What structures or images are we not allowed to keep in our homes?

The Gemara of Avodah Zara discusses the prohibition of making and possessing certain structures and images. For example, the Gemara states that one may not build a structure modeled after the Bet Hamikdash or any of the furnishings of the Bet Hamikdash, that has the same dimensions as the Bet Hamikdash or the corresponding furnishing. This means that one may not make a seven-branched, metal Menorah resembling the one that was used in the Bet Hamikdash. As mentioned, however, this applies only if the dimensions are the same as those used in the Mikdash. It is therefore permissible to construct small models, even if they are built precisely to scale and accurately resemble the original, since they are not built according to the same dimensions.

Many shuls have a seven-branched Menorah with electric lights. Ha’Rav Ovadiyah Yosef (shlit”a) rules that such structures are permissible, since there are no lamps in which one can place oil and wicks, as there were in the Menorah in the Bet Hamikdash.

The Shulchan Aruch states that it is forbidden to make an image of the moon, sun or stars. This applies both to protruding images as well as flat drawings. In fact, a watch bearing an image of the moon was once shown to Rav Ovadiyah Yosef, and he stated that for Sefaradim it is forbidden to own such a watch. It makes no difference whether the image is of a full moon or a half-moon.

Rav Ovadiyah also said that it is forbidden to make or possess a full-body, three-dimensional image of a person. It is permissible, however, to draw a flat image of a human being, or to make a drawing that features only a head and neck. He adds that it is certainly permissible to take photographs, be photographed, keep albums of pictures in one’s home and hang up pictures, such as pictures of Rabbis which many people hang in the Sukah. Even pictures of complete human figures are permissible; only three-dimensional figures are forbidden if they are full-body images.

Rav Ovadiyah notes that it would be forbidden to make or own a manikin, which is a three-dimensional representation of a complete human figure. In his sefer Halichot Olam, he states that women who wear sheitels may not have manikins on which to place their wigs. It should be noted, however, that generally women do not use full-body manikins for this purpose, but rather heads, which, as mentioned, are permissible.

In one of his responses, Rav Ovadiyah stated that despite the general prohibition against full-body representations of human beings, it is permissible to make, sell and own dolls used for play by children. He presents several arguments for allowing dolls, including the fact that they are not made for decorative purposes, but rather for children to play with. The prohibition against images of people relates to the possibility that the image may be looked upon as a kind of Avodah Zara, which of course does not apply in the case of a doll.