Yichud

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Seclusion of an unmarried couple
is prohibited by Jewish law

Yichud
Halakhic texts relating to this article:
Torah: Leviticus 18:6
Babylonian Talmud: Kiddushin 80b and Sandedrin 21
Shulchan Aruch: Even HaEzer 22 and 24
* Not meant as a definitive ruling. Some observances may be rabbinical, custom or Torah-based.

In Jewish religious law (halakha), yichud (Hebrew: איסור ייחוד issur yichud‎, seclusion) is the prohibition of seclusion in a private area of a man and a woman who are not married to each other. Such seclusion is prohibited in order to prevent the two from being tempted or having the opportunity to commit adulterous or promiscuous acts.

The laws of yichud are typically followed by Orthodox Jews. Adherents of Conservative and Reform Judaism do not generally abide by the laws of yichud.[citation needed]

The term "yichud" also refers to a ritual during an Ashkenazi Jewish wedding in which the newly married couple spends a period secluded in a room by themselves. In earlier historical periods, as early as the talmudic era,[1] the marriage would be consummated at this time, but that practice is no longer current.

Source of the prohibition[edit]

There is a prohibition against a man being alone with a married woman. After the rape of King David's daughter Tamar when she was left alone with her half-brother Amnon, David and his high court extended this prohibition to unmarried girls as well. However, in modern times, since unmarried girls do not go to the Mikveh, they all have the impurity of Niddah, and is likewise Biblically prohibited.[2] These rules are discussed in the Talmud.[3][4]

Laws of yichud[edit]

The laws of yichud provide for strong restrictions on unrelated members of the opposite sex being secluded together, and milder ones for close family members. Different opinions exist regarding application of these laws both in terms of situation and in terms of the individuals involved.

Parent/child[edit]

A child and biological parent of the opposite gender may be secluded or even dwell together, with restrictions.

  • A parent and opposite-sex child dwelling together on a permanent basis should sleep in separate rooms.
  • On a temporary basis (such as a hotel), a parent and opposite-gender child may share a room. Though it is preferable for them not to share a bed, if there is no other choice, and both are dressed according to the laws of tznius while in bed, this is permitted. Such a dwelling arrangement should not last longer than 30 days.

Regardless, it is preferable that a parent and a grown child (who has achieved financial independence) dwell separately if a third person (related or not) does not share the dwelling.

Laws that apply to seclusion are stricter for a father and daughter than for a mother and son. This is because a man is more likely to marry a woman a generation or more younger than himself than the other way around. Additionally, while a boy is likely to spend much of his childhood in the presence of his mother, it is more common for a man to be away from his children while they are growing up. In the event that a parent desires a sexual relationship with his/her opposite-gender child, or the child develops such an interest with a parent, seclusion should be avoided.

Siblings[edit]

Unmarried couples[edit]

A man and woman who are engaged to be married may not dwell together under any circumstances, and may not stay together even on a temporary basis, such as in a hotel. An engaged woman that secludes herself with her fiance forfeits her ketuba as a virgin (hilchot ketubot).

Babysitting/caregiving[edit]

  • A female over the age of 12 should not babysit a boy 9 or older. A male over the age of 13 should not babysit a girl 3 or older. (source Shulkhan Arukh Even HaEzer 22)
  • A person providing care to a dependent adult of the opposite gender may be secluded with that individual for the purpose of caregiving. Even when a same-gender caregiver is available, if the dependent adult prefers the care of the opposite-gender caregiver or otherwise receives better care, this is permitted.

Public/business[edit]

  • A man and woman who are not related or married, but are together in a public place, should walk or sit together in a manner differently from that of relatives or spouses. Keeping a greater distance between them is recommended. If, in such an environment, it is known to all around they are not related or married, and such contact can normally be expected (such as in a workplace), no special changes need be made, but care should be taken to avoid accidental physical contact.
  • In a location of business, a male and female may be together for business purposes provided that the location where they are has the potential to be viewed from outside. If the two must hold a private business meeting, it must take place in a room that does not contain any furniture that can be used as a bed (such as a sofa). Also, two or more people should have immediate physical access to the room.
  • Two unrelated, opposite-gender persons may travel in a vehicle together within the local area, but should not take out-of-town trips together, particularly if they are traveling to an area where they are not known to anyone, and will not be able to return on the same day.
  • On a bus, train or airplane, sitting adjacent to a member of the opposite gender is permitted, but many Orthodox Jews follow stringencies to avoid this due to the laws of negiah and tzniut.
  • There are no restrictions on being secluded together momentarily in a temporary environment, such as an elevator. Since elevators are boarded constantly, there is always a chance that anyone could enter without warning.

Negating the prohibition[edit]

Seclusion is only prohibited when there is but a lone man present. Additionally, the presence of older children, the man's close female relatives, his wife or a woman and her mother in law would negate the prohibition. In these instances, the presence of the other individuals would serve to provide a check on the man's behavior. One additional, unrelated woman or any number of minors (under 13, unless they are of an age where they can speak, but do not understand the concept of sex) do not negate the yichud laws.

See also[edit]


References[edit]

  1. ^ Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and historical background of Jewish customs and ceremonies (KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1980), p. 32
  2. ^ Shulkhan Arukh Even HaEzer 22,2
  3. ^ Bavli Kiddushin 80b
  4. ^ Bavli Sanhedrin 21

External links[edit]