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Yichud with video camera

Category: // By Rabbi: הרב עופר עוזרי // Answer date: 05.01.2021

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Question:

I teach in a school and sometimes I have a meeting with the principal in his office. The meeting has to be in a closed room. I keep the door a little open so it will not be Yichud but we discuss private issues about some of the students and it is better if he door is closed. Can I use the camera of my phone to record the meeting and my husband or a coworker can look it later so it would not be Yichud? I will control the camera not the principal.

Answer:

No this will not be sufficient to permit Yichud with another man. If the principal is a Non-Jew then even leaving the door a little open is not sufficient and you need to be in full view of everyone else in the office. If he is Jewish then using a phone is not good and it won’t replace leaving the door open . even if someone sees it later since you can turn it off in the middle. The prohibition of Yichud is on the man and woman as well.
The Gemara in Kiddushin 81b writes: Rav Yosef said that Peach Patuach, a door which is open to Reshut Harabim, to a public area, we do not have to worry about it being Yichud. The Shulchan Aruch Even HaEzer 22:9 rules: A house which the door is open to Reshut Harabim there is no problem of being the house together with an forbidden relation. The Chelkat Mechokek qualifies the halacha that it’s not a blanket heter for everyone. The Terumat HaDeshen rules that if a woman who her husband has warned her no have Yichud with a specific man (in Hilchot Sotah and if she does then she becomes forbidden to her husband until she drinks the Mei Sotah in the Beit HaMikdash) having a door open is not sufficient. Based on this the Chelkat Mechokek writes by Gas Bah, two people who are familiar with each other (a cousin or a brother in law etc.) will also be forbidden to be alone in room with the door open.
Of course if they are actually in public the door is open and they are in a small room in full view of anyone who passes by that, is not considered Yichud at all nor would it forbid a Sotah to her husband because that is as if they are in public. So what does Petach Patuach mean?
The Heter works because if a man and woman are in a house together with the door open anyone can walk in at any time unexpectedly. This creates a tension and fear an therefore this Yichud cannot lead to anything immodest. The question is by a video camera in the room does it create the same type of fear an open door might. The other issue is that they can cover the camera or turn it off, or even find a blind spot in the room where the camera can’t see them. So the fear of a camera is less. Not only that the tension as someone walking in on them will prevent any closeness however camera doesn’t impart that type of fear. Here Poskim differentiate between the types of camera. If it is a hidden camera and they know about it and someone is watching so that if they go out of sight it will be suspicious then it might help for Yichud. It is still not the best though and only in Shaat Hadchak with another heter (like her husband is in the city) can we permit it.
The fact that you are in charge of the camera is immaterial since the prohibition of Yichud is on both the man and woman and the concern of something inappropriate occurring is a worry for both sides.
If he is a Non-Jew then like a Gas Bah even Petach Patuach does not work and only if the door is open enough that you are both in full view of anyone who walks by can it be permitted.

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