Idol in the Museum


This past Sunday my wife and I were on a guided tour of an art history museum with our kids. We didn’t see it coming, but the museum had in it some actual idols from an ancient civilization that they worshipped. We never would have imagined. I wanted to take my family and leave the building promptly. I asked the guide if we could leave early, and he said for security reasons, he could not let us wander around the building unescorted. We were stuck inside the museum for another half hour before we were allowed to depart. If that situation were to arise again, what am I supposed to do?



  1. It is definitely a complicated Halachic issue. The Torah states (Vayikra 19:4), “Al Tifnu El Elilim – do not turn to idols.” According to the simple understanding of the prohibition, it includes looking at idols (see, Rambam, Hilchos Avodah Zarah 2:2), which would seem to indicate that there is a definite problem. However, the Magen Avraham explains that the Torah prohibition is only against gazing at an idol but there is no prohibition against glancing at it. Subsequently, according to the Magen Avraham, the prohibition is only when intentionally looking at the idol, but a passing glance would not be considered a transgression.

    Best wishes from the Team