Privacy in public area

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Privacy when relieving oneself outside in an open area:

A. Bowel movement:
Bowel movement in an open area by day [1] When having a bowel movement in an open area by day[2] [such as in a field[3] or in a valley[4]] one must distance himself to the point that the area of his flesh which he uncovers in order to relieve himself [both in the back and in the front[5]] is not visible to others. [It is not necessary for one to distance himself to the point that he is not visible at all, and thus even if he can be seen from a distance it is valid so long as his flesh cannot be seen.[6]] Likewise one is not required to distance himself to the point he cannot be heard. Thus if there is a wall blocking one from being seen, he may relieve himself next to the wall even though there are people on the other side of the wall which can hear him.[7]

Bowel movement in an open area by night:[8] All the laws of modesty that apply by a bathroom during the day apply likewise at night with exception to distancing oneself from others, in which case at night one does not need to distance himself  [at all when he is in a field and the like[9]].  If there is no one else around then one may even relieve himself on the city street.[10] [However if there is an alleyway available then he is to do his needs in the alleyway.[11]] If there is someone in the area, even a gentile, it is forbidden to relieve oneself in front of him even at night, [if he is close enough to the person to be seen. This applies even if his uncovered areas cannot be seen, as since he’s being seen from close, it is immodest.[12]]


B. Urinating in an open area:[13]

The above laws of distancing oneself from others only applies to a bowel movement, however when one needs to urinate, he may do so even in front of others and during the day[14], if this is required. The reason for this is because withholding the urge to urinate is dangerous [and can cause one to become sterile[15]]. Therefore it is forbidden for one to act with modesty and delay urinating [in order to find a private area] if he needs to do so.[16] Nevertheless, one should go to the side [of the area that he is in] to relieve himself.[17]
Women:[18] The above law applies even to women. Even if a woman is completely covered while urinating she may not do so facing the front of a man. She is not to do so even facing [her[19]] small child.[20] Rather she is to go on the side and urinate.[21]


If there are no bathrooms available and one desires to have a bowel movement, then by day he is to distance himself from others to the point that the uncovered parts of his body are not seen. At night, in an area without light, he may not be close enough to any person that can see even his covered parts despite the darkness. One who has an urge to urinate may do so in any area, even in public and during the day. Nevertheless he is to go to the side to do so. This law applies likewise to women.


[1] Basra 3/3; Kama 3/12; Michaber 3/8

[2] See Basra 3/4

[3] Basra 3/3

[4] Kama 3/12

[5] Basra 3/3

[6] Basra 3/3; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 7

[7] Basra ibid; Kama ibid; Olas Tamid 3/10; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei 7; Unlike Levush [Shaareiy Teshuvah 3/8]

The reason: As there is no prohibition at all of the modesty laws in having people hear him release gas and excrement. [Kama; Basra ibid] (Although this is embarrassing and humiliating for majority of people, nevertheless, if one does not mind, he may do so. Similarly in the times of the Sages of the Talmud they were not bothered by this. See chapter 103/2; Terumos Hadeshen 16.) [Basra ibid; parentheses in original]

[8] Basra 3/4; Kama 3/18

[9] Basra ibid

[10] Basra ibid; In Kama ibid Admur writes “even in a public area”. Either way this implies that by day, even if no one is around one must go to an area that people are not normally found to the point that his revealed area cannot be seen from where the people are normally found. However at night he may do his needs even in an open public area if at that moment no one is around.

[11] Basra ibid

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule that at night it is not necessary to go to an alleyway to do ones needs and he may thus do it in middle of the street even initially. [Ateres Zikeinim; P”M 3 A”A 12; Kaf Hachaim 3/36]

[12] Basra ibid

[13] Basra 3/5; Kama 3/18; M”A 3/12; Gemara Bechoros 44a; So rules also: Kitzur SHU”A 4/2; Ben Ish Chaiy Vayeitzei

Siddur Seder Netilah: “One may urinate in public due to worry of danger. Nevertheless one should do it on the side”

[14] Basra ibid; In Kama the order is “even during the day in front of others”.

[15] Basra 3/5; see also Kama 3/24 and Basra 3/11

[16] Basra 3/5; Omitted in Kama ibid or Siddur ibid. [There Admur simply writes it is permitted to urinate in public and not that one must do so.] Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol as in Basra 3/11 Admur rules one may withhold himself to find a private area, and it is implied from there that it refers to both urine and bowel movement. Thus one must differentiate and say that the ruling there only refers to a bowel movement. Alternatively it refers to withholding urine until one reaches a side area in public, as Admur writes here. Alternatively perhaps here it is referring to someone who has a very strong urge to urinate and hence holding himself back has a high chance of causing him to be sterile. Perhaps this can be deduced from the seemingly superfluous words “if he has to” that Admur adds here, that it is coming to say the person has a strong urge to urinate. However there it refers to a minor urge, such as a person who can hold it in for up to a Parsa, in which case we allow a person to delay his needs for privacy. Vetzaruch Iyun.

[17] Basra 3/5 and Siddur; In Kama ibid mention of going to the side is only made regarding a woman, while in Basra it mentions it both regarding a man and woman.

May one urinate in front of others if he has no choice? Yes. One may urinate even in front of a woman. [Chayeh Adam 3/1 brought in Kaf Hachaim 3/36]

[18] Kama 3/19; Basra 3/5 simply rights “even a woman in front of her small child [is to go to the side]”.

[19] Basra 3/5

[20] Although a woman does not reveal any part of her body when urinating nevertheless she may not do so when facing other men, or even a child, as it is an act of brazenness to urinate literally in front of them. [Kama ibid]

[21] Kama; Basra ibid; Since she is not literally facing them while urinating there is no brazenness involved and it is permitted. [Kama ibid]

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