- Question: [Monday, 8th Elul 5781]
My father is old and suffers from various medical issues due to a stroke he recently had. We are in the process of bringing him back to his home, and since he lives alone [as my mom passed away a few years back] I would like to know if we can hire a female caregiver to take care of him. He is disabled and is stuck either to his bed or to a wheelchair. He is fully conscious, and his mental capability has not been damaged. Is there any problem of Yichud for him to have a female caregiver, and does it make any difference if she’s Jewish or Gentile?
In such a case, it is best to hire a male caregiver in order to avoid the issue of Yichud. If for whatever reason a male caregiver cannot be hired, then one may only be lenient in this matter to hire a female caregiver [whether Jew or gentile] if the patient being cared for has lost his Gevuros Anashim, [i.e. permanent erectile dysfunction], due to his old age or other reason. In all cases, one may be lenient to have the female caretaker present if either a Shomer [spouse/child] is present, or one has a Pesach Pasuach [open door or give keys to three neighbors] to ensure the laws of Yichud are not broken.
Explanation: Ideally, the Yichud prohibition applies to both the young and old, and it is thus forbidden for even an elderly man to have a female caretaker or housemaid unless one of the classical Yichud breakers are implemented. Nonetheless, the Poskim deal with the case that the man in question no longer has Gevuros Anashim, either due to age or illness, and hence the worry of sin taking place is irrelevant. Some are stringent even in such a case to prohibit all biblical Yichud, which basically would prohibit Yichud with all Jewish girls above age 11, whether married or single, although would seemingly permit Yichud with a Gentile woman being that is only rabbinical. Other Poskim however rule that all forms of Yichud are permitted with such a person, even Biblically forbidden forms of Yichud. Practically, if the patient is completely impotent due to his illness/weakness, in a time of need one may be lenient in all forms of Yichud. This especially applies if there is no expectations of recovery. If, however, the man can achieve erectile functionality, even if it is with difficulty, then Yichud laws would apply.
Sources: See Michaber E.H. 22:1 “Whether she is old or young”; Dvar Halacha 2:9; Nitei Gavriel Yichud 5:3-5; Stringent opinion: Zayis Ranan E.H. 1, brought in Dvar Halacha ibid; So also rules Rav SZ”A in Nishmas Avraham E.H. 22; See Sotah 26b that Issur Setira applies with a Shachuf; See Otzer Haposkim 20:11-5; See Nechpa Bakaesef 2:19 that “Lo Sikrav” related prohibitions don’t apply to a man with erectile dysfunction, however a Rabbinical prohibition certainly remains; See also Peri Hadama Issurei Biya 1 p. 41 and Tuv Taam Vadaas Telisa 1:5 regarding Chibuk and Nishuk; Lenient opinion: See Kiryas Melech Rav 2:26 regarding Chibuk and Nishuk that possibly is even Rabbinically permitted, and certainly Yichud would be allowed; Dvar Halacha 2:9 that so is implied from Tosafus Sotah ibid; Meiri Sotah ibid; Maharshal; Iyun Yaakov; and so can be learned from Nechpa Bakesef ibid as hugging and kissing is more severe than Yichud, while Yichud would be permitted; Igros Moshe E.H. 4:65-10 that if he medically cannot have an erection due to his illness and weakness, there is no Issur Yichud at all, even of Biblical status, and even the Zayis Rannan ibid perhaps would agree to this, as perhaps he applies his prohibition only by an old person who can reach erection with difficulty; See Sanhedrin 22a that David Hamelech was allowed in Yichud with Avishag [However this Yichud is only Rabbinical Yichud if she was Tahor, and is not a question on the Zayis Ranan]; Drashos Chasam Sofer 564 that Yosef was allowed to be in Yichud with Potifar’s wife because he saw that he did not have Gevuros Anashim
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