All summaries below are done to the best of my abilities and are for the purpose of informing and not paskening. In all cases, a posek should be consulted.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Yichud with an Adopted Child - Tzitz Eliezer 6:40.21

In this subsection of a long essay on various yichud issues, Rav Eliezer Waldenberg deals with the question of whether or not there is a violation of yichud between a parent and their adopted child of the other gender. His initial reaction is to say that there should be a violation of yichud, even if the child does not know that he or she is adopted, since, at the end of the day, there is seclusion with a male and female who are not close biological relatives.

However, Rav Waldenberg then shifts gears and says that there are several angles by which such a situation can be permitted, particularly if the adoption took place before the child was old enough to be subject to a prohibtion of yichud. His first avenue for doing so is based on the Levush, who explains that the reason that a biological child can have yichud with a parent is because we are not worried about any sin occurring in such a situation. Similarly, rules Rav Waldenberg, in a case where the child has grown up relating to the adult as a parent, we assume that the feelings between them are those of a parent and child and that no untoward behavior will take place. He even extends this to allow them to hug and kiss as any other parent and child would.

On a related note, Rav Waldenberg borrows a logic from the case of a man with his menstruating wife. Even though she is classified as an ערוה, her husband can nevertheless be alone with her without a concern that they will have forbidden relations. The rationale given for this by the Chazon Ish is that they are used to each other (and thus presumably understand the boundaries and are capable of controlling themselves). So too in our case, says Rav Waldenberg, can we assume that the parent and adopted child are used to each other, specifically in the context of a parent-child relationship, and will not commit any illicit sexual act.

Rav Waldenberg then notes that the Yereim explains the permission to be secluded with one's menstruating wife as being a function of the rule that we do not make decrees on the community that people will not be able to uphold. Since it is not reasonable to expect spouses to live apart for 12 days each month, yichud with one's wife during her nidda period was not decreed. In our case as well, it would be well-nigh impossible for parents and children to have to find separate domiciles once the child reaches the relatively young age when yichud becomes an issue. Based on the Sefer Chikrei Lev, he notes that this would also be in violation of the spirit of דרכיה דרכי נועם- that the ways of the Torah are pleasant.

Rav Waldenberg concludes by adducing proofs from several stories of Sages who raised non-biological children from a young age and conducted themselves with them as they would with their own children. Finally, he notes that these leniencies are important in order to continue to encourage people to adopt those in need of it, rather than allow them to live unstable lives.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yichud with an adopted child - Igrot Moshe Even HaEzer 4:64.2

As a rule, there is no prohibition of yichud (seclusion) with one's own children. However, what about an adopted child? Since the parents and children are not actually related by blood, is there is problem for a father and his adopted daughter to be alone together in a house? We will review Rav Moshe Feinstein's answer today, and follow soon with the more detailed analysis of the Tzitz Eliezer.

Rav Moshe begins by describing the general situation of adoption, noting that it is a wonderful thing for a couple to do to adopt an orphan, and that often times this is done because the couple themselves have been unsuccessful in having children and adoption gives them the opportunity to raise a Jewish child. He further notes that it is important to eventually let the children know that they are adopted so that they do not have problems later in life in terms of potentially marrying their biological relatives, and, as such, it is important to try to find out who their real parents are or were (assuming the child is Jewish from birth).

In terms of the yichud issue, Rav Moshe rules that it is not a problem. His primary prooftext is a Gemara in Sotah 43 that rules that an adopted daughter (or step-daughter) should not marry her step-siblings since even though they are not blood relations, it presents the appearance of siblings marrying one another. Based on this, Rav Moshe extrapolates that if the father would be careful to not have yichud with this daughter, it would "blow their cover" and make it clear that she was not actually related. As such, it must be that no prohibition of yichud is introduced in such a case.

Rav Moshe further notes that yichud is not a problem since the parent would not dare do anything untoward with the stepchild or adopted child, insofar as he or she fears his or her spouse finding out. As such, Rav Moshe cautions that if the parent of the same gender as the child passes away, then the remaining parent should try to avoid yichud situations going forward.