By: Joseph Jacobs
An object having a nearly perfect reflecting surface. In ancient times mirrors were invariably made of metal; in Egypt, of polished brass. It is no doubt this kind of mirror to which reference is made in Ex. xxxviii. 8 and in Job xxxvii, 18. Reflections might also be seen in still water (Prov. xxvii. 19). In the enumeration of women's ornaments in Isa. iii. 23, hand-mirrors seem to be included; but this is somewhat doubtful. References to mirrors occur in the Apocrypha (Ecclus. [Sirach] xxii. 11) and in the New Testament (I Cor. xxxiii. 12).
The Rabbis were acquainted with the use of mirrors, sometimes employing metal (Kelim xxx. 2). On the Sabbath it was not allowable to look into a mirror unless it was fixed on a wall (Shab. 149a). It would appear that later there was a tendency to forbid men to view themselves in mirrors, as this was regarded as effeminate (see Levy, "Neuhebr. Wörterb." i. 236). Nevertheless, the members of Rabbi's family were allowed to do so (Yer. Shab. vi. 7) because they were "close to the government."
The modern Jews of eastern Europe have a number of superstitions in regard to mirrors the exact origin of which it is difficult to trace. Mirrors are covered when a person dies. The angel of death will be seen if one looks into a mirror at such a time. If a mirror is broken, seven years of poverty will result; this is a general superstition, and not confined to Jews. In Galicia it is supposed that if one puts a mirror in front of a sleeping man with a candle between them, the sleeper will follow a person whither the latter wills. If the sleeper strikes one under these circumstances, the person stricken will not live more than a year.