Praying In Front Of Paintings And Mirrors

  1. One should avoid praying Shemoneh Esrei while facing a picture or painting as it can ruin one’s concentration. If one has no other alternative (as is common when praying in the house of a mourner), one should close his eyes closed. (Shulchan Aruch 90:23)
  2. Many shuls have images of lions or birds on their paroches on the Aron Kodesh. Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l opposed this practice (for multiple reasons- See Yechava Daas 3:62) and he warns that if there is an image one cannot pray while facing it and must pray with his eyes closed. (See Yabia Omer 9:108:48) However, the Kenesses Yichezkel (cited in Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 141:6) explains that the common practice is to be lenient and that since the images are always in the Shul and the congregants are used to them there is no concern that they will ruin their concentration. A similar permissive view was expressed by Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l. (Ohr Letzion vol. 2 page 64)
  3. It is forbidden to pray Shemona Esrei in front of a mirror because it seems as if one is bowing to one’s own reflection. This is forbidden even if one is praying with his eyes closed. (Mishnah Berurah 90:71)
  4. [This is indeed one of the reasons that we cover the mirrors in the house of a mourner. Since there is a custom to pray there, the mirrors must be covered. There are other reasons as well- See Yabia Omer 4 page 326]
  5. At night a window can reflect one’s image and the question is whether it has the status of a mirror. Harav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul zt”l writes he feels that it does not since no one will think that he is bowing to himself, as it is not a mirror. It still may ruin his concentration (similar to praying while facing a painting, as we discussed yesterday), however, and therefore he must pray with his eyes closed. (Shu”t Ohr Letzion vol. 2 page 64, see also Shevet Halevi 9:21:1)

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