Question: May two women be secluded with one man?
Answer: The Mishnah (Kiddushin 80b) states that a man may not be secluded with any woman other than his wife due to concerns of modesty. The Rishonim disagree whether “Yichud” (seclusion) constitutes a Torah prohibition or if it is an enactment of the prophets. Some maintain that all opinions would agree that this constitutes a Torah prohibition (see Ya’alat Chen, Bet Chatnut, Chapter 7).
Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Even Ha’Ezer, Chapter 22, Section 5) rules that a woman may not even be secluded with many men, unless one of these men is her husband. Similarly, one man may not even be secluded with many women, unless one of them is his wife. Based on this, it is absolutely forbidden for two women to be secluded with one man.
Hagaon Harav Shalom Mordechai Ha’Kohen Schwadron zt”l (the famed “Maggid of Jerusalem”) recounted a true story regarding the above topic:
The Rav of the city of Lisa (modern-day Leszno, Poland) was the leader of the generation, the great Gaon, Rabbeinu Yaakov Loberbaum zt”l (who passed away in the year 5592/1832), author of such great works as Netivot Ha’Mishpat (commentary on Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat), Chavot Da’at (commentary on Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah), Torat Gittin, and others. When the Rav passed away, he was survived by a widowed daughter and a granddaughter (daughter of the widow) who lived together in the city of Lisa (the Gaon did not live in Lisa at the end of his life but his daughter remained there). Several years later, the granddaughter grew up and became engaged.
One day, the widow and her daughter, the bride-to-be, traveled to the nearby city to purchase things for the wedding, such as a dress and other necessities. They hired a local wagon-driver to take them to the city and early the next morning, he arrived at their home to pick them up.
The wagon-driver, a local, knew that the young woman was engaged to be married and he therefore assumed that they were traveling to the adjacent city to take care of some pre-wedding purchases, meaning that they were probably carrying a handsome sum of money with them. Thus, instead of taking them to the city, he veered off course and traveled to outskirts of Lisa, where he lived. When they were near his house, he signaled to his friends who he had notified in advance and were hiding nearby and they immediately jumped on the women, tied them up, gagged them, and robbed them of all of their money.
The wagon-driver and his friends were concerned that the women would go an inform the police about what had occurred; thus, they decided to burn them alive in the large furnace in the driver’s house so that there would be no trace of them and this incident would be buried along with them.
The wicked gang began firing up the furnace but realized that they did not have enough firewood to get rid of both women, so they headed out to the local forest to gather some more wood. Shortly thereafter, they returned to the house and added some more wood to the fire. In the meantime, they began discussing how they would divide the loot. The wagon-driver claimed that he deserved a larger portion of the money since he initiated the idea to begin with and without him, there would be no money to divide at all; however, his friends disagreed with him and began yelling at him. At that moment, a police officer was passing by and as soon as he heard shouts, he entered the house. When the wagon-driver and his friends saw him, they immediately fled.
The officer who saw them run away understood that there was a reason for this and started searching the house. In one of the rooms, he found the two women lying on the floor tied up. He released them and then inquired about what had happened. He then returned the money to them and they then returned home, visibly shaken.
That night, the Gaon of Lisa appeared to his daughter, the widow, in a dream. He told her, “You should know that when I found out that you were in distress, I ascended to a very high place in Heaven and I began begging Hashem to save you. However, my prayer was not answered since you and your daughter had transgressed the prohibition of “Yichud” by secluding yourselves with the wagon-driver (since the road through the forest was completely deserted, which also constitutes the prohibition of “Yichud”). I then ascended to an even higher place in Heaven and pleaded with Hashem that He save you in the merit of the Torah I disseminated throughout the Jewish nation as a result of my Sefer Netivot Ha’Mishpat. My prayer was then answered.”
The widow related her dream to the Gabbai of the Jewish community of Lisa and they jointly decided to record this story in the community’s log so that it would be told over in future generations.
Thus, one must be aware that when a question arises regarding the laws of “Yichud,” one should consult with a Torah scholar who is proficient in these laws so that he may guide one about how to behave in accordance with Halacha.