Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Behind Closed Doors

By Rabbi Daniel Travis

"And it came to pass after Yitzchak had spent a long time in the land of Gerar that Avimelech, the King of the Plishtim, gazed into Yitzchak’s window and saw him together with his wife Rivka." (Bereshith 26:8)

Why was the king of a large empire looking into other people’s windows? Avimelech was not merely being nosy; he had an appropriate justification for his actions. After Yitzchak had resided such a long time in Gerar without making any effort to get married, Avimelech began to suspect that Rivka actually was his wife. With a quick glance into their window, he hoped to verify his suspicions{1}. Yitzchak, who had not yet run into any confrontations regarding his wife Rivka, was not cautious about showing affection to his wife{2}.

The Torah recognizes a person’s right to privacy, and the fact that a person lets his guard down does not give others the right to infringe on another’s privacy. This characteristic is a hallmark of the Jewish people, as was eloquently expressed by the prophet Bilaam. When he saw that the doors of the Israelite tents were intentionally arranged in such a way that the inhabitants could not look into the adjoining tents, he said, “How goodly are your tents, O Yaakov, your dwellings, O Israel{3}.” Their stringency over preserving each other’s privacy saved them from Bilaam’s plan to curse them. Since they were careful to safeguard this mitzvah which involved restraint of the eye, God hindered Bilaam’s power to use his evil eye – to curse them{4}.

From this incident our Sages learn that one may not look into someone else’s residence or construct a window or door directly facing that of one’s neighbor{5}. Doing so is tantamount to damaging their possessions, for people who have to be constantly on guard because others may be watching them are not able to fully utilize their property. Furthermore, snooping around other people’s property can cause onlookers to suspect that he intends to rob that house{6}. If the owner of the opposite residence permits, one may build a window, door, or porch, since he has suspended his right to privacy. This is only permitted since the window is not a direct infringement on his privacy, as opposed to looking into his house, which according to some opinions is an infraction of Torah law{7}. Even if the owner of the home relinquishes his right of privacy, one may not stare through his windows since this is a direct infringement{8}. Similarly, if one constructs a partition between his home and his neighbor’s, he is permitted to build as he pleases, even if his neighbor protests{9}.


{1} Kli Yakar.
{2} Rashi.
{3} Bamidbar 24:2,5.
{4} Kli Yakar ibid.
{5} Bava Bathra 60a.
{6} Rema, Choshen Mishpat 154:3.
{7} Rashbam ibid. according to Nethivoth HaMishpat, Biyurim 154:12.
{8} Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 154:7.
{9} Pithchei Teshuvah, Choshen Mishpat 154:9.


Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org


 


ARTICLES ON MIKETZ AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

A Glaring Omission
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Sadly Released from Prison
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Smelling The Fragrance Of Hope
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5768

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Mercy Filling
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5763

Don't Forget the Butler
Shlomo Katz - 5758

A Celebration of Spiritual Victory
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5764

> Those Small Jars
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5758

The Master Plan
Rabbi Shlomo Jarcaig - 5763

Horns and Hedonism
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

ArtScroll

Yosef Recognizes His Brothers
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5773

A Torah Perspective
Shlomo Katz - 5766

To Fergin Or Forget
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5771

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Bit By Bit
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

Chanukah and the Torah Scholar
Shlomo Katz - 5762

Divine Providence
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5769

Growing Forever
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information