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What is the precise definition of Maris Ayin, and to what cases does it apply? (i.e. what are the parameters for applying it)

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    Fun point of fact.. Marit Ayin is in direct opposition to dan l'kaf z'chut. Great for a deep philosophical meta-halachic discussion. I.e, Marit Ayin breaks the dan l'kaf z'chut that people will have dan l'kaf z'chut.
    – avi
    Nov 18, 2011 at 10:10
  • @avi - That's why I don't believe there is even such a thing as Marit Ayin. Jul 23, 2012 at 15:26
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    @AdamMosheh Two points: 1) Maris Ayin is not about people not being dan lekaf zechus. On the contrary, it is about people BEING dan lekaf zechus - i.e. telling themselves this person is surely doing something that is permitted, and since they are misconstruing the person's actions, they think that something prohibited is permitted. 2) Dan lekaf zechus does not require one to fool oneself and be naive.
    – Dov F
    Jul 23, 2012 at 16:34
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    @AdamMosheh Bartenura: כשהדבר בכף מאזנים ואין לו הכרע לכאן ולכאן. כגון אדם שאין אנו יודעים ממעשיו אם צדיק אם רשע ועשה מעשה שאפשר לדונו לזכות ואפשר לדונו לחובה, מדת חסידות היא לדונו לכף זכות - "When the thing is on a scale and there is no weight to either side. For example a person that we don't know from his actions if he is righteous or wicked and he did an action and it is possible judge him as righteous or wicked, it is a pious trait to judge him as righteous."
    – Dov F
    Jul 23, 2012 at 17:35
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    @DovF Hmm thanks for that. I learned that sugya in two different yeshivot, and both places made a big stink about Marit Ayin in that spot of the Gemora. Go figure.
    – avi
    Jul 23, 2012 at 17:54

1 Answer 1

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Maris Ayin (literally "the vision of the eye") describes rabbinic enactments that were put into place to prevent a third-party viewing one's actions from arriving at the incorrect conclusion that a forbidden action is permitted.

Examples:

  • It is forbidden to eat the blood of fish (which itself is permitted according to Torah law) lest someone watching you think that either you were eating the blood of an animal (something which is forbidden), and therefore it is permitted to eat the blood of an animal, or think that you are committing a sin. (Keritut 21b)
  • If you own a bath house, you are not permitted to rent it out to a non-Jew who will run it on Shabbat, lest people (who did not know that you rented it out) think that you are performing prohibited actions on Shabbat
  • A Jew who is a resident of Israel, who is traveling outside of Israel for one of the festivals should not perform prohibited actions on the second day of the festival (which is only for those who are not residents of Israel) because someone may see this being done and, not knowing that this person is a resident of Israel, would assume that either a prohibited action is being performed or that the prohibited action is permitted. (There are other reasons as well - this halacha is a point of contention among modern poskim - if it applies to you, please make your own inquiries and do not rely on this site)

It has many applications across halacha, including the laws of Shabbat, Avodah Zarah and Kashrut.

An important additional principle is that כל מקום שאסרו חכמים מפני מראית העין - אפילו בחדרי חדרים אסור - Anything that the sages prohibited because of maris ayin is forbidden, even when it is performed in a private room (Beizah 9a). In other words, once something is prohibited by chazal for this reason, one is not allowed to rationalize that one can perform the action in private because no one will see it. (This principle is also the subject of much debate among halachic authorities).

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  • Do we just apply it wherever there is a possibility of a third-party drawing incorrect conclusions, or are there specific parameters for when it applies?
    – yydl
    May 15, 2011 at 20:49
  • Point is, it also applies to positive commandments, not just negative ones.
    – avi
    Nov 18, 2011 at 10:10
  • What is the "classic" case of Maris Ayin (or perhaps the earliest makor for it in Chazal?)
    – Yehoshua
    Jan 6, 2013 at 10:25
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    IMHO this answer could be improved by adding the Mishnah Berurah 301:45 (S.Q. 165) in the name of Ba'ale'i HaTosafot and Rabbe'inu Asher (HaR"Ash).
    – Lee
    Dec 15, 2015 at 18:51

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