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Is it Permissible to Pray in Front of a Mirror or a Window?

Is it permissible to pray in front of a window in which one can see his reflection?

The question surrounding the permissibility of praying facing such a window arises from a discussion of the Radbaz (Rabbi David Ben Zimra, Egypt, 1480-1574) regarding praying in front of a mirror. It is forbidden to pray in front of a mirror for two reasons. First, the sight of one’s reflection will likely disrupt his concentration which should be focused on his prayer. Secondly, when one prays in front of his reflection, he gives the appearance as though he bows to himself. Does this prohibition apply to praying in front of a window?

Hacham Ben Sion Abba Shaul (Israel, 1923-1998) ruled that one may pray in front of a window if he keeps his eyes closed. Closing one’s eyes avoids the problem of the distraction caused by viewing oneself. As for the concern that one may appear as bowing to himself, Hacham Ben Sion claimed that this concern does not arise when one prays in front of a window. Even though his reflection is visible, he does not give the appearance of praying to himself, since the window is not made for the purpose of providing a reflection.

Needless to say, the simpler solution, when possible, would be to move to the side so as not to stand directly in front of the window while praying.

It should be noted that just as one may not pray in front of a mirror – even with his eyes closed – it is similarly forbidden to pray in front of a picture of a person or animal, as this would give the appearance of bowing and praying to the image.

Summary: It is forbidden to pray in front of a mirror or in front of a picture of a person or animal. One may pray in front of a window in which he can see his reflection, provided that he keeps his eyes closed during the prayer.


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