Marit Ayin/Suspicious actions
Mar'is Ha'ayin is the Halachik concept that certain actions, which should be permitted, are prohibited merely because other people could mistake what one is doing for something else that is prohibited, causing them to think that it is permissible or to view one negatively.
These Halachos arise very frequently. For example, kosher fake-shrimp products boast excellent and reputable hashgachas (supervision)--but can that lead to people thinking that real shrimp is kosher (which it most certainly is not )? Likewise, people commonly consume surimi products, begging the same question. As another application, is one able to use pareve creamer with coffee, and if so, is there a need to place the bottle next to the coffee? Another example: there is a restaurant which recently began making cheeseburgers using pareve cheese. Do people that see you eating that cheeseburger necessarily know that it contains pareve cheese? Along similar lines, can one ever walk into a non-kosher restaurant--is there a concern of maris ayin with a mashgiach walking into a non-kosher restaurant in order to do reverse certification (see footnote)? All these questions and others will be discussed below.
- 1 What is Maris Ayin ?
- 2 In Private
- 3 Surimi
- 4 Eating Imitation Food
- 5 Milk from Almonds
- 6 Pareve Creamer
- 7 Pareve ice cream
- 8 "Kosher Cheeseburger"
- 9 Walking into a non-Kosher Restaurant
- 10 Attending a meeting in a non-Kosher Restaurant
- 11 Entering a Cafeteria
- 12 Reverse Certification
- 13 Walking into a Coffee Shop
- 14 Entering a Reform Temple
- 15 Going in a Car after Candle Lighting
- 16 Water Sprinkler – Shabbos
- 17 Non - Leather Shoes on Yom Kippur
- 18 Eating Human Blood
- 19 Sleeping and eating at a Widow's Home
- 20 After note
- 21 Credits
- 22 Sources
What is Maris Ayin ?
- Some poskim say that if one is doing a permitted act but it appears that it is forbidden then there is maris ayin. Others say if one does something many times which may be forbidden and now one is doing it in the permitted manner, then there is maris ayin.
- Harav Moshe Feinstein zt"l says that maris ayin means "someone thinks that I violated something, and he thinks that someone inappropriately ate something non-kosher. However, it does not include doing something permitted that people may mistakenly think is forbidden due to the fact that they do not know the halacha."
What is Cheshad ?
- Some say cheshad is something that a person does and it could be translated into either permitted or forbidden.
- When something is not allowed because of maris ayin, then it is not permitted in one's room either (chadrei chadurim - privately). Some say this is only something which is perceived as an issur d'oraisa, and not something which is perceived as an issur d'rabbanan.
- Surimi is a Japanese word which refers to a food product typically made from white fleshed fish that has been pulverized to a paste and has a rubbery consistency when cooked. Surimi is used to imitate crab legs, lobster, and shrimp.
Eating Imitation Food
- The Gemorah in Chulin says that Yalta the wife of Rav Nachmun said that for every non-Kosher food there exists a counterpart which is Kosher. In response to this, her husband ordered that one of the foods be heated for her. The reason why Hashem did this is to give Klal Yisroel reward for watching the mitzvahs.
- Rashi says one should not say "I do not have a desire to eat pork." Instead one should say "I want it but I do not eat it because Hashem said I can not eat it."
- Based on the above, one would be able to eat kosher products which are meant to serve as a replica of the real non-kosher food, such as surimi. Some were not so happy with the fact that it says "shrimp" on the bag, but the custom of many is to be lenient with this.
Milk from Almonds
- The Rama says one who drinks milk made from almonds (pareve) in the same meal as animal meat should place some of the almonds next to him so there will be no concern of maris ayin. Some say one should do so even when eating chicken.
- However, if this is not possible, one may still eat the meat (or chicken) and pareve milk together. Some say the whole concern of maris ayin in this regard is by a big seuda, but if one is eating these foods at home there is no need to place the almonds on the table.
- The custom is that using pareve milk is permitted for a number of reasons. Eating chicken with almond milk was not part of the gezeirah. Therefore we should not be adding concerns of maris ayin which are not mentioned in the Gemorah. Furthermore, pareve milk is so common that no one would think one is using real milk for a coffee while eating a fleshig meal. There is no need to place the bottle of creamer on the table in order to let people know that the milk used is pareve.
Pareve ice cream
- One is permitted to eat pareve ice cream after a meat meal without placing the package on the table. Similarly, one is permitted to put margarine on meat, or butter on a soy burger since it is known to all that there exists pareve meat etc. In the company of people who do not know that there are such pareve products one should let them know what he is eating in order for them not to think he is doing incorrectly. One who wishes to drink pareve milk (which is not known to people) with meat should place the container on the table.
- Based on the aforementioned, there is no maris ayin issue involved in eating surimi. Since people know that surimi shrimp etc exists, we do not have to worry that one will think he is eating a non-kosher product.
- There is a store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan which recently started making a kosher cheeseburger by using pareve cheese. Is there a maris ayin issue by eating this burger? (We will not discuss whether eating this is permitted hashkafically). Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita said to avoid issues of maris ayin: The restaurant menu and receipts (for phone orders) must have on them the statement: "cheeseburger made with pareve cheese."
Walking into a non-Kosher Restaurant
- It is forbidden to enter a non-kosher restaurant because of maris ayin. However, one who is famished, and has nowhere else to eat (in place of tzar and loss) is allowed to walk into a non-kosher restaurant and eat any kosher food which they may serve (coffee etc). The reason why entering is permitted is because one who suffers a great loss may override a rabbinic prohibition to remove his suffering. Based on the above, one who does not have a different place in which to use the bathroom other than a non-kosher restaurant may enter the non-kosher restaurant to use their bathroom. Others are lenient with walking into a non-kosher restaurant to use the bathroom even if there is another bathroom available.
Attending a meeting in a non-Kosher Restaurant
- If one's boss asks him to meet a client in a non-kosher restaurant, one is permitted to do so if he will otherwise lose his job. However, if his job is not in jeopardy if he does not go to the non-kosher restaurant, then he should not go. In any case, one who finds himself in this situation should discuss it with a Rav.
Entering a Cafeteria
- If a company cafeteria sells all types of items, including a few which happen to be certified as kosher, then one may buy food from the cafeteria and eat at the tables. This is because it is well known that cafeterias sell both kosher and non-kosher items and that people eat all types of food there.
- It is permitted for a mashgiach to enter a non-kosher establishment for reverse certification. Since it is a requirement for the hashgacha organization it is permitted since maris ayin is permitted in the place of a loss.
Walking into a Coffee Shop
- The question arises if there is a concern of maris ayin with walking into a coffee shop to get a coffee, which sells kosher and non-kosher. Lemaseh, since a coffee shop sells kosher items (coffee) as well as non-kosher, there is no maris ayin concern. This is common when walking into a store at a rest stop. Walking into a store which sells only non-kosher would be a problem. Those who are makpid to only drink cholov yisroel, should be careful not to drink from an opened cholov yisroel bottle at a rest stop unless you see the person in the store opening it, since you can not verify that cholov yisroel milk is in there.
Entering a Reform Temple
- Some hold that one is not permitted to enter a reform temple at the time of davening to daven in a room which is designated for Orthodox prayer because one who sees him may think that a religious person davened there or someone may learn from this and say "davening in a reform temple is permitted." 
Going in a Car after Candle Lighting
- It is very common for a man to drive to shul (a short distance) after his wife has lit candles. This is permitted and not considered maris ayin, since it is well known that a man can do melacha until eighteen minutes after his wife has lit candles. Even if a few people might think he did something wrong, it is not maris ayin since those who think he did something wrong are ignorant.
Water Sprinkler – Shabbos
Non - Leather Shoes on Yom Kippur
Eating Human Blood
- One is not allowed to eat human blood which separated from the body because of maris ayin, however, blood which is still in one's mouth (i.e. from brushing teeth) can be swallowed, but if it is not in the mouth it is not permitted because of maris ayin. People may think it is blood from an animal etc which is forbidden m'd'oriaisa to eat.
- According to some opinions, if one sucks a bloody wound and spits out the blood there is no concern.
- Blood which is in one's mouth but came onto a piece of bread is forbidden to be eaten unless one removes the blood.
Sleeping and eating at a Widow's Home
- There is no concern of maris ayin if a man wants to stay at a widow's home when she is out of town. 
- We have discussed the halachos of maris ayin and how people may perceive one's actions. The Gemorah in Yoma says that one should act in a way that people will say "fortunate is his father and rebbe who taught him Torah." One should do things which will be a Kiddush Hashem and people will say with admiration: "he is a frum Jew."
- Special thanks to Rabbi Moishe Dovid Lebovits Rabbinical Administrator for KOF-K Kosher Supervision and author of Halachically Speaking for this article. To reach the author please email email@example.com.
- e.g. KOF-K and OK
- shulchan Aruch Y.D. 83:1. It lacks the proper Simanim.
- Reverse certification is when a company gives a hechsher on a restaurant etc and the owner has a different store which is non-kosher. The mashgiach goes into the non-kosher store to make sure no non-kosher is going out with the kashrus label on the product.
- Minchas Shlomo 2-3:53. Refer to Hamesivta 5742 pages 187-190, Kovetz Bais Aron Veyisroel 87:pages 31-34.
- Igros Moshe O.C. 1:96. Refer to Igros Moshe O.C. 2:40 on the difference between maris ayin and cheshad.
- Igros Moshe O.C. 1:96. See Igros Moshe O.C. 4:82.
- Refer to Minchas Shmuel 1:page 190. See Mesechtas Shekalim 3:2.
- Mesechtas Shabbos 64b.
- Tosfas Mesechtas Kesubos 60a m’machein, Bais Yosef O.C. 336 (towards end), Magen Avraham 301:56. Refer to Pischei Teshuva Y.D. 330:2 who brings a disputing opinion.
- Mesechtas Chulin 109b.
- Refer to Medrash Tanchuma Shemenei 8, Yalkut Shemonei Shemenei remez 527.
- Medrash Tanchuma Ibid.
- Vayikra 20:26.
- Opinion of Harav Chaim Kanievesky Shlita quoted in Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 50:page 107. Refer to an article by Harav Matisyahu Solomon Shlita in the Jewish Observer January 2004 page 8 who argues.
- Refer to Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 50:pages 102, 103, 105.
- Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita.
- Y.D. 87:3, Chochmas Adom 40:3, Aruch Hashulchan 16. Refer to Rashba 3:257.
- See Mishpatei U’ziel 1:17.
- Shach 6, Taz 4, Be’er Sheva 17, Rav Poalim O.C. 3:11, Aprakasisa Deyana 1:117, Aruch Hashulchan 16, Yechaveh Daas 3:59.
- Taz Y.D. 87:4, Mishbetzes Zehav 4, see Shach 6, Sifsei Daas 6. Refer to Be’er Heitiv 6 who says one always has to put out the almonds (see Divrei Yatziv Lekutim 68).
- Pischei Teshuva 87:10.
- Refer to Devar Shmuel 92:page 40.
- Refer to Machzik Beracha Y.D. 87:6, Yugel Yaakov 23.
- Yechaveh Daas 3:59. See P’leasi Y.D. 87:8.
- Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita, see Yabia Omer Y.D. 6:8. The Be’er Moshe (Pischei Halacha- Kashrus page 113:7) holds that one has to place the bottle on the table. See Badi Hashulchan 87:48, Biurim “sh’keidim.”
- Yabia Omer Ibid. See Tzitz Eliezer 5:12.
- Cheshev Ha’efod 1:20:page 17, see Yugel Yaakov 23, Badi Hashulchan 87:48.
- Hechsheiros 10:footnote 99. It is proper not to walk in the street eating a soy sandwich with a milk drink in your hand ( Ibid).
- Hechsheiros 10:42.
- Refer to Kashrus Magazine issue #138:pages 48-50.
- This is expressed in OU document X-94 in depth. Refer to Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 53:pages 103-104. The Badatz in Yerushalayim did not agree to certify such a product (Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 50:page 105).
- Igros Moshe 2:40. Refer to Mesechtas Kesubos 60a.
- Opinion of Harav Shachter (OU) in a letter sent by Rabbi Eli Gersten from the OU.
- Divrei Chaim O.C. 1:6, see Rav Poalim O.C. 3:21, Maharsham 1:66.
- Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita. Refer to Igros Moshe O.C. 1:96.
- Harav Yisroel Belsky Shlita.
- Igros Moshe O.C. 2:40. Refer to Kashrus Kurrents from the Star-K.
- Igros Moshe O.C. 2:40. See Igros Moshe O.C. 3:25
- Igros Moshe O.C. 1:96. Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l still avoided traveling in a car after candle lighting because of a maris ayin concern. In regard to keeping an umbrella open before Shabbos see Nodeh Beyehuda 2:30.
- Halichos Shlomo Moadim 5:16. For this reason Harav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach zt”l instructed people to buy white shoes not black ones (Shalmei Moed 20:footnote 45, see Minchas Shlomo 2:58:29, Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchoso 39:footnote 113). Refer to Natei Gavriel Ben Hamitzurim 2:74:11 who argues.
- Mesechtas Kesubos 60a, Rambam Machalos Asuros 6:2, Tur Y.D. 66, Bais Yosef Y.D. 66, Chinuch 148, Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 66:10, Levush 66:10.
- Others say it is an issur d’rabbanan (Aruch Hashulchan 66:35).
- Shulchan Aruch 66:10, Levush 10. This is discussed in Vayikra 7:26, see Vayikra 3:17, 17, 14, Devarim 12,16, 12, 24. In regard to the reason for the issur see Chinuch Ibid.
- Refer to Darchei Teshuva Y.D. 86:68 in depth.
- Mesechtas Kesubos Ibid, Shulchan Aruch Ibid, see Darchei Teshuva 69, Hechsheiros page 238.
- Harav Moshe Feinstein zt"l in Igros Moshe O.C. 1:96, E.H. 3:19, O.C. 4:82 writes that we are not concerned with the fact that some people may think that she was home and he is transgressing yichud since there are many ways in which one can avoid yichud, therefore, there is no maris ayin.