Halachos of Forbidden Images


HalachicallyThe posuk[1] says one should not make images to represent Hashem. The reason is in order to show that we do not need a middle man between us and Hashem,[2] as we daven toHashem and no one or nothing else. Others say having an image which represents Hashem is not respectful, since Hashem made humans in his image ((צלם אלקים, and if we make images of humans it is as if we are making an image of Hashem.[3] The Gemorah[4] says it is forbidden to make images of humans, the sun, moon, stars and malachim. TheRabbonon prohibited keeping forbidden images in one’s house because of the chashad it may look as if he is worshipping it.[5]


Telling a Goy to Make an Image

yid may not tell a goy to make any of the forbidden images. The reason is because doing so falls under the issur of amira l’akum which forbids a yid to tell a goy to do things for him that he can’t do himself.[6]


Owning Forbidden Images of People

One should not keep forbidden images of people in his possession because of a chashad.[7] Some say the chashad is that people may think he will bow down to it,[8] while others say the concern is that people might think he actually fashioned the image himself, which would be ossur m’doraisa.[9] Some say the minhag today is that one may keep images of humans because one is not going to serve it and there is no chashad.[10] Accordingly, one may keep an image of man on a piece of furniture.[11]


Images of People

One may not make an image of a person.[12] For example, it is forbidden to make a sculpture of a man.[13] Many poskim say that issur only applies to protruding images,[14] and one may make an image of a person which does not protrude.[15]


Other poskim disagree and say one may not make any image of a person even if it does not protrude.[16]


Partial Images

There is a discussion in the poskim whether the issur of making an image also applies to incomplete images of people such as an image of a head etc. The Shach[17] (and otherposkim) says the issur only applies to complete images, and a half-image which does not show a complete body, etc is permitted.[18] Based on this shita, it is permitted to keep the image of a head on a coin since it is only half of a face. Furthermore, an image of a man lying on his side where one only sees one eye, hand or foot is permitted because it is not a full image of a person.[19] However, Rav Yaakov Emden took issue with this and held that it is forbidden to make an image of a head if one can tell it is a human.[20]  


Photographs of People

According to the opinion (mentioned above) that the issur includes non-protruding images of people, one would not be allowed to take pictures of people (or any other forbidden image).[21] Based on this shita, many people are careful not to have their pictures taken, and do not hang pictures of people in their homes.[22] Furthermore, it is said that one who has an image of himself in this world will not have menucha in olom haba.[23]


Some poskim are lenient this inyun since goyim do not worship humans.[24] Accordingly, one may hang pictures of tzadikim in his house,[25] and may take pictures of people with a camera.[26] However, one should not take a picture of someone who is makpid in this inyun.[27] Some say since it is usually a goy who develops the pictures using a camera is not making an image at all.[28] The minhag today is to be lenient with taking pictures even if one is using a digital camera.[29] Many people have the minhag to hang pictures oftzadikim in the succah.[30] Some say even those who are usually stringent in regard to picture taking may take pictures to send to their parents to give them nachas.[31] Additionally, they would be permitted to take a picture of a gadol who is performing a mitzvah.[32]





Some poskim who are makpid on pictures of people are more lenient in regard to videotaping people.[33] The minhag is to be lenient with this.



Making a snowman is not considered making a forbidden image of man since it is not the derech to bow down to snowman. Additionally, the image will not last a long time.[34]


Wax Museums

In Eretz Yisroel there is a museum which exhibits wax sculptures of people. The gedolim say it is forbidden to go to this museum since the sculptures are made by yiddin, which isossur, and by going one would be condoning their actions.[35] One may visit wax museums where the figures are usually made by goyim.[36]



Dolls are more stringent than pictures of people because a doll is a protruding image while a picture is flat. Al pi din one is permitted to keep a doll in his house even though it closely resembles a person since there is no chashash one is worshipping the doll.[37] Additionally, since the dolls are commercially manufactured one does not have to worry that he will be suspected of making them himself (which would be an issur d’oraisa).[38] However, many people are stringent and deface dolls by breaking off the nose or ear,[39] or by making a cut in the dolls face.[40] One can deface the ear even if it can’t be seen such as where the dolls hair covers the ear.[41] Defacing the features of a stuffed doll with a painted-on face would not be sufficient, since only the picture has been defaced and not the tzura.[42]


Some poskim write there is no need to do anything to the dolls,[43] since they are thrown around on the floor by children and are not considered in any way an avodah zara.[44] It would seem that an expensive doll with life-like features should be defaced if one wishes to keep it in his house, since such dolls are not thrown around.[45] Additionally, if such a doll breaks, one should not glue the broken piece back on since by doing so one is in essence creating a forbidden image.[46] If the entire doll shattered, one would be permitted to reassemble the broken pieces provided that he leaves some pieces out as not to re-form the complete doll.[47]


There is a story quoted in Kovetz Ohr Yisroel[48] about the Tzeileim Rav’s wife who had to go for surgery. The day before the surgery the Tzeileim Rav saw an image of a human (doll) on the table, and told his wife to cut off a limb from the doll. She proceeded to do so, and the Tzeileim Rav said she no longer requires the surgery.


A Potato Head toy is permitted because it is not considered to have the real features of a person.


Drawing the Sun, Moon, and Stars

One is forbidden to create an image of the sun, moon and stars even if it does not protrude.[49] According to some poskim one is only forbidden to keep a protruding image of the sun, moon or stars in his possession.[50] The issur applies to any one of these items and not only all three together.[51] Any image which is commonly used to represent the sun, moon, etc falls into this issur. Therefore, one may not sketch a circle with rays, even though the actual sun does not have rays protruding from it. Similarly, one should not draw a picture of a night sky while leaving some white spots, as these spots represent stars.[52]


A Half Moon/Sun

Some say that one may create an image of a half-sun.[53] However, the moon is forbidden to be drawn even if it is not full.[54] The reason is because the moon is seen when it is not full, and we only see a full sun. Others are lenient regarding a half-image of a moon.[55]  It would be forbidden to draw a picture of a half-sun in the clouds as people often represent the sun in that manner.[56] Some poskim say one may draw a sun on the corner of a page (even with the rays coming out of it) because this is not the way the sun normally looks.[57] However, others forbid this practice.[58] One should not make a peroches which has pictures of the sun or moon on it.[59]


Star/Magen Dovid

In nature stars are round. However, since people think of a star as having five corners, one is forbidden to draw a picture of a star with five corners.[60] Many seforim have an asterisk in them to show a point or to look in the back of the sefer. This is permitted since there is no intention for it to look like a star in the sky.[61] One is permitted to draw a picture of a Magen Dovid because one has no intention of it resembling a star in the sky.[62] There is no heter for certain shuls to have pictures of stars representing the sky on theshul ceiling.[63] Although many poskim are against having pictures of the mazalos in siddurim,[64] others permit this practice since it is only done to illustrate and teach the mazaloswhich have a connection to tefilla.[65]


Pictures of the Sun

Many people take pictures of sunset without realizing that doing so may fall under the issur of making forbidden images. As mentioned before, some say the issur does not apply if agoy will be developing the pictures.[66] L’chatchilah one should be stringent and not take or draw a picture of sunset.[67] One who wants to take a picture of sunset should wait until the sun is half-way down, since then it will not be a complete picture of the sun.[68]


It would be permitted to take a picture of the beginning of sunrise since the picture is not of the complete sun. However, once the sun has risen completely one should not take a picture of it.[69] If the sun is covered by clouds one may take a picture of it even if the rays are shinning through because it is not considered taking a picture of the sun.[70]


Moon Cookies

Cookies shaped like a moon, or a round cookies shaped like a sun may be made or purchased, without any concern that doing so falls into this issur.[71]


Pajamas and Blankets

A parent may buy a child a blanket or pajamas which have pictures of the sun, moon or stars on them. The same is true for pictures of a person’s head.[72]


For Educational Purposes

A forbidden image may be drawn for educational purposes. Additionally, one is permitted to keep such an image in his house if it is being used for educational purposes.[73] Although some say such images are only permitted if one cannot get the point across without them.[74] Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l maintains these images are permitted even if one could have done without them.[75] During the week of Parshas Bereishis, many children come home with picture of the sun, moon and stars. This would seem to be permitted since it is being done for educational purposes.[76] Others say it is not k’dai to draw these pictures.[77] The same is true for a picture of the eleven stars bowing down to Yosef in ParshasVayeishev.[78] It is permitted to form a circle of paper to demonstrate the round shape of the sun.[79]


L’chatchilah, one should not hang pictures of the sun, moon and stars in a classroom.[80] If the children will not be able to know what they are without the pictures then it would seem that doing so is permitted.  


One who is learning the halachos of astronomy[81] or the halachos of kiddush ha’chodesh[82] is permitted to draw pictures of the moon, etc.


Children should be taught not to draw pictures of forbidden images.[83]

One would be permitted to buy a picture of a lunar eclipse because of its educational value.[84]


Menorah with Seven Branches

One is not permitted to duplicate any utensil of the Bais Hamikdosh.[85] This applies even if the copy is made with different measurements[86] or from different materials.[87] Since the Menorah[88] in the Bais Hamikdosh had seven branches, one should not purchase a laichter with seven branches,[89] even if the laichter does not fully duplicate the Menorahsuch as if the laichters branches are arranged in a circle.[90]  There is a discussion in the poskim if one is permitted to keep an eight branch Menorah if one of the branches has been broken off.[91]


It is forbidden to have a seven branch Menorah even if half is used for oil and the other half is used for wax candles.[92] Some poskim permit the use of a seven branch Menorah if one of the branches are stuffed up.[93] Some say if one will only light six out of the seven branches then it is permitted.[94]


The consensus of most poskim is that one is permitted to buy an electric Menorah which has seven branches.[95]

[1] Parshas Yisro 20:20.

[2] Seforno ibid, Eben Ezra, see Chinuch mitzvah 39. Refer to Chasam Sofer Y.D. 2:128.

[3] Ritva Rosh Hashanah 24a.

[4] Mesechtas Rosh Hashanah 24a, Avoda Zara 42b-43b, see Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 141:4, Chuchmas Adom 85:3.

[5] Mesechtas Avoda Zara 43b, Tosfas Rosh Hashanah 24b “sumi.”

[6] Refer to Tosfas Mesechtas Rosh Hashanah 24b “sh’ani,” Tosfas Mesechtas Avoda Zara 43b sh’ani,” Chuchmas Adom 85:6, Ben Ish Chai Massei 2:9, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 168:1, Darchei Teshuva 141:32, Minchas Yitzchok2:29,  see Chasam Sofer Y.D. 2:128 who is lenient. The Meiri (Avoda Zara 42a “din acheirim”) says that the issur of amira l’akum may only apply to Shabbos, but he says it is forbidden in any case to ask a goy to make it for you.

[7] Refer to Mesechtas Avoda Zara 43b, Rama 141:3, Shach 23, 26, Taz 9-10.

[8] Tosfas “v’hu,” Rashi Avoda Zara ibid “chushda,” Rama 141:3.

[9] Rosh Avoda Zara 3:5.

[10] Ritvah Avoda Zara ibid “v’ibo’es eima,” G’ra 17, Chuchmas Adom 85:6, Darchei Teshuva 31, Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society ibid:page 20:footnote 26, see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 168:2. Some say even human images may not be kept in one’s possession if the image is not defaced (Shach 19, Taz 6, Be’er Heitiv 14, see Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:54-55).  Other forbidden images would be forbidden keep in one’s house G’ra ibid, V’ein Lumo Michshal 2:page 129:8.

[11] Darchei Teshuva 33.

[12] Shulchan Aruch ibid, Taz 8.

[13] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 61.

[14] Mesechtas Avoda Zara 43b, Shulchan Aruch ibid, see Ben Ish Chai Massei 2:10, Halichos Olom 7:page 281.

[15] Tosfas Avoda Zara 43b “v’hu,” Shulchan Aruch ibid, Ben Ish Chai ibid, see Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:54 who discusses a case if a goy started a forbidden image if you can complete it.

[16] Tur Y.D. 141 quoting the opinion of the Ramban, Taz 12, Sheilas Yaavetz 2:114, see Chuchmas Adom 85:8.

[17] 141:25.

[18] Rosh Avoda Zara 3:5, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 141:7, Pischei Teshuva 10, Ben Ish Chai Massei 2:10, Da’as Kohen 65, see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 168:2, Pri Hasadeh 2:66, Halichos Olom 7:page 281.

[19] Ben Ish Chai Massei 2:10, Halichos Olom 7:page 285. Refer to Shach 25, Chuchmas Adom 85:4.

[20] Refer to Taz 15, Sheilas Yaavetz 1:170, 2:114, Pischei Teshuva 7, 10, Darchei Teshuva 141:34.

[21] Maharam Shick Y.D. 170, Zekan Aaron 2:47, Am Hatorah 3:5:page 59. In regard to gedolim pictures on stamps see Tzitz Eliezer 16:27.

[22] Da’as Kohen Y.D. 66, Divrei Malkiel 3:58, Levushei Mordechai Y.D. 1:86, Darchei Teshuva 141:35, Nemukei Orach Chaim 243:page 112 (old), Yaskil Avdi Y.D. 2:11 (kuntres achron), Vayivorech Dovid 1:100, Maseei Ish 1:page 29:33,  Teshuvos V’hanhugos 3:263, see Shevet Ha’Levi 7:134:5 who is unsure. Horav Chaim Kanievesky Shlita is not so thrilled when people photograph him (Shila D’kaita page 46, see Bais Hayehudi 4:page 271:5).

[23] Vihiy B’nsoa page 244.

[24] Chuchmas Adom 85:6.

[25] Custom of Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita. See Kinyan Torah 1:55:2. Even according to those who are stringent if you hang up a picture of half a body it should be permitted (V’ein Lumo Michshal 2:page 135:11). One should not let a picture of a tzaddik lay on the floor. This is very common when there are little children in the house (V’ein Lumo Michshal 1:page 100). One may have his picture in a picture album as well (Halichos Olom 7:page 282).

[26] Ben Ish Chai Massei 2:9, Yabea Omer Y.D. 4:22:3, Yechaveh Da’as 3:63, Halichos Olom 7:pages 282-283, Tzitz Eliezer 16:27, Avnei Yushfei 1:151:4, V’ihiy B’nsoa page 241:1, Teshuvos V’hanhugos 3:263, Shulchan Aruch Hamikutzar 4:145:7, Am Hatorah 3:5:page 59, Minhag Yisroel Torah O.C. 90:pages 190-193 in depth, Toras Chaim page 119:1.  Al pi niglah it is not forbidden, maybe because of kabbalah people do not let (Shila D’kaita page 46, Dinim V’hanhugos of the Chazzon Ish 18:10:page 99, Sheilas Rav page 74). In regard to taking pictures on Chol Hamoed. One is permitted to take a picture with a digital or regular camera. (Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, see Shemiras Shabbos K’hilchoso 67:19, Be’er Moshe 7:40, Moadim V’zemanim 4:298, 7:154, Shearim Metzuyanim B’halacha 104:16, Chol Hamoed K’hilchoso 6:101-104) One may not take pictures with a Polaroid camera on Chol Hamoed. (Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, see Hilchos Chol Hamoed (English) pages 168:31 quoting the opinion of Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l who permits it and page 172:13 quoting the opinion of Horav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l who forbids it). Refer to Emes L’Yaakov 545:footnote 500. Negatives are muktzah on Shabbos (Hilchos Muktzah (English) page 108, Shalmei Yehuda 3:14, Rivevos Ephraim 5:254). A regular picture (not the ones hung on the wall) is not muktzah(Shalmei Yehuda 3:14, Rivevos Ephraim ibid).

[27] Refer to Shila D’kaita pages 323-324. However al pi din it is permitted (Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, see Salmas Chaim 475, Betzel Hachuchma 4:85:1-3, Rivevos Ephraim 7:262).

[28] Vayivorech Dovid 1:100 in depth, Kovetz Pri Temarim 7:Pages 123-128, Avodas Melech page 336:7 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita.

[29] Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita. Opinion of Horav Hershel Shechter Shlita quoted in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society Fall 1994:page 119.

[30] V’ein Lumo Michshal 2:page 133:11,  Halichos Olom 7:page 283, Ohr Yisroel 14:page 90.

[31] Sheilas Rav page 75:19.

[32] Salmas Chaim 295:page 114 (old), Toras Haderech page 310:2, See Avnei Yushfei 1:151:3.

[33] Vayivorech Dovid 1:100, Shila D’kaita page 296:2. Many times people go to look at the wonders of the world, and they are so busy taking pictures that they do not look well at the wonder (Shila D’kaita page 48).

[34] Refer to Doleh U’mashka page 261.

[35] V’ein Lumo Michshal 1:page 161, 2:page 137:15, Avnei Yushfei 1:151:3, Rivevos Ephraim 3:504, Shila D’kaita page 105. The Wax Museum in Eretz Yisroel is in the Shalom Mayer Tower in Tel Aviv.

[36] Avnei Yushfei 1:151:3 quoting the opinion of Horav Elyashiv Shlita.

[37] Am Hatorah 3:5:pages 50-51, Vayivorech Dovid 1:99. Many times one has a doll hanging by his windshield. This should not be done (Shulchan Aruch Hamikutzar 4:145:footnote 34, V’ein Lumo Michshal 2:page 135:12).  Some say the reason to have something hanging by your windshield is because the ayin hara should look at the thing hanging by the windshield and not the people in the car (ibid footnote 33).

[38] Vayivorech Dovid 1:99.

[39] Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, see Bais Lechem Yehuda Y.D. 141:10, Chasam Sofer 6:6, Teshuvos V’hanhugos 1:804 quoting the opinion of the Chazon Ish, Dinim V’hanhugos of the Chazzon Ish Y.D. 4:1, Divrei Chachumim Y.D. 5:46, Shevet Ha’Levi 7:134:1,  Am Hatorah 3:7:page 95:3 quoting the opinion of Horav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, see ibid:5 where he says to remove the nose, Avodas Melech page 336:1 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita. Even if the hair is covering the ear one has to be pogem it (Am Hatorah 3:5:pages 54-55). Refer to Mesechtas Avoda Zara 43b, 53a.

[40] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 53, Chai Ha’Levi 1:58. There is an uncertainty if one is allowed to break off a finger on the hand of the doll instead of the nose etc (Avodas Melech page 336:3).

[41] Avodas Melech page 336:4 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita.

[42] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 56, Avodas Melech page 336:5.

[43] Yabea Omer Y.D. 3:8, Yechaveh Da’as 3:64, Halichos Olom 7:page 281, Divrei Chachumim Y.D. 5:46 quoting the opinion of Horav Elyashiv Shlita, Am Hatorah 3:5:page 52, Avodas Melech page 336:1 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita, see Lehoros Nosson 3:49, refer to ibid:50-51 if making these dolls with a machine is permitted even for a yid. Some quote Horav Elyashiv Shlita as saying that although one can be lenient one should not own a doll (Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society ibid:page 121:footnote 27).  Refer to Hakotton V’hilchosuv page 127.

[44] Maharit Y.D. 2:35, Pri Hasadeh 3:38:1, Darchei Teshuva 141:27, Yabea Omer Y.D. 3:8, Shearim Metzuyanim B’halacha 168:2, Ohr Yisroel 2:pages 93-94, Kovetz Pri Temarim 7:pages 123-128. Furthermore it is not the derechto worship them.

[45] Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, see Vayivorech Dovid 1:99, Lehoros Nosson ibid.

[46] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 51, see page 57 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita, Avodas Melech page 336:6, Shevet Ha’Levi 7:134:4.

[47] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 57.

[48] 2:page 93.

[49] Mesechtas Avoda Zara 43b, Tosfas v’hu,” Rosh 3:5, Ran page 38, Rambam Hilchos Avodas Chochavim 3:11, Tur, Shulchan Aruch 141:4, Taz 13, Shach 25, Chuchmas Adom 85:5, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 168:1, Rivevos Ephraim 8:485:5. Refer to Tzitz Eliezer 9:44 about the image of the sun over the kever of Yehoshua Ben Nun. See Halichos Olom 7:page 287. The reason is why a sun and moon etc may not be made even flat is because they seem to us non-protruding in the sky (Tosfas Mesechtas Avoda Zara 43b “v’hu,” Taz Y.D. 141:13).

[50] Refer to Darchei Teshuva 141:34, Chuchmas Adom 85:5-6, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 168:1. Others do not permit this. Refer to footnote 62.

[51] Shevet Ha’kehusi 6:302:1.

[52] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 67 quoting the opinion of Horav Falk Shlita. One is allowed to keep a Snapple bottle in his house even with the picture of the sun on it, since it is not how the sun looks because it is picture of the sun with a smile on it.

[53] Refer to Avnei Yushfei 1:151:1, Shevet Ha’Levi 7:134:7. This is even if the picture is not the exact color of the sun (Shulchan Aruch Hamikutzar 4:45:footnote 30, see Shevet Ha’kehusi 6:302:2 who is unsure about this.

[54] Darchei Teshuva 38, Am Hatorah 3:5:page 62, Avodas Melech page 337:9 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita, Halichos Olom 7:page 287, Shulchan Aruch Hamikutzar 4:145:footnote 21, Lehoros Nosson 3:44.

[55] Darchei Teshuva 46.

[56] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 60, Avodas Melech page 337:8 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita.

[57] Opinion of Horav Falk Shlita in Am Hatorah 3:5:page 62, V’ein Lumo Michshal 2:page 127:footnote 14, Opinion of Horav Azriel Aurbach Shlita in Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society ibid:page 112:footnote 10.

[58] Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita.

[59] Refer to Am Hatorah 3:7:page 95:1. See Bais Avi Y.D. 2:75 who says if it is for an educational reason it is permitted.

[60] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 64, Avodas Melech page 337:11 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissin Korelitz Shlita, refer to Shevet Ha’Levi 7:134:9.

[61] Shulchan Aruch Hamikutzar 4:145:footnote 30.

[62] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 67, Avodas Melech page 337:13 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissin Korelitz Shlita. Refer to Matamim page 242 (new) on what a Magen Dovid represents, Otzer Hayidieos pages 332-333. The Igros Moshe O.C. 3:15 says many places have the Magen Dovid on the peroches of the aron kodesh but he is not sure why.

[63] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 67, Avodas Melech page 337:13 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissin Korelitz Shlita.

[64] Taz 13.

[65] Nekudas Hakesef on Taz 13, Da’as Kohen Y.D. 64, Am Hatorah 3:5:page 70.

[66] Vayivorech Dovid 1:100 in depth, Kovetz Pri Temarim 7:pages 123-128. Refer to V’ihiy B’nsoa page 242:2.

[67] Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, see Shevet Ha’Levi 7:134:6, Shila D’kaita page 296:2, Avodas Melech page 337:10 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita, Shulchan Aruch Hamikutzar 4:145:7.

[68] Am Hatorah 3:5:page 62 quoting the opinion of Horav Nissim Korelitz Shlita, see Avodas Melech page 337:10, Shila D’kaita page 377:7, see Shulchan Aruch Hamikutzar 4:15:footnote 32. It would seem that one may take a picture of the full sun even with a digital camera since one does not actually have the picture, but one should still be stringent in this regard even though he will not be developing the picture (Horav Yisroel Belsky Shlita. Refer to Shevet Ha’Levi 7:134:6).