The Concept of Ishto Meshamroso

76. A woman may be in seclusion with any Jewish man whose wife is present with him, for his wife guards him — “Ishto Meshamroso” — from any improper conduct.1 This halachah applies when the wife is in the same house as her husband, or she is in close proximity and comes in and out of the house.2 The same would apply3 if she has left for a very short while. For example, if she has gone to a neighbor’s house or to a store around the corner (and she has the key, or the door is shut but unlocked) and could return home any moment, her husband could rely on the heter of Ishto Meshamroso.4 However, if she has gone out to work and she is not expected home, then the heter of Ishto Meshamroso does not apply.5

77. Consequently, if a man is at home alone and his wife is at work, and a female housekeeper arrives to clean, then he should leave the door literally open, thereby creating a Pesach Posuach. If his wife is in the vicinity and she is expected home shortly, then if she has the key, the door may be closed. If she doesn’t have the key, the door may be closed but left unlocked.6

78. Even if a husband informed his wife of his whereabouts, and he told her that he was going to visit a woman in her apartment, and theoretically his wife could arrive at any time, Ishto Meshamroso would not apply and such a Yichud situation would not be permitted.7

79. A man whose wife is at home may be alone in a room with another woman even if the door is locked, as long as his wife has a key and could enter at any time.8 If the wife has given specific permission for her husband to be alone in a room with another woman, e.g. he is a counselor and he is counseling a woman in his office at home, then the door to the room may be shut but not locked.9

80. It is permitted for a single woman guest to stay at the home of a married couple due to Ishto Meshamroso. However, if the wife goes out to work, then another precaution must be taken, e.g. a Pesach Posuach or shomrim. It is most appropriate that the guest should have her own room, although it is not necessary for her to lock the room at night. As a general rule, both the guest and the man of the house must take great precautions to maintain tznius at all times. For example, if the guest walks around the house at night, she must make sure to be properly dressed, as the man of the house may happen to see her.

81. A woman may accompany a married couple on a trip.10

82. A man may be alone at home with a woman at night if his wife is in the house, even if his wife is sleeping.11

Libo Gas Boh, Parutz, Asoko Im Hanoshim

83. A man is permitted to be in Yichud with a woman with whom he has a relationship of Libo Gas Boh if Ishto Meshamroso.12

84. A man who is a parutz is permitted to be in Yichud with another woman in the case of Ishto Meshamroso.13

85. A man who is Asoko Im Hanoshim is permitted to be in Yichud with another woman in the case of Ishto Meshamroso.14

A Non-Jewish Woman

86. A Jewish woman may not be alone with a non-Jewish man even in the presence of his wife.15 Therefore, a Jewish woman may not work in the home of a non-Jewish couple unless accompanied by an effective shomer.16

87. A Jewish woman should not go on a journey with a non-Jewish couple, unless there are other shomrim present.17

88. A Jewish woman may not be alone with a group of non-Jewish men even if they are accompanied by their wives.18 Even in the presence of many, there is the fear of improper conduct.

Au Pairs

89. A woman who lives permanently with a married couple presents a number of halachic problems:

a) Ishto Meshamroso would only be effective when the wife is present or out for a very short while. However, if she is out for a long time, e.g. at work, or shopping in town, or at a simchah etc., the heter does not apply and Yichud would be prohibited.

b) The permanent presence of another woman may present a stumbling block to the man. Therefore, in practice, if a family wishes to employ an au pair to live permanently in the house to help with the children, they should arrange that the au pair live in an apartment by herself (e.g. in the basement which has a separate entrance), or at least on a different floor (e.g. in the attic), so that the man of the house should have as little contact as possible with the au pair.19 In addition, they should make sure that whenever the wife exits for a long period, another heter for Yichud is in place.20