Yihud, Making the Work Environment Sexually Safe
By N. Shuldig
We live in a culture that is open, and knowledgeable. We feel that the knowledge and customs of the past are outmoded and irrelevant to our times. How our ancestors lived cannot be a guide for our lives.
In many ways it is true. Our lives are different from our ancestors who had no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no convenient supermarkets or fast food restaurants. We enjoy the convenience of automobiles, airplanes, radio, television, and internet. We do not have to chop firewood or preserve our foods for the winter.
But certain things have not changed. The relationship between men and women is one of them. Men and women have always been attracted to each other and if left unchecked this attraction can lead serious problems.
Since all generations have viewed promiscuous behavior as damaging to a marital relationship, proper conduct between men and women becomes essential if one desires to enjoy a life of tranquility and moral purity. No husband or wife desires to share their mate with someone else, and "cheating" is considered serious grounds for divorce. Yet, in spite of the seriousness of extra marital relationships, no clear guidelines have been established or accepted for our modern lifestyle.
There is, however, a define guide to behavior between the opposite sex that has been around for centuries. It is called the policy of yihud. Yihud is defined by the Torah as a situation where two people of the opposite sex seclude themselves in a manner that prevents others from intruding. When a man and a woman are together in a locked room, a situation may develop that can ruin both their lives.
Here is a brief guide to help both men and women from entangling their lives in pain and sorrow.
First, never seclude yourself with a person of the opposite sex in a room to which others do not have free access. A secretary and her boss should not lock the door to the office when they are working. The door should be left open a bit to prevent intimate suggestions.
While visiting a doctor for an examination, take a friend or a relative who can come into the room and wait on the other side of the curtain. If the doctor is on the level he/she will understand the need for such a chaperone and if the doctor is smart, he will have a secretary come in during the examination.
Sometimes we must ride with a coworker to meet a client. A brief case or purse can be placed between the two to create a separation in a cab or back seat of an automobile. When a woman is taking a cab or getting a lift from a male neighbor, sitting in the back seat will give the driver the subliminal message that she is not interested in developing a closer relationship.
Never try to sit next to a person of the opposite sex, instead sit across from him/her. It is preferable that a table or a desk separate you from them.
Calling someone Mr. Schwartz or Mrs. or Miss Goldberg creates a formality that sets them apart from you. It shows them that you are not interested in having an intimate relationship with them. But calling them by their first name can be a first step towards a closer relationship. Avoid it.
Women, how you dress is how others will relate to you. Modest dress turns off the wolves and shows that you are not looking for cheap thrills. This does not mean that you must shop in a convent or monastery, but use a little thought and taste in choosing your wardrobe. Tight clothing and short skirts turn a man on. Choose loose fitting clothing that covers the knees when you sit down and chose a color or pattern that is pleasant without being loud.
Keep an eye and ear open to where the conversation is directed. If you feel it is beginning to drift into an area that is not to your liking, get up and go to the washroom. No one needs to sit with a group of coworkers who are discussing lewd topics and for certain if someone begins to make a pass, it is time to move far away.
It has become common by many people to give hugs and kisses to friends of the opposite sex as mere friendly gestures. This is an extremely dangerous behavior. Many heavy romances have started with a "friendly" kiss and ended in a bedroom. If you do not start or show willingness the other party will generally detect it and behave appropriately. Shun handshakes with the other sex and people will know that you are not interested to start a warm relationship.
If you exercise your right to living a clean life, the cheaters may not be fond of you, but you will have chosen a life of moral integrity and that is something to feel good about. Life is not measured by how much money one makes or by the number of affairs one has, but by the quality of one's life. A pure home life with your mate and children is much richer by far than all the money of the cheating hearts that lurk around the offices.
from the November 2000 Edition of the Jewish Magazine