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I have heard that some people do not allow a child to see his or her reflection in a mirror before they can speak (or say their name, possibly). Is there any traditional source for this practice?

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I've heard (from my wife) that it's until they get their first tooth. –  Alex May 12 '11 at 4:27

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

In Be'er Moshe, R' Moshe Stern relates how it was the custom in his home not to allow children to see their reflection in the mirror before their teeth come in or before they begin to speak. In regard to several of these type of (bizarre) customs, he writes:

וכל אלו הג׳ מנהגים בכלל מנהג נשים זקינות שעליהם כתב הרשב״א שאל יזלזלו בדבריהן ובמנהגיהם כי בודאי יסודתם בהררי קודש גם אם נעלם הטעם ממנו

and these three customs are all among the custom of old women about whom the Rashba wrote that we should not belittle their words and customs because their basis is doubtless in mountains of holiness even if we do not see the reason

[However, a commenter on this article quotes R' Shmuel Kamenetzky as saying that the custom to tie a red string on a baby's carriage (one of the customs mentioned by the Be'er Moshe above) is nonsense and should not be worried about.]

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Re the quote from Rav Sh'muel Kamenetzky: many things are misattributed to many people. –  msh210 May 12 '11 at 20:54
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...like strange customs to old women?? –  Double AA Mar 29 '12 at 4:11
    
-1, Bubba Maisehs... Don't forget, Minhag has the same otiyot as Gehinom! –  Adam Mosheh Jul 2 '12 at 18:46

I read from Rav Mutzafi that there is no problem for a child to see his reflection in a mirror. I believe he said that those who discourage a child from seeing his reflection have no source for this "custom".

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No source?? How about Rambam Hil. Avoda Zara 11:4? Unless you can prove the validity of this minhag, it should be assur. –  Baal Shemot Tovot Mar 28 '12 at 3:30
    
@l' huh? Mis-citation? –  Hacham Gabriel Mar 28 '12 at 23:30
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Nope. Its a list of "segulot" similar to this that have no Jewish mekor. And he says its assur. –  Baal Shemot Tovot Mar 28 '12 at 23:33
    
@l' what is Asur? –  Hacham Gabriel Mar 28 '12 at 23:34
    
the "segulot" listed and things similar to them. Unless they have some sort of Jewish mekor. –  Baal Shemot Tovot Mar 28 '12 at 23:36

It is superstition, which Jewish women likely absorbed from the surrounding culture. I wrote in another answer about upsherin and the Pennsylvania Germans / Dutch, where the Pennsylvania Germans are continuing an old superstition from Europe (and where upsherin is explicitly not practiced by Tannaim/Amoraim).

Similarly, R' Menasheh Klein's endorsement of throwing a tooth into a mousehole and saying an incantation -- a German superstition, associated with Loike.

Similarly, this. See how the Pennsylvania Dutch don't allow a child under the age of one to look into a mirror, lest it become proud. (Other similar superstitions exist prior to baptism.)

Rabbi Moshe Stern was cited in the above answer (and in Revach) saying what he says, but he is incorrect. I understand the impetus to say this, and that he has the Rashba as a basis. But the Tosefta Shabbos lists a bunch of superstitious practices, and forbids them, because Jewish women were engaged in them. Why else bother to forbid them? And where it is possible to document the parallel, it is incorrect and misguided to say that they are not superstitions and to promote them to the status of holy customs with halachic basis.

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I've been told whistling indoors will conjure sheidim, which I later discovered to be a Russian superstition. –  Yaakov Kuperman Mar 29 '12 at 4:07
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Just to play the "what if" card - what if the reverse is true? What if the outside world got their superstitions from our customs that were based on ideas that are rooted in Kedushah but have been lost? –  Seth J Mar 29 '12 at 13:43
    
Yes, it is a common response / defense that 'they got it from us'. I don't buy it, especially since one needs to appeal to the 'have been lost' portion of it while the superstition is explicit and well-documented on the other side. In terms of upsherin, see Moed Katan 14a where Shmuel permits cutting a newly born baby's hair on chol hamoed. –  josh waxman Mar 30 '12 at 2:36

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