Drawing or Sculpting Forbidden Images
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
Replications of the Vessels of the Temple
- It is Biblically forbidden to make an exact replication of the vessels that were in the Bet Hamikdash.
- It’s forbidden to make a menorah of seven branches even of other metals besides gold, even if it’s not 18 Tefachim tall, and even without the appropriate designs such as the cups, flowers, and bolts of the menorah.  However, it’s permissible to make it out of wood or non-metals. 
- If a shul has an electric menorah made with seven braches, the menorah should be kept as is, but menorah’s like that should not be made lechatchila. 
Sun, Moon, and Stars
- It is forbidden to draw a sun, moon, or stars whether the image is two dimensional or a three dimensional protruding image. Therefore, one shouldn’t teach children to draw the sun, moon, or stars.
- Some say that it is forbidden to create a temporary image of a sun, moon, or stars.
Symbols of Other Religions
- It is permitted to use and look at a stamp with a cross on it.
- According to many poskim if a person is given a medallion with a cross on it as an honor it is permitted to wear it when visiting a government or Church official.
- It is permitted to have and use a chess set even though the king piece has a cross on it.
- Creating a sculpture of a human is a serious Biblical prohibition for which some say one would have to give one's life to avoid.
- One may own a bust or head used to store a wig. 
- Some say that it is forbidden to own a full body manikin , while others permit but suggest that if one wants to be strict one may cut off a finger of the manikin.
- It is forbidden to create an image of a person if it is protruding (three dimensional). That is only forbidden if it is a complete image and not a half image. Some say that if the image is very accurate it is forbidden even if it is an incomplete image such as the picture of a person’s head on the side of a coin.
- It is permitted to draw a two dimensional drawing of a person, therefore, it is permitted to take a picture of a person. Some gedolim were strict upon themselves and didn't want others to take pictures of them.
- Many poskim hold that it is permitted to buy dolls even though they are a three dimensional creation of humans. A minority of poskim hold that one should damage the doll’s image. However, to manufacture dolls is a more serious question and one should consult one’s rabbi.
Animals and Plants
- It is permitted to create an image of animals, plants, or earth.
- Gemara Avoda Zara 43b, Shulchan Aruch YD 141:8
- S”A Y”D 141:8
- Shach 141:35
- Rabbi Ovadyah Yosef in Sh”t Yabia Omer Y”D 1:12, Sh”t Yechave Daat 3:61 (pg 194), Rabbi Mansour on Dailyhalacha.com. See Igrot Moshe YD 3:33.
- The opinion of Tosfot Avoda Zara 43b s.v. veha citing Rabbenu Tam, Ri, and Riva is that the sun, moon, and stars may not be drawn even if they’re not protruding. Rosh A"z 3:5 and Rambam Avoda Zara 3:11 agree. The Shulchan Aruch YD 141:4 follows the opinion of the Rambam and Rosh. Chachmat Adam 85:5, Igrot Moshe OC 5:9:6, Halichot Olam (vol 7 pg 287), and Rabbi Mansour on Dailyhalacha.com concur with Shulchan Aruch. Taz 141:13 suggests that a two dimensional drawing of the sun is permitted.
- Ran a”z 19a quotes some who think that if it isn’t protruding it isn’t Biblical prohibition for any forbidden image. The Tzitz Eliezer 9:44:2 writes that some rishonim hold that it is permitted if it isn’t protruding and he writes that one should look in the Ramban, Ritva, and Meiri on A”z 43b.
- Rav Chaim Palagi in Ruach Chaim YD 141:2 asks how were they allowed to have a picture of the sun on the tombstone of Yehoshua like Rashi Yehoshua 24:30 writes? Tzitz Eliezer 9:44 answers that since the purpose was to make a kiddush Hashem and not for avoda zara it was permitted. The Tzitz Eliezer 9:44 answers that a non-Jew made it for them and there's no rabbinic issue of keeping it since it was in public (see Avoda Zara 43b).
- Igrot Moshe OC 5:9:6 writes that once a child reached the age of chinuch they should be taught not to draw a picture of a sun, moon, or star. If their drawing is so inaccurate that most adults couldn’t tell what it was then it is permitted but still an adult shouldn’t teach children to draw that because they will grow up thinking that it is permitted and do so when their drawing skills improve. Star-K writes that perhaps making a cake in the shape of a sun (circle with cookie sticks as rays) is permitted since it isn't an accurate representation.
- Minchat Yitzchak 10:72 writes that it is forbidden to temporarily create the image of a sun or moon since it is considered an asiya (creation). See however Darkei Teshuva 141:27.
- Igrot Moshe YD 1:69 writes that it isn't considered a violation of Al Tifnu El Haelilim to use a stamp with a cross on it. His reasons are: 1) Since the images are just used for decorations and not actually for religious purposes it is permitted to look at them (Tosfot Shabbat 149). 2) Since it is used all the time a person is used to that symbol (Tosfot Avoda Zara 50). 3) It isn't an deity it is just a symbol to remind them of their deity. 4) Since the stamps are disgraced by being marked up and also being thrown out that isn't considered something a person would worship.
- Rav Ovadia in Yechava Daat 3:65 permits wearing a medallion with a cross on it that was given to a person as an honor. He begins with the Rama YD 141:1 who writes that crosses are permitted in benefit since they're not avoda zara themselves. Although the Shach limits this to a case where you knew it wasn't worshiped but in general you have to assume that they were worshiped Rav Ovadia says that the Shach's concern doesn't apply to medallions. He also cites the Zera Emet 2:45 and Rav Chaim Palagi in Lev Chaim 3:100 who say that a jewelry with a cross isn't usually worshiped and can be worn if necessary.
- Rav Asher Bush in Shoel Bshlomo 1:60:2. His proofs are:
- Tosfot A"z 50 and Shabbat 149 by using coins with religious symbols on them say that they are muter since they are for decorative purposes and they are used all the time. Igrot Moshe YD 1:69 cites these Tosfots.
- He also cites Rav Ovadia in Yechava Daat 3:65 who permits wearing a medallion with a cross on it for the same reasons. He has many proofs but for one the Rama YD 141:1 who says crosses are muter bhanah if they weren't worshiped since they're not a"z themselves. Although the Shach 141:6 says you have to assume that they were worshiped but Rav Ovadia quotes the Zera Emet 2:45 who says that doesn't apply to medallions.
- He lastly cites Ritva A"Z 42b that crosses on cups are for decorative purposes and are permitted.
- Kol Mevaser 1:14 writes that creating a protruding image of a human is a Biblical prohibition of Lo Tasun Itti which is a detail of Avoda Zara. Therefore, he writes that one should give up one's life to avoid violating that prohibition. He cites the Minchat Chinuch 39. He also cites a story in Josephus (Antiques of the Jew v. 18 ch. 3 n. 1) about a town that opposed the Cesar's decree to put up flags with his image on them and were killed because of that.
- Rabbi Mansour on Dailyhalacha.com
- Rabbi Mansour on Dailyhalacha.com
- Az Nidabru 8:59 writes that it is permitted to own a store manikin which is used to show how certain clothing looks on a person. He bases his ruling on the logic of the Chachmat Adam 85:6 who writes that nowadays there's no suspicion that people worship a human image and also that the manikin is meant to be viewed by the public. He adds that if one wants to be strict one one can avoid all issues by cutting off a finger.
- The Rosh Avoda Zara 3:5 rules that it is only forbidden to create a protruding picture of a person if it is a complete person and not just the head or just the body without the head. However, the Smag (Lavin 22) argues that even part of a person is forbidden as there’s no proof to be lenient. Shulchan Aruch YD 141:7 accepts the Rosh. Yachava Daat 3:64 accepts Shulchan Aruch. The Maharit YD 35 argues that we should follow the Smag and brings a proof from Tosfot Yoma 54b. Perisha 141:37 and Taz 141:15 cite the Smag.
- Yavetz 170 cited by Pitchei Teshuva YD 141:10
- The Ramban Avoda Zarra 43b s.v. dakshinan holds that it is forbidden to draw a two dimensional image of a person. However, the Rambam Avoda Zara 3:11 holds that it is only forbidden if it is three dimensional. That is also the opinion of the Rosh Avoda Zara 3:5. Shulchan Aruch 141:5 codifies the opinion of the Rambam.
- The Yavetz 1:170 writes that his father opposed anyone drawing a picture of him.
- Yachava Daat 3:64 writes that it is permitted to buy a doll. He cites other poskim who agree with this leniency including the Nachal Eshkol 3:50, Maharit YD 35, Pri Hasadeh 3:38, and Netsiv (Emek Shaylah 57:3). Yachava Daat himself extends the leniency to even producing dolls based on the Maharit but the others who were lenient weren't that lenient.[http://www.dailyhalacha.com/Display.asp?ClipDate=10/5/2010 Rabbi Mansour on Dailyhalacha.com agrees. However, Teshuvot Vhanhagot 1:804 writes that it is permitted to have dolls but a God fearing person would damage the image of the doll. He quotes the Chazon Ish as having said so. He says it is sufficient to break off the ear or somewhere that would be immediately noticeable. Shevet Halevi 7:134:1 writes that one shouldn't have a doll of a human and therefore one needs to break part of the face of the doll.
- Abaye on Avoda Zara 43b, Tosfot Yoma 53b, Rambam Avoda Zara 3:11, Shulchan Aruch YD 141:6