Can You Look Yourself in the Mirror?

Friday, 23 October, 2020 - 1:12 am


Question of the Week

My late grandmother once told me not to put my baby in front of a mirror before he has grown his teeth. She said it will effect his development????  She didn't know why or where it comes from. Is there any basis for this?


Many dismiss this as a bubbe maiseh, an old wives' tale. But if you heard it from your own bubbe, then perhaps you shouldn't be too quick to laugh it off. We take our grandmothers' traditions very seriously. 

One respected authority, Rabbi Moshe Stern, validated the custom of not showing babies their own reflection, saying it was practiced in his home town of Debrecen, Hungary. He quotes a 13th century Spanish sage, the Rashba, who says that we should never belittle the traditions of grandmothers, because even if we don't know the reasons behind them, they certainly come from a holy place.

I don't know if looking in the mirror will hinder your son's development. But I do know that being disconnected from his roots will. A person needs to know where he comes from. No one is born in a vacuum. We are all a products of our ancestors. And to know who we are, we need to know who they were.

Your son stems from a long line of proud Jews. When you pass down your grandmother's traditions to your children, you are giving them roots, an identity, a clear sense of who they are.

Your grandparents' traditions included much more than just avoiding mirrors. They had a kosher home, celebrated Shabbos and Yomtov, gave charity abundantly and were active in their shul community. They were learned in Torah and loved being Jewish.

Pass these rich traditions on to your son. Then one day, when he is fully developed, teeth and all, he will look in the mirror and say, "I know who I am. I am a Jew."

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

Shu"t Be'er Moshe 8:36
The exact source of the Rashba is a mystery. It is quoted in Shu"t Veheishiv Moshe 13 (See Igros Kodesh v6 p124). Some have pointed to Shu"t Rashba 1:9

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