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Shevat 9, 5770

Direction of Sleeping


Rabbi Yoel Lieberman

Question:
I would like to know about the prohibition of sleeping with the feet in the direction of the door of the room. Is it in the overall direction, or just in the front of the door?Is it Minhag Ashkenazi, Sefaradi, both, Kabalah, or etc?
Thank you..

Answer:
In the sefer "Shmirat Haguf Vehanefesh", which is a most comprehensive book dealing with customs which have influence on our physical and spiritual well-being, by Rav Yosef Yitzchak Lerner , in his foreword to chapter 16, he mentions that there are many practices in certain families for which he has found no source; such as not to walk around in the home with socks alone without shoes and other customs, possibly because to avoid behaving the way mourners do during the shivah.

In a later edition of his book, the author wrote an addendum to the tenth edition of his book on page 815. There he writes that he was asked by no less than by the Gaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky for the source of the minhag not to sleep with feet in the direction of the door. He mentions two sources which could possibly be the basis of the minhag: From Rav Yehuda Hachasid (The Tosafist) who mentions that the feet of the deceased should be towards the door after the Tahara. As a second source he brings the Responsa of the Chattam Sofer Yored De'ah 332 who says that that the deceased are buried with their feet opposite the entrance as a hint of our faith in Techiyat Hametim, that when the deceased will arise at that time he will exit through the gate which is opposite the place of burial.

So on the one hand we must be respectful of minhagim even if we don't know there source, and on the hand we must be cautious not to do things which are against halacha may have infiltrated from foreign sources. Then again not all the minhagim were accepted by all communities and therefore if it was not your family's minhag you are not obligated to follow it.

Though Rav Belsky mentions the custom of some from the Chevra Kadisha, he is of the opinion that the custom seems to be lenient and one may sleep with either his head or feet pointing in the direction of the door.


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