectedly and therefore will be afraid to engage in any improper conduct. Other Poskim say that the heter is due to the natural anxiety of a wife, a psychological fear that prevents her from engaging in improper conduct.

58. There is a major difference in halachah between these two opinions. According to the first reason — a fear of discovery — the heter would only apply if there is a real possibility that the husband might intrude unexpectedly and hence she would have a fear of being discovered. However, according to the second opinion, even if there is no possibility of her husband’s unexpected return, the very fact that he is in the city would serve to permit the Yichud for she would have a nervous subconscious fear that would preclude her engaging in any improper conduct.5

59. In practice, one should be stringent and only permit a Yichud situation if there is a realistic possibility of her husband’s unexpected return. However, in a case of need, one may rely on the second and more lenient view a) if the door is unlocked, or if other family members have the key, and there is the possibility that someone may enter, or b) in a case of Yichud midrabonon i.e., Yichud of more than two persons.6

60. Let us take, for example, the case of a woman who is at home, and her self-employed husband comes and goes from work as he wishes. Since there is the realistic possibility of his arriving home unexpectedly, Baaloh B’ir serves to permit Yichud. However if the husband works in an office some distance from home, and his wife knows that he is in the office (e.g. she has just called him at the office), and it would definitely take some time before he could come home, then the heter does not apply according to the first opinion.7 According to the second and more lenient opinion, Yichud would be permitted.8 In practice, one should be stringent. However, in time of need one may permit Yichud if a) the door remains unlocked, or other family members have a key and could come home unexpectedly; or b) in a case of Yichud midrabonon, i.e., Yichud of more than two persons.

61. A woman is to be believed when she states that her husband is in the city, thus permitting Yichud.9 If a man does not know that a woman’s husband is in town, she is obligated to inform him so that he will know that he is not in a Yichud situation.10

Away from Home

62. There are Poskim11 who limit the heter of Baaloh B’ir to a case where either a) the woman is at home or b) even if she is away from home, the husband knows of her whereabouts, in which case she would be fearful that her husband might arrive unexpectedly. According to these Poskim, if she is away from home and the husband does not know where she is, then the heter of Baaloh B’ir would not apply because he does not know of her whereabouts and she would have no fear of discovery. However, other Poskim12 are of the opinion that even if the woman is away from home, as long as her husband is in the city, there is no problem of Yichud.13 The reason is as stated above, that as long as her husband is in town, it is a woman’s nature to have a subconscious fear that would preclude any improper conduct. In practice, one should be stringent. However, in a difficult predicament, one may rely on the lenient opinion a) if the door is unlocked, or if other people have the key and there is the possibility that someone may enter, or b) in a case of Yichud midrabonon, i.e., Yichud of more than two persons.

63. In a case of Yichud when the woman is away from home, if it becomes necessary to rely on the lenient opinion, then she should let her husband know where she is. The very fact that her husband knows of her whereabouts (even if it is very unlikely that he might turn up unexpectedly) heightens a woman’s subconscious fear and thus strengthens the heter of Baaloh B’ir.14

64. If a husband allows his wife to visit another man in that man’s home, then she may rely on the heter of Baaloh B’ir as long as the door is unlocked.15

65. Let us address the issue of a woman working in an office together with another man in the case of Baaloh B’ir. Theoretically speaking, one may rely on the heter of Baaloh B’ir as long as her husband knows she is in the office and the door is unlocked. However, this is only if she has little contact with the other man in the office. If they are co-workers who have a good working relationship, then she is considered a Libo Gas Boh and, as stated below, such a Yichud situation would be prohibited.16

Libo Gas Boh

66. The heter of Baaloh B’ir does not apply in the case of a Libo Gas Boh, i.e. a relative or a very close friend or childhood friend.17 Therefore, if a woman is visited by her father-in-law, son-in-law, brother-in-law or other close family relatives, she may not rely on Baaloh B’ir.18 However, this halachah would only apply if there is a close relationship between the relatives. If their level of emotional closeness is no different than that between any man and woman, then Baaloh B’ir would apply.19

67. As we have already explained, Baaloh B’ir does not help in a case of Libo Gas Boh. However, if the husband is around the house or out in the yard but in close proximity to his wife, then Yichud would be permitted even with a Libo Gas Boh.20

68. A married woman may not work alone together with another man in the same office even in the case of Baaloh B’ir since a co-worker is considered a Libo Gas Boh21 and, as previously stated, the heter does not apply in a case of Libo Gas Boh.22 In such a situation a Rav should be consulted as to the possibility of creating a Pesach Posuach, in which case Yichud may be permitted.

69. Stepchildren or foster children are in the category of Libo Gas Boh,23 and therefore one may not rely on the heter of Baaloh B’ir to allow Yichud; rather, the door should be left unlocked.24

Parutz, Asoko Im Hanoshim

70. Most Poskim are of the opinion that Baaloh B’ir helps even if the Yichud situation is with a man who is a parutz.25 However, it is correct to avoid such Yichud wherever possible.

71. It is disputed among Poskim whether Baaloh B’ir works to permit Yichud with someone who is Asoko Im Hanoshim.26 A Rav should be consulted.

Non-Jews

72. A Jewish man may be alone with a non-Jewish woman only if her husband is in close proximity, However, the fact that her husband is in the city does not serve to permit Yichud.27

73. In a country that metes out severe penalties for rape, a Jewish woman may rely on the heter of Baaloh B’ir to be alone with a non-Jew. However, in a country where the non-Jew is not very afraid of such a penalty, one may not rely on Baaloh B’ir to permit Yichud28 (see footnote). Some Poskim write that even in a place where there are severe penalties, one should not be lenient unless the woman’s husband is in a place from which he would hear her voice if she would shout.29

74. In practice, a married woman may allow a workman, plumber, electrician etc. from a reputable company (she should check his ID) inside the home in the case of Baaloh B’ir.30 In such circumstances it is correct that she leave the door unlocked, thus creating a Pesach Posuach as well.31

Middas Chassidus

75. It should be noted that although Baaloh B’ir is a legitimate heter, it is a middas chassidus not to rely on it wherever possible.32

N.B. Regarding the above halachos, leaving the door unlocked would only serve a purpose if there is a possibility that someone might enter the room unannounced. However, if nobody would come in without prior permission, then the unlocked door would not serve to prevent Yichud — see chapter on Pesach Posuach.