Dolls and Idols

Question

Shalom,

I have been reading the Mishneh Torah, the negative commandments. I am an artist, and learned to not make any human figure from clay. I am wondering if keeping dolls (since they too are human figure) is also something I need to get out of my house.

Thank you so much for your time.

5 months

Answers

  1. The Torah says, “Don’t make a carved statue or the image of anything in the heaven above or the earth below…” This verse prohibits making
    a 3-dimensional image. The Shulchan Aruch codifies this prohibition, and adds that even owning an idol is forbidden. One may neither own, use, nor derive any benefit from an idol whatsoever. One is not even allowed to throw it in the garbage; Rather, one must “throw it into the Dead Sea” or otherwise destroy it.

    Now to your question about dolls. Presumably, dolls are not made as an idol for anybody to worship. Would this make it permissible to own? The Talmud relates an incident that seems to be parallel: Rav Yehuda had a signet ring with a protruding human form. Shmuel said to him, “Sharp one [Rav Yehuda], poke out it’s eye.”

    The Talmud records this incident to show that although Rav Yehuda’s ring was not made as an idol, it was nevertheless forbidden for him to
    wear it, unless he disfigured the image somewhat. Otherwise, people might suspect him of maintaining it is an idol to be worshiped. Based on this, if you wanted to own a Barbie-doll you would have to poke out its eye, cut off its ear, or otherwise disfigure it. In many homes, this is the accepted practice.

    Most people, however, follow the ruling of the Chochmat Adam. He says that nowadays, it is permitted to own an image of a human being. He
    explains as follows: The whole reason it was forbidden to own an image was so that nobody would suspect the owner of being a “closet” idol
    worshiper. But since people generally do not worship idols today, there is no longer any cause for suspicion.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team