Selected Halachos relating to Parshas Achrei Mos
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
Any man shall not approach his close relative to uncover
shame... (Lev. 18:6)
HILCHOS YICHUD: RULINGS OF HARAV M. FEINSTEIN
This verse is cited by most of the early authorities as the
Biblical source for the halachos of yichud, the prohibition
against a man being alone in a secluded place with a woman. The
laws of yichud are complex and detailed and the opinions of the
poskim are diverse and contradictory. This discussion will focus
exclusively on the rulings of Harav Moshe Feinstien, one of the
greatest halachic authorities of our generation. Dissenting
opinions appear in the footnotes. A final rulings will depend on
the specific circumstances of each situation and the individual
rav's decision according to the facts presented to him.
WITH WHOM IS YICHUD FORBIDDEN?
Unless they are married, a man may not be alone with any woman,
and a woman may not be alone with any man, with the following
- His mother and grandmother; her father and grandfather.
- His daughter and granddaughter; her son and grandson.
- His sister; her brother. Brother and sister may not live
together in the same house for a period of time which exceeds
the normal stay of a house guest. They should also not be left
together unchaperoned when their parents are away for an
extended period of time (1).
- His father's sister and his mother's sister (2). They may not
live together in the same house for a period of time which
exceeds the normal stay of a house guest.
- His adopted daughter; her adopted son. This is permitted only
as long as both adoptive parents are alive and married to each
other (3). (Example: An adoptive father may not be secluded with
his adopted daughter after his wife passes away, or if he
divorces his wife.)
Yichud with a daughter-in-law or a mother-in law is strictly
AT WHAT AGE DOES THE PROHIBITION OF YICHUD BEGIN AND END?
A man over thirteen is prohibited to be alone with a girl over
three. Under extenuating circumstances, it is permitted to be
alone with a girl till the age of seven (5).
A woman over twelve may not be alone with a boy over nine.
In certain circumstances it is permitted for a woman to be
alone with an old man who is bedridden (6). A rav must be
LENIENCIES OF YICHUD
Under certain conditions, the prohibition of yichud may be
circumvented. These conditions include:
Each one of these conditions has
its own sets of rules, so they must be explained individually.
- if her husband [or his wife] is in town;
- if the door is open;
- if more than one man is present;
- if more than two women are present;
- if a child or another chaperon is present.
An important note: The halachos described below apply to yichud
with a G-d fearing, observant Jew. When the man with whom the
yichud will occur is a non-Jew or a secular Jew [referred to in
halachah by the Hebrew term parutz], some of the halachos
change. A rav should be consulted.
IF THE HUSBAND IS IN TOWN:
"In town" means he is able to come home at any time he
chooses (7). Even if he works on the other side of town, as long
as he makes his own hours [like a salesman does], it is
considered as if he is "in town". If, however, he works fixed
hours and cannot leave his workplace whenever he wants, it is
considered as if he is "out of town" (8).
When the husband is "in town", the fear of his appearing
suddenly is a deterrent to engaging in illicit behavior. But the
wife only fears her husband's sudden appearance in a place where
he is likely to find her (e.g., her home; her office). If,
however, she secludes herself in a place where her husband will
not easily find her, yichud is forbidden even if her husband is
"in town" (9).
Her husband's presence "in town" does not set aside the
prohibition of yichud if a close, long-standing friendship
exists between the man and the woman (10).
Although a husband's presence "in town" alleviates the
prohibition of yichud for his wife, the reverse is not true. A
wife "in town" [but not in the house or in the immediate
vicinity] does not mitigate her husband's yichud prohibition (11).
IF THE DOOR IS OPEN:
The door does not need to be actually open to permit yichud.
Even if the door is closed but not locked, or even if it is
locked but there is a reasonable possibility that people may
knock on the door [or ring the bell] and expect to be answered,
yichud is permitted (12).
Even if the door is locked but the window shades or drapes are
open and there is a clear view into the room, yichud is
When driving on an open highway, one should not be alone with a
woman in a car. Under extenuating circumstances, one may be
lenient, even at night and even with a non-Jewish driver (14).
It is proper to be stringent and not rely on the "open door"
leniency if a close, long-standing friendship exists between the
man and the woman (15).
IF MORE THAN ONE MAN IS PRESENT:
Yichud is permitted with two or more men during the day time
and evening hours, and with three or more men during nighttime
sleeping hours (16).
IF MORE THAN TWO WOMEN ARE PRESENT:
The rishonim argue whether (17) yichud is permitted when more
than two women are present. Rashi, quoted by Rama, holds that
when three (18) women are present yichud is permitted (19).
Rambam, quoted by Shulchan Aruch, holds that the presence of a
greater number of women does not alleviate the prohibition of
yichud. The basic halachah follows the view of the Rambam (20).
Consequently, a man may not be alone even with a hundred
IF A CHILD CHAPERON IS PRESENT:
During daytime and evening hours, yichud is permitted if a
child is also present. During nighttime sleeping hours, two
children are required. There are conflicting opinions (22) as to
the minimum and maximum ages for the child as regards to this
halacha. Harav Feinstein is quoted (23) as ruling that either a
boy or a girl chaperone must be at least seven years old. Once a
boy or a girl reaches Bar/Bas Mitzvah, they are no longer
considered children (24).
A man is permitted (25) to be secluded with a woman in the
presence of the man's grandmother, mother, daughter,
granddaughter or sister (26) [of any age over seven]. During
nighttime sleeping hours, an additional chaperon is required.
Two sisters cannot serve as chaperons for each other (27). Thus
yichud with two sisters is forbidden.
A man and a woman may remain alone in a home where the parents
of one of them are sleeping (28).
During regular office hours, a woman may be alone with her
doctor. After regular office hours, her husband or a child must
accompany her (29).
Yichud is prohibited even for a very short time, as long as the
possibility exists that it may last for a longer time (30). Being
together in an elevator, though, is not forbidden because of
Yichud is prohibited even if the man and the woman are in two
separate rooms in the same house and each one can lock his/her
door from the inside (32).
1 Igros Moshe EH 4:64-3. While all poskim agree that one may not
"live" with his sister, there are different opinions as to what
"live" means. Some (Imrei Yosher 2:43) hold that less than
thirty days is permitted, while others (Shevet Halevi 5:201-2)
hold no more than three days is permitted. According to Harav
Feinstein's ruling quoted above, it all depends on the length of
stay of a typical house guest. Thus a sister who is visiting
from a distant city may stay longer than a sister visiting from
a nearby area, just as a guest from afar stays longer than a
guest from nearby.
2 Igros Moshe EH 4:64-1. Not all poskim agree with this leniency.
3 Igros Moshe EH 4:64-2. Almost all other poskim disagree and
hold that yichud is not permitted with adopted children. See
Halachah Discussion Vayigash 5755 for elaboration.
4 Igros Moshe EH 4:63; 64-1. This is the opinion of most poskim.
There is a minority view (Rashash Kiddushin 81b; Salmas Yosef
34) that allows yichud with these relatives.
5 Oral ruling by Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in Children in
Halachah pg. 40) based on the rational presented in Igros Moshe
EH 4:65-12, where, in the final analysis, Harav Feinstein is
hesitant to permit this. He writes, however, that he would not
object to those who are lenient.
6 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-10. See also Tzitz Eliezer 6:40-22.
7 A husband who is jailed, is not considered "in town" - Igros
Moshe EH 4:65-7.
8 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-7. Other poskim rule that as long as he is
in town, even if he is presently unable to come, it is still
considered as if he is in town. See Halachah Discussion -
Parshas Vayeshev 5755 for elaboration.
9 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-21. In addition, some poskim hold that a
husband "in town" only serves as a deterrent when the wife is
meeting the man without the husband's knowledge. If, however,
they are meeting with his permission [either in her home or in
his] then the wife will not be as deterred by her husband being
in town (see Binas Adam 126:27 for an elaborate explanation).
Other poskim (Chida, Chazon Ish) do not agree with this
stringency. Igros Moshe rules that while it is appropriate to be
stringent, under extenuating circumstances one can be lenient.
10 EH 22:8. See Igros Moshe YD 2:35.
11 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-6. Other poskim are more lenient. See
Halachah Discussion Parashas Vayeshev for elaboration.
12 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-4. Harav Feinstein's ruling here is
extremely lenient and it goes against the view of all other
poskim. While many poskim are of the opinion that an unlocked
door is considered an "open door", or even that a locked door is
considered an "open door" when someone with a key may come in at
any time, no other poskim allow yichud behind locked doors just
because someone who may knock on the door and expects to be
acknowledged may come. Oholei Yeshurun pg. 14 quotes Harav
Feinstein as ruling that this leniency can only be relied upon
under extenuating circumstances.
13 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-2.
14 Igros Moshe YD 2:82; EH 4:65-3. Many other poskim are lenient
about yichud in a car at all times - see Dvar Halacha 15:1
quoting Harav S.Z. Auerbach, Shevet Halevi 5:202-1. See Otzar
Haposkim EH 22:35-8 for more opinions.
15 Igros Moshe EH 4:60; 4:65-9, based on Beis Shmuel and Chelkas
Mechokek EH 22:13, unlike the Taz 22:5 who is lenient.
16 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-15, based on Rama EH 22:5. Most poskim
agree with this.
17 Rashi Kiddushin 81b, quoted in Rama EH 22:5.
18 During nighttime sleeping hours, some poskim hold that Rashi
requires a minimum of four women. Under extenuating
circumstances, three women are sufficient [even according to
Rashi's view]- Igros Moshe EH 4:65-20
19 An exception to this leniency is when the man and women
involved are business associates or the man's job is such that
he must deal directly with these women, e.g., a salesman of
20 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-14. Mharsha"m 3:152 also rules like the
Rambam. Divrei Malkiel 4:102 rules in accordance with Rashi's
view. Shevet Halevi 3:183 is lenient only under extenuating
21 Ramban and Ran Niddah 5a.
22 See Dvar Halachah pg. 50-52 for all of the views - some allow
yichud in the presence of a girl over age three and a boy over
age five or six.
23 Children in Halachah pg. 46-47; Oholei Yeshurun pg. 17.
24 Other poskim hold that once they reach age nine they are no
longer considered children. See also Igros Moshe OC 1:26 where
he quotes, without dissent, the view of the Bach that nine is
the maximum age to being a chaperon. It seems correct,
therefore, that the maximum age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah should be
relied upon only under extenuating circumstances.
25 Some poskim do not agree with this leniency, but many others
26 Igros Moshe EH 2:15; 4:65-8. Possibly, his father's or
mother's sister are also considered chaperons.
Igros Moshe EH
4:64-3 seems, without explanation, to permit yichud with a woman
and her daughter or granddaughter. If this is truly Harav
Feinstein's view [it may very well be that this is a printing
error], it is contrary to the view of all other poskim and is
against the basic principles of hilchos yichud. This ruling
should not be relied upon without further investigation.
27 Igros Moshe EH 4:64-3.
28 Oral ruling by Harav Feinstein quoted in Oholei Yeshurun pg.
29 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-1. Many poskim agree with this, while
others are more stringent.
30 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-16. See also Minchas Shlomo 91.
31 Igros Moshe EH 4:65-22. Most poskim agree with this leniency.
32 Igros Moshe EH 4:65:19. Other poskim are lenient in this
case, see Chazon Ish 34:2 and Salmas Chaim 151.
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