The Concept of a Shomer

90. In general, a woman is allowed to be in a room with a man if there is another person in the room whose presence would prevent any prohibited conduct. This person is called a shomer. Such Yichud is permitted because the man or woman would be ashamed to do anything untoward in the presence of the shomer and would also be afraid that the shomer would reveal any improper conduct.1

91. The shomer does not literally have to be with the man and the woman in the room the whole time. As long as the shomer can enter freely as he/she wishes, he/she serves to permit Yichud.2

92. The presence of a single shomer is effective during the day. However at night,3 a single shomer is not adequate since the shomer may fall asleep. Therefore, the presence of two shomrim is required at night. Two shomrim are adequate even if both are sleeping, for the man and woman would fear that one shomer might awaken and discover any improper conduct. The exceptions to this rule are a) a husband and a wife (since their respective shemirah is effective at night without the need of an additional shomer), and b) a son and a mother. 4

93. The presence of a shomer serves to permit Yichud even if the man has the status of a) Libo Gas Boh,5 b) Asoko Im Hanashim, c) a Parutz, or d) a non-Jew.6

In every case, in order to qualify as a shomer, the individualmust be immune to any arayos transgression. We will now discuss the permissibility of children and certain relatives as shomrim. They qualify because their presence in the Yichud situation prevents any improper conduct and they themselves are not susceptible to any improper conduct.

Children As Shomrim

94. The presence of a Jewish7 boy or girl from the age of six until nine8 serves to permit Yichud, for he or she is considered an effective shomer.9 Between the ages of six until nine the child is old enough to recognize any improper conduct, yet young enough to be immune to participation; hence, he/she qualifies as a shomer. It makes no difference if the children are the woman’s or the man’s, or the children of neither.10 The children shomrim do not necessarily have to be in the room to serve to permit the Yichud situation. As long as they have free access to the man and the woman and they could come in at any time, they serve to permit Yichud.11 (Note: Children are limited in their reliability with regard to staying in one place. Therefore, when relying on a child as a shomer, one must make sure that the child is on the premises and has not gone out to a friend’s house, etc.)

95. The presence of a single child serves to permit Yichud during the day; however, at night two children are necessary. In this case, night would be defined as the hour at which the child would usually go to sleep.12 The presence of two children at night serves to permit Yichud even if both the children are sleeping.13

96. Even if the two children are sleeping in a different room, Yichud is permitted as long as the door is open and there is the possibility that the children may intrude at any time.14

97. A child is an effective shomer even if the man is in the category of a parutz, Asoko Im Hanoshim or Libo Gas Boh.15

98. A child is an effective shomer for allowing the Yichud of a Jewish woman with a non-Jewish man.16 Hence, a woman may ask a non-Jewish worker (from a reputable company) to do some work in the house if there is a child of the above age at home.

99. A child is an effective shomer for allowing the Yichud of a man with a prutzah or a non-Jewish woman.17 Therefore, a man may be alone in the house with a non-Jewish cleaning lady in the presence of a child shomer.

100. On a journey or out in the fields, one should not in the first instance (lechatchilah) rely on a child to be the shomer; however in difficult circumstances one may be lenient.18

101. Two men may sleep overnight in a house where there is only a woman and one child shomer.19

102. A man may sleep overnight in a house with one woman and two children shomrim, whether the children are both girls or boys, or one girl and one boy.20

103. A man may not stay overnight in a house where there are two women and only one child shomer.21

104. It is permitted for a man to be in Yichud with two girls from the age of six until nine.22

105. A woman may be alone with two boys until age nine.23 She may also be alone with a boy and a girl of this age.

106. A man may be alone with a girl aged three to nine in the presence of a single shomer, even at night.24

107. A woman may be alone, even at night (and one doesn’t need a second shomer) with a boy aged nine until twelve if his mother or sister is in the same house.25

108. A man may be alone with a woman if she is accompanied by a boy over the age of nine, for then it is considered as a case of Yichud of one woman with two men, which is permitted. (As mentioned previously, those who follow the Sefardic custom forbid Yichud of one woman with two men unless one of their wives is present.)

Relatives As Shomrim

109. A man may be secluded with a woman in the presence of a) his mother,26 b) his daughter or granddaughter,27 c) his sister,28 d) his grandmother, e) her father, f) her son or grandson,29 g) her brother,30 or h) her grandfather. All the above are effective shomrim, for they are extremely vigilant that no improper conduct would transpire.31 This is true only in the case of temporary Yichud. A man should not live permanently in the same house as a woman even if these shomrim are present.32

110. The above shomrim are only effective during the day. During the evening one must have an additional shomer,33 except in the case of Yichud with a woman whose son is present. A son is extremely vigilant of his mother and his shmirah is effective even at night without the need for an additional shomer.34

111. There is a question among the Poskim as to whether a man may be in seclusion with a woman in the presence of her a) mother, b) daughter, c) grandmother, or d) granddaughter. In practice, a Rav should be consulted.35

112. A man may not be in seclusion with two sisters.36

113. A man may be secluded37 with a woman in the presence of a) her mother-in-law,38 b) her sister-in-law,39 or c) her step-daughter.40 (See footnotes for definitions of these relatives.)

114. A man may be alone with two women if one of the women’s husbands is in town — Baaloh B’ir. Since she is protected by Baaloh B’ir, she acts as a shomer for the other woman.41

A Shomer Who Has a Key

115. In the previous points we have discussed the fact that the physical presence of a shomer who by his/her very nature is immune to a transgression, or else would be vigilant concerning one, serves to mitigate a case of Yichud. Another form of shmirah is to appoint a kosher shomer who will have access at any time to the Yichud situation and hence prevent any improper conduct.42

116. We have already discussed in the section of Pesach Posuach that a neighbor who has a key and is asked to enter from time to time creates a Pesach Posuach which serves to permit a case of Yichud. However, a Pesach Posuach only helps during the day and not at night. At night two shomrim are required. Following this line of reasoning, it would be permitted to give two people a key with free access at night, and they would be effective shomrim as long as they actually come to check from time to time. For example, a babysitter who finds herself in a Yichud situation at night can give a key to a neighbor and ask two members of the family to independently come in from time to time to check on her.43

117. It is important to bear in mind that the neighbors coming in should be immune to that case of Yichud themselves, e.g. a married couple, (he being immune because Ishto Meshamroso, and she being immune because of Baaloh B’ir). Hence, it would be prohibited for a seminary girl to ask two of her friends to come in from time to time as the same problem of Yichud would apply to them as it does to her.