Hilchos Yichud: Rulings of HaRav Moshe Feinstein
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 Feinstein, one of the greatest
halachic authorities of our generation. Dissenting opinions appear in the
footnotes. A final ruling 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 exceptions:
* 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 male over thirteen is prohibited from being alone with a female
over the age of three. Under extenuating circumstances, it is permitted to
be alone with a female who is under the age of seven.(5)
A female over twelve may not be alone with a male 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 consulted.
LENIENCIES OF YICHUD
Under certain conditions, the prohibition of yichud may be
circumvented. These conditions include: If one's husband [or 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 chaperone is present. Each
of these conditions has its own sets of rules, so they must be explained
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 that 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 sets
his own work 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 his wife's engaging in illicit behavior. But the wife
fears her husband's sudden appearance only 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 override the prohibition
of yichud if a close, long-standing friendship exists between the man and
Although a husband's presence "in town" alleviates the prohibition
of yichud for his wife, the reverse is not true. The presence of 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, if the window shades or drapes are
open and there is a clear view into the room, yichud is permitted.(13)
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
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.
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 the 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
IF A CHILD CHAPERONE 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 this halachah. Harav Feinstein is quoted(23)
as ruling that either a boy or a girl chaperone must be at least seven
years old. Once they become bar/bas mitzvah, they are no longer considered
A man is permitted(25) to be secluded with a woman in the presence
of his grandmother, mother, daughter, granddaughter, or sister(26) [of any
age over seven]. During nighttime sleeping hours, an additional chaperone
Two sisters cannot serve as chaperones 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.(31)
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
1 Igros Moshe E.H. 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 ha-Levi 5:201-2) hold that 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
2 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:64-1. Other poskim do not mention this leniency.
3 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:64-2. Almost all other poskim disagree and hold that
yichud is not permitted with adopted children.
4 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:63; 64-1. This is the basic halachah. A minority view
(R'ashash, Kiddushin 81b; Salmas Yosef 34) allows yichud with these
relatives. Generally, one should not rely on this leniency.
5 Oral ruling by Harav M. Feinstein (quoted in Children in Halachah, pg.
40) based on the rationale presented in Igros Moshe E.H. 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 E.H. 4:65-10. See also Tzitz Eliezer 6:40-22.
7 A husband who is jailed is not considered "in town" - Igros Moshe E.H.
8 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-7. Other poskim rule that as long as he is
literally in the same town, even if he is presently unable to come, he is
still considered to be "in town."
9 Igros Moshe E.H. 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's 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 E.H. 22:8. See Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:35.
11 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-6. Other poskim are more lenient.
12 Igros Moshe E.H. 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. Ohalei Yeshurun, pg. 14 quotes Harav
Feinstein as ruling orally that this leniency can be relied upon only
under extenuating circumstances.
13 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-2.
14 Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:82; E.H. 4:65-3. Many other poskim are lenient about
yichud in a car at all times, and especially if the highway is heavily
traveled; see Devar Halachah 15:1 quoting Harav S.Z. Auerbach; Shevet ha-
Levi 5:202-1. See Otzar ha-Poskim E.H. 22:35-8 for more opinions.
15 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:60; 4:65-9, based on Beis Shmuel and Chelkas
Mechokek E.H. 22:13, unlike the Taz 22:5 who is lenient.
16 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-15, based on Rama E.H. 22:5. Most poskim agree
with this. [At night, yichud is not permitted even if two men and two
women are present, ibid. If two men and three women are present, Chochmas
Adam 126:3 is lenient.]
17 Rashi, Kiddushin 81b, quoted in Rama E.H. 22:5.
18 During nighttime sleeping hours, some poskim hold that Rashi permits
yichud with a minimum of four women. Under extenuating circumstances,
three women are sufficient [even according to Rashi's view], Igros Moshe
19 An exception to this leniency is when the man and woman involved are
business associates or the man's job is such that he must deal directly
with these women, e.g., a salesman of women's clothing.
20 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-14. M'harsham 3:152 also rules like the Rambam.
Divrei Malkiel 4:102 rules in accordance with Rashi's view. Shevet ha-Levi
3:183 is lenient only under extenuating circumstances.
21 Ramban and Ran, Niddah 5a.
22 See Devar 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; Ohalei Yeshurun, pg. 17.
24 Other poskim maintain that once they reach the age of nine they are no
longer considered children. See also Igros Moshe O.C. 1:26 where he
quotes, without dissent, the view of the Bach that nine is the maximum age
for being a chaperone. It seems correct, therefore, that the maximum age
bar/bas mitzvah should be relied upon only under extenuating
25 Some poskim do not agree with this leniency, but many others do.
26 Igros Moshe E.H. 2:15; 4:65-8. Possibly, his father's or mother's
sister are also considered chaperones. [Igros Moshe E.H. 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 principals of hilchos yichud. This ruling
should not be relied upon without further investigation.]
27 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:64-3.
28 Oral ruling by Harav Feinstein quoted in Ohalei Yeshurun, pg. 7.
29 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-1. Many poskim agree with this, while others are
30 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-16. See also Minchas Shelomo 91.
31 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-22. Most poskim agree with this leniency.
32 Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65:19. Other poskim are lenient in this case; see
Chazon Ish 34:2 and Salmas Chayim 151. See also Sha'ar ha-Tziyun
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