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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Vayeishev -The Rosh Yeshiva Responds – Does Zoom Solve Yichud Problems?

by Rabbi Dov Linzer (Posted on December 4, 2023)
Topics: Rosh Yeshiva Responds, Sefer Breishit, Torah, Vayeishev

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https://pixabay.com/photos/camera-webcam-computer-internet-1219748/

וַיְהִי כְּהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה וַיָּבֹא הַבַּיְתָה לַעֲשׂוֹת מְלַאכְתּוֹ וְאֵין אִישׁ מֵאַנְשֵׁי הַבַּיִת שָׁם בַּבָּיִת. וַתִּתְפְּשֵׂהוּ בְּבִגְדוֹ לֵאמֹר שִׁכְבָה עִמִּי וַיַּעֲזֹב בִּגְדוֹ בְּיָדָהּ וַיָּנָס וַיֵּצֵא הַחוּצָה

“And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business, and there was none of the men of the house there in the house. And she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me,” and he left his garment in her hand, and fled and went outside.” (Breishit 39:11-12).

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QUESTION—New York, NY

An unmarried couple who are dating would like to spend private time together, but want to make sure that they are addressing the problem of yichud. Would a possible solution be to have a webcam on (say, through a muted Zoom video call) with them in the frame in a way that someone else (say, a friend of theirs) could occasionally glance at the video feed and see them? If so, does internet quality matter?

ANSWER

Thank you. As you note, the laws of yichud dictate that a man and woman who are not married to one another may not be in a private space together with no one else present. This is to help them live up to their better selves and not give into momentary temptation in case they find themselves attracted to one another.

If the couple is in view through the webcam, there would be no problem of yichud. The ability for them to be seen means that they are not considered to be in a private, secluded space. This follows the halakha that there is no yichud if they are in a room with a window which would allow them to be seen from the outside.

Although in this case they could easily end the call, there is no restriction against being in a space that could become private. If that were they case, a man and woman wouldn’t be allowed to be in the same room together with the door open to the outside (which halakha permits), since they could easily close the door. The only problem is if the space they are in now is considered private or not.

The fact that over Zoom a person is only seeing an electronic reproduction and not seeing them directly is of no consequence. Rav Moshe Feinstein even permits a couple to be in a room even if they cannot be seen through the window, provided that יכולים להרגיש מה שנעשה שם, a person looking through the window would have a sense of what is going on in the room (Iggrot Moshe EH 4:65.2).

If the couple steps away from, or turns off, the camera, then they are in a place with yichud. I don’t think that internet quality matters so much as long as a person could sense what was going on in the room, as Rav Moshe writes.