Halachot of Visiting Museum

Art Museums

Q: It is permissible to visit an art museum which displays both modest and immodest art, in order to see only the Kosher art?

A: It depends on the nature of the museum, and one must be certain that he will not stumble at all (Maran Ha-Rav Kook wrote: "When I lived in London, I would visit the National Gallery and the pictures which were most beloved to me were from Rembrandt.”  Yovel Orot, p. 168.  And see further in Moadei Ha-Re'eiyah of Ha-Rav Neria, chap. 13 on Chanukah.  And the Lubavitcher Rebbe said about the Rebbe Rashab - the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe – that he spent many hours in the Louvre in Paris staring at a painting which stimulated many Chasidic ideas.  Igrot Kodesh, vol. 26, #9, p. 669.  Igrot Kodesh of the Rebbe Rayatz, pp. 397-398.  And in 5773, the Admor of Karlin-Stolin visited the Israel Museum in order to see an exhibition about Chasidic culture).

"Body Works" Exhibition?

Q: Is it permissible to visit the "Body Works" exhibition which presents dead bodies?

A: No. Shaming the deceased (This is the ruling of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.  See Shut Da'at Cohain #199.  Piskei Uziel #32).


Cohanim entering a Museum that has a Mummy

Q: Is it permissible for a Cohain to enter a Natural History museum that has a mummy?

A: There is a dispute if a non-Jewish corpse spreads impurity in an enclosed area (Tumat Ha-Ohel), and it is permissible to be lenient (Shulchan Aruch and Rama, Yoreh Deah 372:2.  And we have heard in the name of Ha-Rav Moshe Feinstein that he permitted it, but he warned against a Cohain touching a mummy).  And there are those who are strict (Taharat Ha-Cohanim Ke-Halachah 5:6).


Cohanim in Yad Vashem

Q: Is it permissible for Cohanim to enter Yad Vashem, since there are ashes of victims there?

A: Ashes do not impart impurity (Shut Be-Mareh Ha-Bazek 5:105.  See Shut Chelkat Yaakov Yoreh Deah #217).

Israel Museum

Q: Is it permissible for Cohanim to enter the Israel Museum, since there are bones there?

A: Yes, they are not real bones, but imitations made from different materials.

Gush Katif Museum

Q: Is it permissible to visit the Gush Katif Museum in Yerushalayim?

A: Yes, while making sure that one guards his Ahavat Yisrael (see Sefer Ha-Tanya, Chapter 32).

Islamic Museum in Jerusalem

Q: Is it permissible to visit the Islamic Museum?

A: No. Islam is heresy, since it claims that the Torah has been nullified. We do not strengthen those who are transgressing (See Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah 2:2.  Shut Tzitzit Eliezer 10:1, Chapter 9 #44. 14:91).


Wax Museum

Q: Is it permissible to visit a wax museum?

A: In Eretz Yisrael – no, since it is forbidden to make figures, but outside of Israel – yes (The basic Halachah is that it is only forbidden to make the form of a person's face.  Taz 141:15.  But at this time people do not worship figures and we do not suspect that they are used for idol worship.  Chochmat Adam 85:6.  Shach 141:23.  It seems that there is no prohibition to look at them.  Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 5:72 in the short Q&A.  Nevertheless, it is known that in the museum in Eretz Yisrael the figures of people are crafted by Jews. Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv therefore rules that it is forbidden to visit there since it is a desecration of Hashem's Name to benefit from a transgression, and attending the museum is aiding transgressors.  Brought in Shut Avnei Yeshpeh 1:51.  Shut Teshuvot Ve-Hanhagot 3:263.  Shut Rivevot Ephraim 3:504.  And see Shut Da'at Kohain #65-66 at length.  Shut Yabia Omer 3:8).           


Q: It is permission to visit the museum of the Shomronim?

A: No, on account of strengthening transgressors (as our Sages defined the Kutim.  Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 267:47).


Entering Reform Institution in order to Enter Museum

Q: Is it permissible to enter the Reform institution on King David St. in Yerushalayim in order to enter the archeological museum located there?

A: Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach ruled that it is permissible if it is for an educational purpose which cannot be attained in another way (Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol vol. 1, p. 67).

Visiting The Israel Museum on Shabbat

Q: Is it permissible to visit The Israel Museum on Shabbat if it is permissible to enter without paying or if one can pre-purchase a ticket before Shabbat?

A: It is forbidden since keeping it open involves Shabbat desecration (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 318:1).


Museum during 9 Days

Q: Is it permissible to visit a museum during the 9 Days?

A: Yes (see Shut Aseh Lecha Rav 2:35.  Shut She'eilat Shomo 1:207).


Natural History Museum

Q: Is it permissible to visit a Natural History Museum which has exhibitions about the Big Bang, Evolution, dinosaurs, etc.?

A: Yes.  These are not issues of faith but of science.  The Maharal says that the purpose of science is to describe reality, while the Torah describes what reality should be, i.e. what is good and what is bad (Netiv Ha-Torah, Netiv 14).  It is possible that there was a Big Bang: And in the beginning, G-d created heaven and earth through the Big Bang.  Maran Ha-Rav Kook said that Evolution does not contradict the Torah.  He also said that the theory of Evolution needs to evolve.  And regarding that the dinosaurs being a few million years old, when according to the Torah the world is 5773 years old, Maran Ha-Rav Kook explains that Hashem created worlds and destroyed them before creating our current world (Bereshit Rabbah 3:7, 9:2 and Kohelet Rabbah 3:11).  The worlds were destroyed but certain remnants remained (Igrot Ha-Re'eiyah vol. 1 #91.  "Derush Or Ha-Chaim" by the Tiferet Yisrael found in Mishnayot Nezikin after Massechet Sanhedrin).