Dolls, Figurines

Are having dolls or figurines a contradiction to the Torah’s command not to have images?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Apart from the Torah’s prohibition against making or owning actual idols, we are not allowed to make certain divine or celestial items even if they are in no way connected to idolatry. This is based on Exodus 20:20: “You shall not make with Me gods of silver and gods of gold.” The Talmud derives from the phrase “with Me” that we may not make any of the types of images which are “with God” in Heaven. This includes the heavenly bodies (such as the sun and moon) and the angels.

The Talmud derives further, based on a slightly different interpretation of that verse, that we may not produce the image of God Himself (“lo ta’asun oati” rather than “iti”). Although God has no physical form, when He manifests Himself it is with a human apparition (e.g. Ezekiel 1:26). Mankind is likewise fashioned “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27). Thus, states the Talmud, it is forbidden to sculpt a human figure.

Although the Torah only forbids making such images (even when not idolatrous), it is rabbinically forbidden to own them as well, because of a concern that others will think the person made them or that he owns them to worship them.

Based on the above, it would appear problematic to own all humanlike figures such as dolls, figurines or action toys. (Some are stringent with lions as well.) Although some authorities are lenient with such items, as they are clearly not produced for idolatrous purposes, it is proper to be stringent. However, this only applies to complete human forms, not partial ones. It is likewise fine if they are damaged very slightly, such as by breaking off a finger or part of an ear.

In addition, such figures would only be problematic if they more or less resemble actual humans (or angels). A doll which appears humanlike but does not at all resemble an actual person, such as a Lego man or a Raggedy Ann doll, would not be an issue at all.

(Sources: Exodus 20:20, Talmud Avodah Zarah 43b, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 141:3-4,7, Igrot Moshe Y.D. II 54, Teshuvos V'Hanhagos I 804, Yabia Omer III Y.D. 8, Mishnah Halachos IV 109-110, XIII 124.)

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