Staying Out of Trouble: The Prohibition of Yichud
I was returning from Bnei Brak to Jerusalem with “Maxim,” a pleasant taxi driver with a knitted kippah whom I knew from previous trips. I commented that he looked tired. He told me that he really was tired – he
had taken a fare to the airport at 2:00 a.m. that morning. He mentioned in passing that since the passenger was a woman, he had asked his wife to come along on this late night trip, to avoid problems of yichud on the deserted streets. Maxim had not studied in yeshivah, but he did know enough not to be alone with a woman, even while at work, and he – and his wife – made special efforts to stay safely away from trouble. The prohibition against yichud, a man being alone with a woman, recognizes the inherent frailties of human nature on the one hand, and the power of temptation on the other. In the words of the Meiri, yichud is no less than “the key and the entree to forbidden intimate relations” (Kiddushin 80b). The rationale behind the prohibition is very simple: if a man and a woman can never be alone with each other, they will not sin with forbidden intimate relations. The potential for problems at work is enormous.