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Yichud

Rabbi David SperlingTammuz 26, 5776
322
Question
How does one address the real problem of yichud in situations such as of babysitting children even in the teens, whereby people today oppose leaving front doors unlocked even during the day because of safety and crime problems? Thanks. I am interested in understanding the Takkana from Dovid Hamelech against Yichud with a Pnuya. Since there is no Aveyra involved in relations with a Pnuya (whereby it becomes marriage or Pilegesh/common law), how can there be an Issur involved in yichud, unless it refers to the Safek as to whether the Pnuya is nidda to prevent someone by mistake being Nichshal with a nidda? Thanks.
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your questions about Yichud – the laws forbidden men and women from being alone together. I will try to answer both your questions, firstly about the source forbidding yichud with between a man and a single lady; and then the question concerning yichud between a baby-sitter and the (male) children she is minding. You are correct in pointing out that from the Torah the laws of forbidden relations do not apply between an unmarried woman and a man. Of course, it goes without saying that such relations would be totally forbidden because of many other laws (such as a clear law that forbids extra-martial relations) – but from the technical point of if such relationships are considered “erva” (Torah level forbidden relations), they are not. Because of this, you ask how could there be a Torah prohibition against them being alone together (yichud) – which is generally understood as a Torah fence around forbidden relations? The Talmud itself addresses this question, and answers that the law forbidding yichud between a man and an unmarried woman is a Rabbinic decree that came about from the time of King David, when Tamar was raped (See Samuel 2, 13). The Talmud (Sanhedrin 21a-b) records “And Tamar put ashes on her head and rent her garment of many colours. It was taught in the name of R. Joshua b. Korha. In that hour Tamar set up a great fence [about chastity]. They said: if this could happen to kings' daughters, how much more to the daughters of ordinary men; if this could happen to the chaste, how much more to the wanton? Rab Judah said in Rab's name: On that occasion, they made a decree against yihud with [a married] or unmarried woman. But surely the prohibition of yihud with a married woman is a Biblical law! For R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Simeon b. Jehozadak: Where is [the prohibition of] yihud alluded to in the Biblical text? It is written: if thy brother, the son of thy mother entice thee. — Say rather that they enacted a decree against yihud with unmarried women.” This is recorded in the Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 22, 2) based on the rulings of the Rambam and other early Rabbis. So, the law against yichud in the case of an unmarried women is a fence not only to protect relations, but in particular against forced relations (as in the case of Tamar and Amnon). Let me point out that today, in our day and age, when single women do not use the mikvah after their monthly periods (as they did in the times of the Temple in order to eat of the offereings etc), all women who are not married are considered as in the Niddah state – and as such yichud with them would be forbidden from the Torah. This is because forbidden relations with a women in the Niddah state are a Torah prohibition, and so it follows that the yichud law that applies is also from the Torah. This would apply to all young women upon reaching maturity (11 years old or so). Your second question refers to how to employ a baby-sitter (female) to look after young boys without running foul of the yichud laws. This can be achieved in several ways. Firstly, the law of yichud only applies between the baby sitter and a boy of nine and older. If the boys are younger than nine then there is no problem (-if the baby sitter is male then the laws of yichud apply if the female child is above the age of three). Secondly, if there are “guards” present there is also no problem. A guard is, for example, another child between the ages of 6 to 9. In the day one guard is sufficient, but at night two guards are needed. So, if she is baby sitting a 10 year old boy, and there are two other children present (between the ages of 6 to 9) there is no prohibition of yichud, even late at night. Alternatively, if the windows look out to a street that has people passing, and the baby sitter is in view of the passersby at all times, this too is not yichud. There are other solutions – involving having neighbors with keys look in from time to time. Or, if the baby sitter is married herself, and her husband is in town, this also allows yichud with the child she is baby sitting. Having said all this – let me finish by addressing a phrase you used in your question, “the real problem of yichud”. Yichud may be viewed not only as a “problem”, but perhaps as part of the solution. In a society where, unfortunately, we hear daily of abuse and failings in areas of modesty, perhaps we should strive to create a society where the norms of yichud help us live in healthy holiness. Blessings.
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