Mezuzah on a Rental

Question #1: Tenancy

“We rented a new apartment but did not put up mezuzos immediately, figuring that we had thirty days to do so. Someone told me that Rav Moshe held that we should put up mezuzos immediately. Is that true?”

Question #2: Temporary Dwelling

“When we went to visit our children in Ramat Beit Shemesh for two weeks, they had borrowed for us  a brand-new apartment that the owners themselves had not yet  used. I was surprised to see mezuzos on the doors already. My son-in-law explained that he put up mezuzos in the entire apartment, so that we could use it. Was he required to do so? I thought that one is not required to have mezuzos unless one lives in a place for at least a month.”

Question #3: Mezuzah on a Rehab

“My mother unfortunately fell and broke her femur and will be staying for an extended period of time in a rehabilitation hospital. Are we required to make sure that there is a kosher mezuzah on the door of her room?”

Basic Information:

The Torah requires that a mezuzah be placed on the doorposts of “your” house, beisecha. What is the definition of beisecha? Does the mitzvah apply even when I live in a house that I do not own? Does it apply to a property I own, even if I do not live there? These questions are addressed by the Gemara and its major early commentaries.

The Gemara (Pesachim 4a; Bava Metzia 101b; Avodah Zarah 21a) teaches that the obligation to put up a mezuzah devolves upon the person living in a house, and not upon a non-resident owner. Thus, a Jew who rents his home from a gentile is obligated to have mezuzos on the doors (Rambam, Hilchos Mezuzah 5:11; Beis Yosef, end of Yoreh Deah 286; however, cf. Hagahos Maimonis 5:7 who quotes a disputing opinion), whereas a Jewish landlord who owns residential properties where he does not live is not obligated to place mezuzos there.

When one Jew rents his house or apartment to a second Jew, the requirement to place a mezuzah rests with the tenant.

The Gemara’s Statement

There is another Talmudic passage that expands upon the previously-quoted rulings:

“One who lives in an inn in Eretz Yisroel, or one who rents a house in chutz la’aretz, is exempt from the mitzvah of mezuzah for thirty days. [If he rents] for longer, he is required to put up a mezuzah. However, one who rents a house in Eretz Yisroel must put a mezuzah up immediately, because this assists in the settling of Eretz Yisroel” (Menachos 44a).

This passage of Gemara mentions three halachos:

1. Someone who lives in an inn, hotel, or other temporary residence is, in general, not obligated to put up a mezuzah. The Gemara states that someone who dwells in an inn in Eretz Yisroel for thirty days becomes obligated in mezuzah.

2. Someone who rents a house or apartment for thirty days or more must put up a mezuzah.

3. However, someone who rents or borrows a house or apartment in Eretz Yisroel must put up a mezuzah immediately.

More Details

In order to answer our opening questions, we will need to clarify each of these halachos in more detail. First we will explain the rules governing a tenant in chutz la’aretz, who is required to put up a mezuzah when he lives thirty days in a rented or borrowed residence.

The first question is: As we mentioned above, the Torah requires placing a mezuzah on beisecha, your house. If a rented residence qualifies as “your house,” then a tenant should be obligated to place a mezuzah there immediately, and if a rented residence does not qualify as “your house,” then the tenant should not be obligated in the mitzvah, even if he lives there longer.

What difference does thirty days make?

As we can imagine, we are not the first to raise this question. Tosafos (Menachos 44a s.v. Talis) asks this question and presents two very different answers.

I. The person dwelling in a residence is the one who requires the shemirah that the mezuzah provides. For this reason, the mezuzah is the tenant’s responsibility. However, someone living in a dwelling for less than thirty days is not yet considered to be a resident. According to this approach, the requirement to install a mezuzah on a rented dwelling in which one lives for thirty days is min haTorah.

II. The second approach understands that min haTorah a tenant is not required to have a mezuzah on his door, since the Torah’s word beisecha, your house, implies that only one who owns the residence is required to have a mezuzah. A tenant who lives in a residence for thirty days is required to have a mezuzah as a takkanas chachamim instituted by the Sages, because the house appears to be his.

Several later authorities conclude that the second approach, that a tenant’s obligation to put up a mezuzah is only miderabbanan, is the approach that we follow in practical halachah (Shu”t Rabbi Akiva Eiger, 1:66; Shu”t Avnei Nezer, Yoreh Deah, #380).

What if I Borrow?

The halachic authorities rule that just as someone who rents a residence for thirty days is obligated to have a mezuzah, so, too, someone who borrows a residence for thirty days or more without paying any rent is obligated to have a mezuzah (Rabbeinu Manoach, quoted by Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah, end of 286).

Is the Requirement for a Mezuzah Immediate?

At this point, I want to address the first question we quoted above:

“We rented a new apartment but did not put up mezuzos immediately, figuring that we had thirty days to do so. Someone told me that Rav Moshe held that we should put up mezuzos immediately. Is that true?”

The question here is: If someone knows that he will be living in a house or apartment for more than thirty days, does he have no chiyuv until the thirtieth day, or does the fact that he will be living there for thirty days create an immediate chiyuv? This matter is disputed. Some authorities contend that someone who intends to rent or borrow a home or apartment for more than thirty days becomes obligated in mezuzah immediately (Derech HaChayim; Shu”t Harei Besamim 2:219, quoted by Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak 2:82). This approach is implied by Rashi (Menachos 44a), who writes that a tenant is not obligated in mezuzah for thirty days because he might back out of the rental, thus implying that if he is already committed to renting it for more than thirty days, he is required to put up a mezuzah immediately.

Some derive support for this position from the halachah that someone who moves into a community is not obligated in local taxes until he lives there for thirty days. However, someone who demonstrates intention to live in the community for thirty days or more becomes obligated to pay taxes immediately. Thus, we see that intention to live somewhere for thirty days may determine permanent dwelling status.

However, other authorities contend that a tenant’s obligation to put up a mezuzah is because it looks as if he is living there permanently, and this does not happen until he is actually there for thirty days. They contend that even someone who signed a multi-year lease is not obligated to put up a mezuzah until he lives in the rental home for thirty days (Nachalas Zvi to Yoreh Deah 286:22; Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 286:18).

Although some later authorities prefer that a long-term tenant put up the mezuzah immediately in deference to the Derech HaChayim’s position (Shu”t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:179), the more common practice is to follow the second approach, that of the Nachalas Zvi, that one is not obligated to put up the mezuzah immediately upon moving in.

When should I actually put it up?

Assuming that a tenant is not required to do so until thirty days have passed, may he put up the mezuzah earlier and already recite a brocha, or should he wait until the thirtieth day? The question is: since the Nachalas Zvi rules that a tenant is not obligated to put up a mezuzah until he is living there for thirty days, perhaps one cannot recite a brocha upon installing the mezuzah until one is obligated to do so.

We find a dispute in this matter. The Nachalas Zvi and the Halachos Ketanos (quoted by Birkei Yosef, Yoreh Deah 286:7) conclude that, although it may be a bigger mitzvah to wait until the thirtieth day, so that one performs the mitzvah at a time when one is required to do so, one may put up the mezuzah any time during the thirty day period with a brocha. Others rule that one should not recite a brocha until the thirtieth day (Toras Chesed quoted by Birkei Yosef, Yoreh Deah 286:7; and others quoted by Chovas Hadar, page 29, ftn. 8).

Thus, we have three approaches as to what to do:

1. Put up the mezuzah immediately.

2. Put up the mezuzah any time during the thirty days.

3. Put up the mezuzah specifically on the thirtieth day.

I advise each individual to ask his or her own posek which approach to follow.

Temporary Dwelling in Eretz Yisroel

At this point, let us discuss the third point made by the Gemara I quoted above – that someone who rents or borrows a house or apartment in Eretz Yisroel must put up a mezuzah immediately.

How does putting up a mezuzah assist the settling of Eretz Yisroel?

To explain this idea, we need to discuss a different law. The halachah is that, when vacating a residence, one is usually required to leave the mezuzos in place. To quote the Gemara: “When a Jew rents a house to a fellow Jew, the tenant is responsible to affix the mezuzos. However, when the tenant vacates, he may not remove them. On the other hand, a Jew who rents a residence from a gentile removes the mezuzos when he leaves” (Bava Metzia 102a).

Based on this halachah, Rashi (Menachos 44a) explains why Chazal required someone renting in Eretz Yisroel to put up a mezuzah immediately. Since the tenant may not take the mezuzos with him, he will be reticent to move. And even if he does move, since the mezuzos are left behind, a different Jew will be eager to rent it, since he spares himself the expense of purchasing mezuzos. Either way, the dwelling will remain with a Jewish resident, which accomplishes that “this assists in the settling of Eretz Yisroel.”

Borrowing in Eretz Yisroel

We can now discuss the question I raised at the beginning of our article:

“When we went to visit our children in Ramat Beit Shemesh for two weeks, they had borrowed for us a brand-new apartment that the owners themselves had not yet used. I was surprised to see mezuzos on the doors already. My son-in-law explained that he put up mezuzos in the entire apartment, so that we could use it. Was he required to do so? I thought that one is not required to have mezuzos, unless one lives in a place for at least a month.”

As I mentioned above, the Gemara rules that someone who rents a house in Eretz Yisroel must put a mezuzah up immediately, because this assists in the settling of Eretz Yisroel. And, since borrowing a house is the same as renting it (Rama 286:22), a person who borrows someone’s house for just one night is required to install mezuzos on the entire house.

The “Inn” Thing

As I mentioned above, someone who lives in an inn, hotel, or other temporary residence is, in general, not obligated to put up a mezuzah. Since it is assumed that an inn is not a place in which one lives permanently, it is not considered a “dwelling” (Shach, Yoreh Deah 286:28). Rashi (Menachos 32b s.v. Hayu) implies that someone living temporarily in a residence that is clearly not intended to be permanent is not required to have a mezuzah, even if he owns the “residence.”

Thus, we see that if one is in a hotel in Eretz Yisroel, he or she is not required to have a mezuzah, and therefore certainly not required to ascertain if the mezuzos on the hotel room door are kosher.

Inn Chutz La’aretz

However, the Gemara states that someone who dwells in an inn in Eretz Yisroel for thirty days becomes obligated in mezuzah. What about someone whose permanent residence is in chutz la’aretz and in an inn? Is he obligated to put up a mezuzah?

Most authorities explain that someone who lives permanently in an inn in chutz la’aretz is not obligated to put up a mezuzah, because this is not considered having a house (see Chovas Hadar, page 31, footnote 16). Only in Eretz Yisroel did Chazal require one to put up a mezuzah if he lives permanently in a place that is usually meant for temporary dwelling. (Perhaps this explains why so many people in Eretz Yisroel live permanently in temporary housing, such as caravans and caravillas.)

However, the Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Deah 286:48) implies that someone living in an inn in chutz la’aretz for more than thirty days is required to put up a mezuzah, and I believe that this is the more common practice.

What about a Hut?

Later authorities discuss whether someone who lives in a hut or similar accommodation for longer than thirty days must put up a mezuzah. The Sdei Chemed concludes that if someone moves for more than thirty days into a hut, bungalow or similar accommodation, he is obligated in mezuzah, whereas someone living in a hut as a refugee is not obligated to put up a mezuzah (Volume 4 page 245). Others rule that one should put up a mezuzah without a brocha, even if he is a refugee (Chazon Nachum, quoted by Birkei Yosef, Yoreh Deah 286:9)

What about a Mobile Home?

The Minchas Yitzchak (2: 82) discusses whether someone who lives permanently in a mobile home is required to put up a mezuzah, concluding that he is required to do so; however the Minchas Yitzchak is uncertain whether he should recite a brocha when he puts it up.

A Boarding House

The Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Deah 286:46) rules that although someone staying temporarily in an inn is exempt from the mitzvah of mezuzah, this is true only when the room or the inn is not a part of someone’s house. However, a Jewish person who takes in boarders into his house is required to have mezuzos on all the doors. This is not a requirement because of the tenants, but because of the owner – having boarders is considered a residential use of his own property that requires him to have a mezuzah, just as all other rooms in his house must have one.

A similar situation would exist if someone has gentile help living in his house, or if he rents out rooms in his house to gentiles. Even though a gentile has no obligation to put up a mezuzah, since this is a room in his house, he is required to put up a mezuzah.

A Guest House

Chovas HaDor (page 20, ftn 1) explains that the Aruch HaShulchan includes the obligation for mezuzah only when the guest rooms are in the owner’s house. However, if a separate structure is used as a guesthouse, the owner has no responsibility to place mezuzos there.

If the gentile employees live in a separate building on one’s property, and the owner does not use that property for his own domestic needs, then there is no requirement to put a mezuzah on the gentiles’ residences (Chovas HaDor page 20, ftn 1).

In a Rehab Center

At this point, we should discuss the unfortunate third case mentioned above:

“My mother, unfortunately, fell and broke her femur and will be staying for an extended period of time in a rehabilitation hospital. Are we required to make sure that there is a kosher mezuzah on the door of her room?”

This question is discussed by one of the great Nineteenth Century halachic authorities, the Avnei Nezer. He concludes that someone hospitalized for an extensive period of time is not required to place a mezuzah on a hospital room for two reasons:

Even according to those opinions that a long-term tenant is obligated min haTorah to put up a mezuzah, the Avnei Nezer notes that this is true only when he rents a specific room, apartment or house. However, a patient in a hospital or rehab program is entitled to a bed only somewhere in the facility, and the hospital may move him to a different room without obtaining his agreement. Thus, he certainly has no ownership that requires him to have a mezuzah on the door.

In addition, if a tenant’s obligation to put up a mezuzah is a rabbinic requirement, it is because his use of the property it similar to that of an owner. Someone “dwelling” in a hospital can never be viewed as an owner or as having ownership. Therefore, the Avnei Nezer concludes that a patient in a hospital has no requirement to have a mezuzah on the door. (See also Shu”t Chayim Sha’al #22, who reaches the same conclusion.)

Mezuzah Rewards

Aside from fulfilling a mitzvah commanded by Hashem, the mitzvah of mezuzah serves to remind us constantly of His Presence, every time we enter and exit our houses. In addition, the Gemara teaches that someone who is meticulous in his observance of the laws of mezuzah will merit acquiring a nice home (Shabbos 23b). We thus see that care in observing this mitzvah not only protects one’s family against any calamity, but also rewards one with a beautiful domicile. May we all merit being careful, always, in our observance of the laws of mezuzah and the other mitzvos, and reaping all the rewards, both material and spiritual, for doing so!

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