Question: Is it a prohibition of yichud for a boy and girl to go hiking in a state park on a shidduch date?
Short Answer: Assuming that the park is frequented by other visitors who will be able to see the shidduch daters every few minutes, it is permitted. There is further discussion, however, in the poskim whether the shidduch daters violate yichud when going in a car together on secluded roads.
I. Yichud Outside
There is no Gemara that expressly rules that yichud is forbidden outside. One might have thought that perhaps the prohibition of yichud only exists indoors, behind “closed doors.”
Nevertheless, the Radvaz (1:121) writes that the guideline for yichud is seclusion in a place where if something improper (i.e., relations) would occur, no one would see the act. The fact that the yichud takes place outdoors is irrelevant. One of the proofs that he brings is from a Gemara in Bava Basra (146a-b) [according to one version in Rashi] where a person thought to perform chupah/yichud with his fiancée in a churvah. The Radvaz says that you see from here that the key criterion is that yichud must occur in a secluded area like a churvah where no one can witness any act that occurs inside. Indeed, the Gemara (B’rachos 3a) is clear that a churvah is such a secluded outdoor area. The Pischei T’shuvah (Even HaEzer 22:8) codifies this Radvaz.
The Binyan Tzion (138) provides further proof that yichud may be violated in a secluded area outdoors (even though they are technically not behind “closed doors”) from the Gemara (Megillah 14a) about Devorah HaN’viah who used to judge the B’nei Yisroel specifically under a “tomer” tree. The Gemara explains that she specifically sat under this tree in order to avoid the prohibition of yichud. Rashi explains that since this tree was very tall and had few branches to provide shade, it was very open and Devorah could avoid all yichud situations with litigants, etc. Clearly, yichud would have been violated under a different tree, even though they are outside.
However, the Mishnas Yosef (8:94) attacks this proof from Devorah. Presumably there were numerous litigants and people who were constantly coming and going to Devorah throughout the day. If so, this is not a situation of yichud, and Devorah must have simply been acting out of midas chasidus.
The sefer Noam Halachah (Yichud, p. 16) cites a further proof that yichud can be violated outdoors from the Rambam. The Rambam (T’rumos 12:22), based on the Gemara (Y’vamos 99b), rules that when distributing t’rumah to a kohen in a silo, one should not give the t’rumah to the wife of a kohen when she is there by herself. One reason offered by the Rambam (and based on the Gemara) is because it could lead to yichud, as they are alone in an – outdoors – silo in a deserted field.
II. A State Park
Based on the above, the T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (5:331:1) writes that men and women should not go on shidduch dates in areas that are secluded and where other people are not likely to pass by, such as parks or in the woods.
Similarly, the Ohel Yaakov (Yichud, p. 109) cites the D’var Halachah who was asked about yichud in an orchard of tall trees, i.e., the woods. The D’var Halachah responded that if the orchard is near a road where passersby can see inside the orchard, then there is no prohibition of yichud. Also, if people are consistently coming and going to and from the orchard, there is no yichud, even if the orchard is outside the city. Otherwise, there is a prohibition of yichud.
The Mishneh Halachos (5:130), as well, rules that it is forbidden to go on shidduch dates in parks that are outside the city and are largely devoid of other people. He cites the Rama (Even HaEzer 22:5), who rules that even two men and one woman (see previous article) violate yichud when outside the city in a field or park. He concludes by urging parents and m’chanchim to protect against this breach of halachah by teaching young children and students that even though it may seem appropriate to go on a shidduch date where you cannot be recognized and can have privacy to see if this person is your zivug, it is inappropriate to shidduch date in a secluded park.
III. What Is Considered Secluded?
In order to properly understand when it is forbidden to shidduch date in a state park (or any other secluded hike), the definition of secluded must be explained in this context. In other words, is there a prohibition of yichud if the park has a few other visitors/hikers, who are seen by the shidduch daters every few minutes?
The Ohel Yaakov (ibid) cites the sefer Darchei Taharah HaShaleim who rules that if another person is frequently seen every 15 minutes or so, but could be seen more frequently, then there is no prohibition of yichud. However, he cites Rav Y. S. Elyashiv zt”l who ruled stringently that the time period is seeing a person every five minutes. More than that would be a violation of yichud.
Accordingly, a deserted park where there are few other hikers/visitors would probably be a violation of yichud.
IV. Traveling Together in the Car
But even assuming that the state park (where the shidduch date is taking place) is frequented by others, can the man and woman travel together in a car outside the city boundaries, i.e., on a highway, to get to the park?
The Avnei Yashfe (3:104) rules that there is no prohibition of yichud for a man and woman to travel together in a car, even on large highways between cities, as there are frequently other cars on the highway. The Avnei Yashfe queries whether there are any desolate highways (in Israel) where there would be a concern of yichud.
The Igros Moshe (Even HaEzer 4:65:3), however, is concerned for yichud in a car, even if there are other cars on the highway, as there is always the concern that the car with the man and woman can pull off the highway to a secluded area. The sefer Toras HaYichud (p. 98) questions this stringency, because this concern would essentially negate any of the leniencies of yichud, such as keeping the door to the house open, because there is always the fear that the man and woman could close the door.
Next Week’s Topic: Is a man permitted to have yichud with a woman in Kew Gardens Hills when his wife is in Woodmere?