Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Position of the Bed

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin
With Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Hagar[1]

According to halacha it is forbidden to position one's bed in a way that it stretches from east to west but rather it must run north-south.[2] This halacha originates from the Gemara[3] which teaches that it is best to position one's bed that it run from north to south as doing so accompanies with it a number of benefits as we will see. It is explained by the commentators that this directive of how to place one's bed applies to those who are married and at those times when one's wife will be sleeping with him.[4] Even when alone however it is best to sleep in such a position,[5] especially if one sleeps naked.[6] There are also a number of additional recommended positions for the placement of the limbs of one's body when sleeping as well.[7] Nevertheless, if for whatever reason one is unable to position oneself or one's bed in a north-south arrangement one need not "loose sleep" over it. In fact, it would even be permissible to have relations with one's wife in an east-west direction if need be.[8]

Click here to read moreThe Scriptural source for this advice is derived from the verse: "The belly you fill with your treasure (Tzfuncha) who have sons in plenty"[9] as if to say that placing one's bed from the "tzafon" (north) will lead to having "sons in plenty". Considering that God's presence is said to hover between east and west, it was felt that engaging in marital relations within this corridor would be inappropriate.[10] Therefore one places one's bed north-south so as to avoid a direct collision with the Shechina during marital relations.

It is also taught that sleeping in a north-south manner is reminiscent of Adam who was created in such a posture as well.[11] This arrangement is also attributed to the presence of the heichal, the sanctuary of the Beit Hamikdash, which was situated in the west. According to this approach the arranging of one's bed is an extension of the mitzva of "moreh b'mikdash" – showing reverence for those things associated with the Beit Hamikdash. Make no mistake, God's presence is certainly everywhere and at all times, nevertheless there are those points on the compass, as well as at different times throughout the day, that God's presence is said to be stronger or more dominant.[12]

There is a contradictory view in kabalistic sources to all of the above which teaches that it is the width of the bed should be between north-south but the length of the bed should be east-west.[13] This is based on kabbalistic considerations relating to the placements of the Sefirot.[14] Although some authorities have tried to resolve this contradiction between the halachic and kabbalistic approaches[15] it ultimately remains irreconcilable.[16] Although as a general rule that in a dispute between the halachists and the kabbalists we are to follow the halachists,[17] there are a number of halachists who feel that in this matter the kabbalists should be followed.[18] Some authorities want to suggest that one's geographical location in the world is the deciding factor as to which direction one's bed should face.[19]

Those who are unable to position their beds as they feel ideal really need not worry as there are authorities who hold that in our day there is no pressing need to be particular about this issue at all.[20] In fact, the entire issue of the position of one's bed is mysteriously absent from a number of primary halachic sources. As such, some authorities claim that the whole issue of positioning of one's bed is not halacha but is merely advisory.[21] Please do not proceed to rearranging your bedroom furniture after having read this post as whichever direction your bed currently faces will be deemed perfectly acceptable by eminent sources.[22]

NEXT WEEK: "Making Kiddush Between 6 p.m. – 7 p.m." Please send me your lesser-known and obscure sources as well as anecdotes for inclusion. I truly thank and appreciate all those who sent me tidbits in preparation for this article. rabbiari@hotmail.com


[1] Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Hagar is Dayan and Rosh Kollel of Chanichei Yeshivot in Ramat Beit Shemesh 'Bet' (and a very unique combination of all hashkafot within orthodoxy –A.E.). He welcomes she'eilot by email (Hebrew only) to:mr1014@bezeqint.net
[2] O.C. 3:6, 240:17
[3] Berachot 5b
[4] Rashi, Tosfot ad loc.
[5] Rambam Beit Habechira 7:9, O.C. 3:6
[6] Mishna Berura 3:12
[7] Pri Eitz Chaim, Shaar Hashechina cited in Shut Vayeishev Hayam 1
[8] Shulchan Aruch Harav 3:10
[9] Tehillim 17:14
[10] Rashi ad loc.
[11] Kaf Hachaim 3:16
[12] Bava Batra 25a
[13] Zohar Bamidbar 118b, Shaar Hamitzvot Bereishit (Arizal)
[14] See Shut Vayeishev Hayam 1
[15] Mishna Berura 3:11, Machatzit Hashekel
[16] Shut Vayeishev Hayam 1
[17] Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 25:29
[18] Mishna Berura 3:11, Kaf Hachaim 3:16, Shut Vayeishev Hayam 1
[19] Beit Yosef O.C. 3
[20] Kaf Hachaim 3:16, the wording of Rashi leads to this conclusion as well
[21] Aruch Hashulchan 3:13
[22] Aruch Hashulchan 3:13

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