The Position of the Bed

One is advised to position one's bed so that it faces north-to-south rather that east-to-west.[1] This notion originates in the Talmud[2] which teaches that the positioning one's bed in this manner is conducive to a number of benefits, as we will soon see. While these guidelines are intended primarily for the marital bed,[3] this arrangement is recommended even for those who sleep alone.[4] This is especially true if one sleeps without any clothes.[5] There are also a number of teachings regarding how to position one's body when going to sleep.[6] Nevertheless, in the event that one is unable to follow these guidelines, one should not "lose sleep" over it, and ultimately any position is acceptable.

The Talmud notes that there is actually a Scriptural source for these sleeping arrangements in the verse: "…the belly you fill with your treasure (tzfuncha) who have sons in plenty",[7] as if to say that placing one's bed in the "tzafon" (north)  will lead to having "sons in plenty". Furthermore, since God's presence is said to hover between east and west, it was felt that it would inappropriate to engage in marital relations within this corridor.[8] Therefore, positioning one's bed in a north-to-south manner avoids a direct collision with the Shechina during marital relations. However, it is permissible to engage in marital relations in an east-west direction should it prove more convenient.[9]

It is also taught that sleeping in a north-south orientation recalls the creation of Adam, who was formed while positioned in a north to south manner.[10] There is also a view which teaches that positioning one's bed from north to south is a fulfillment of the mitzva of "moreh hamikdash," the obligation to show reverence for the Beit Hamikdash. This is because the "heichal," the sanctuary, was situated on the western side of the Beit Hamikdash complex. As such, it is considered praiseworthy to avoid sleeping parallel to where the heichal once stood. While God's presence is certainly everywhere at all times, there are, however, certain points on the compass where His presence is said to be stronger, or more dominant, at different times throughout the day.[11]

It is interesting to note, however, that there exists a completely contradictory approach to all that has been mentioned above. According to kabbala, it is actually the width of the bed which should be positioned from north to south and the length of the bed which should be positioned from east to west.[12] This arrangement is based on kabbalistic considerations relating to the placements of the "sefirot."[13] Although a number of authorities have attempted to resolve this blatant contradiction,[14] it is simply irreconcilable.[15] Even though as a general rule, whenever there is a dispute between halacha and kabbala we are to follow halacha,[16] a number of authorities feel that in this particular situation the kabbalistic approach should be followed.[17] Some authorities suggest that the whole issue of how one should position one's bed all depends on one's geographical location in the world in relation to Jerusalem.[18]

There are a number of authorities who rule that in our day there is no need to be particular about this issue at all.[19] In fact, the entire subject of positioning one's bed is mysteriously absent from a number of fundamental halachic works. As such, it may just be that the entire issue of how to position of one's bed is merely advisory in nature and not a halachic requirement whatsoever.[20] There is also no need for one to rearrange one's bedroom after reading this chapter, as one will find halachic support for any direction one chooses to position one's bed.[21]

Somewhat related to this discussion is the hesitation to sleep in such a way that one's feet are facing the door of the room. The reason people avoid sleeping in this manner is based on the traditional practice to remove the dead from a room feet-first. This idea is found in the teachings of "feng shui," as well:

"Whatever you do, make sure your feet don't point out the door while in bed. In traditional Chinese culture, this is called the "Death Position" because the deceased are carried out feet first. Practitioners believe sleeping this way can drain your life force. If you can't avoid it, use a footboard or a substantial trunk or other piece of furniture at the foot of your bed to act as a buffer".[22]

While those who are superstitiously inclined may prefer to avoid sleeping with their feet facing the door, there does not seem to be any halachic basis for this. Those whose bedrooms are already positioned in this manner should pay no attention to any such superstitious concerns.[23]

[1] O.C. 3:6, 240:17

[2] Berachot 5b

[3] Rashi, Tosfot ad loc.

[4] Rambam Beit Habechira 7:9, O.C. 3:6

[5] Mishna Berura 3:12

[6] Pri Eitz Chaim, Shaar Hashechina cited in Vayeishev Hayam 1

[7] Tehillim 17:14

[8] Rashi ad loc.

[9] Shulchan Aruch Harav 3:10

[10] Kaf Hachaim 3:16

[11] Bava Batra 25a

[12] Zohar;Bamidbar 118b, Shaar Hamitzvot Bereishit (Arizal)

[13] See Vayeishev Hayam 1

[14] Mishna Berura 3:11, Machatzit Hashekel

[15] Vayeishev Hayam 1

[16] Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 25:29

[17] Mishna Berura 3:11, Kaf Hachaim 3:16, Vayeishev Hayam 1

[18] Beit Yosef O.C. 3

[19] Kaf Hachaim 3:16, the wording of Rashi leads to this conclusion as well

[20] Aruch Hashulchan 3:13

[21] Aruch Hashulchan 3:13

[22] Cited at:

[23] Shuva Yisrael 1:3