Yichud: Don’t Go it Alone
The Gemara in Kiddushin (80b) discusses the prohibition for a man and a woman to be secluded alone together unless they are married or close relatives. This prohibition is called "yichud" ("seclusion" ) and the Talmud tells us (Sanhedrin 21b) that it is a Torah prohibition (as opposed to a Rabbinic enactment).
The laws of yichud are too complex and the opinions of the various authorities are too diverse for us to give anything approaching a full discussion here, so we'll just hit a few high points.
Aside from married couples and close relatives (such as parents or siblings), a man may not be alone with any woman and a woman may not be alone with any man. There are, however, several situations that mitigate the definition of "alone." These include:
* One of them has a spouse who could return home at any time;
* The door is open so that people can enter (or a situation like an elevator, where the door constantly opens and closes);
* There are two or more men present (three at night);
* A child is there (two at night).
Generally speaking, the authorities are lenient when it comes to questions of yichud involving adopted parents and siblings.
When it comes to abstinence, yichud is a very helpful halacha (Jewish law). Fighting temptation is much easier if you never put yourself in a situation private enough to become a problem!
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