Can it be considered avodah zarah if one prays while looking at themselves in the mirror? I mean, if you're looking at yourself, is it wrong for someone to think that you're praying to that person? I'm not sure how great this logic is, because I know this doesn't apply to objects, or people when their backs are turned (eg. in the beit kenesset).

I'm not concerned about the possible distraction of seeing myself in the mirror (I'm not that, um, attractive).

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    I can't source this offhand, but I believe the concern with someone thinking you are worshiping yourself is not so much that you are worshiping yourself or any other person. There is an ancient philosophical concept that everything is composed of substance and form. There was a time when there were those who believed in two gods; the god of substance and the god of form. Praying in front of a mirror, in those times, could be construed as worshiping the god of form, since in the mirror there is form without substance. IIRC, that's what they mean when they say it looks like idol worship.
    – Dov F
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


No, one may not pray in front of a mirror. The Radbaz in a responsum (4:107) gives both of the reasons you mention as explanations. From DailyHalacha.com

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.

From MishnaBerura.com

Q: Is it permissible to pray in front of a mirror?
A: No, even if one closes his eyes (Mishna Berura 90:71).

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch

וכנגד מראה אסור להתפלל אפילו בעינים סגורות
It is forbidden to pray facing a mirror, even with closed eyes


To answer your question directly, it is not actually a problem of Avoda Zara. There are sources (cf. HodofHod's answer) that discuss avoiding praying in front of a mirror lest it appear that one is bowing to himself, so the issue is one purely of Marat Ayin.

Worrying about this issue seems normative, but I'd like to point out some exceptions based on a responsum of Rabbi Baruch Weintraub (link) discussing the case of a mechitza of one-way glass which at certain times of day acts like a mirror to the women as well.

The first distinction he makes, is that the rule should only apply when the location chosen is temporary. However, if one has a fixed spot for prayer next to a mirror then the concern will not apply because all know that this is a fixed spot for prayer and they will not suspect him of bowing to himself.

The second distinction is that the mirror needs to be designed as a mirror, but if the object, while reflective, is not designed as a mirror then no one will assume that the one praying is using it as a mirror.

As for the issue of concentration, he insists that one must make a cost benefit analysis of the location chosen. Will it increase one's concentration by, eg. allowing one to better hear the Leader? How distracted would one be by the mirror? This would need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.

So if your prayer spot is fixed or the mirror in question is not a fixed one, and there is a benefit to prayer by being in that specific spot, then there are grounds to be lenient. Otherwise, though, it seems proper to avoid praying in front of a mirror due to the concern of Marat Ayin.

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    Note that the Gemara discusses cases of Marat Ayin by bowing in prayer (Brachot 27b) and discusses cases of Marat Ayin of worshiping one's self (Chullin 41b), but never connects the two.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 3:51
  • hebrewbooks.org/…
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 5:28

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