This issue is fairly well known in Yeshivishe circles. However, before
discussing how well it is kept we need to take a better look at the
1. While the Shulchan Aruch (based on the Gemorah) states that the bed
must not lie in an east-west direction, the Zohar (cited by the Mishna
Berura) apparently says that it specifically *should* lie in an east-west
direction. Many sources (cited by the MB) decide in favor of the Zohar.
The MB does not, based upon a statement of the Gr'a that the Zohar
actually agrees with the Gemorah. This is not a universally accepted
opinion (as should be obvious from the MB's own statement).
2. The Tur does not mention this halacha. The Aruch HaShulchan explains
that the Tur believed it to be only a a proper practice (zrizus b'alma)
and not binding. The AHS further states that we pasken like the Tur.
3. The Shulchan Aruch (who apparently does hold this law to be binding)
specifically says that it is only a requirement when one is sharing his bed
with his wife (the SA HaRAv adds, "and his intent is for conjugal
relations"). If one is sleeping alone it is only a good practice. The MB
says that one need not be concerned with this (when sleeping alone) unless
one is sleeping naked. (I'm unsure whether blankets are considered a
covering regarding this.)
4. The Shulchan Aruch HaRav 3:10 states, "If it is not easy for one to
turn the bed so that it lies north-south, there is no prohibition for him
to have relations with his wife while lying east-west. And one can rely
upon the Zohar that requires specifically that the head face east and the
end face west."
So we see that this practice is not necessarily a requirement (Tur)
especially when inconvenient (SA HaRav) and that there is substantial
disagreement what the proper practice is to begin with (MB, Aruch
HaShulchan and others). Even so, many families do use it as a criteria
for placing their beds.
Eliezer C. Abrahamson
176 East 9th St., Lakewood, NJ 08701
(908) 905-6877 e-mail: Abrahamson@juno.com