You Can’t Take It with You — Moving and Removing Mezuzos

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU!

Question #1: “We are moving residences, and I understand that I must leave the mezuzos in my old home. However, they are beautiful, mehudar mezuzos that I would like to use in my new dwelling. Is there any way that I can take these mezuzos with me?”

Question #2: “My landlord is not Jewish, but this is a neighborhood where only frum Jews are moving in. Do I remove my mezuzos when I leave?”

Question #3: As I was preparing this article, someone called me with the following actual shaylah:

“We will be spending a few days with my ailing father who lives in Israel in an assisted living facility. We can stay in an apartment in his building, but there are no mezuzos on the doors. I know that in Israel one must place a mezuzah on one’s residence, even if one stays only overnight. I can borrow mezuzos for our stay; however, may I remove them when we depart?”

Answer: The obligation of placing mezuzos is incumbent on the person living in the house; nevertheless, when vacating the premises, one is usually required to leave the mezuzos in place. If one wants money for the mezuzos that are being left behind, the new resident is required to pay for them (Rama, Yoreh Deah 291:2).

In explaining these laws, the Gemara teaches:

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).

The Gemara subsequently describes a horrible calamity that befell someone who removed his mezuzos when he was prohibited from doing so. (If you are anxious to know what happened, I refer you to the Gemara.) Thus, removing mezuzos involves not only a halachic violation, but also a significant safety concern (Tzavaas Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid,addendum #7).

BUT WHY NOT?

It is difficult to understand why halachah requires one to leave the mezuzah behind: When a resident vacates a dwelling, he has no obligation to guarantee that mezuzos remain on its doorways. So why can’t he take his mezuzos with him?

There are actually two reasons, each requiring its own introduction, why one may not remove the mezuzos.

APPROACH #1: DISDAIN OF MITZVOS – BIZUY MITZVAH

The first approach derives from the concept of bizuy mitzvah, treating a mitzvah object inappropriately: Removing the mezuzah is considered improper abandonment of a mitzvah object.

But if this is so, shouldn’t it apply to other mitzvos as well? For example, may I remove tzitzis from a garment without due cause?

REMOVING TZITZIS FROM A GARMENT

The Gemara debates whether one may remove the tzitzis of one garment to tie them onto another four-cornered garment. The Amora Rav prohibits moving tzitzis from one garment to another, contending that this is bizuy mitzvah. His contemporary, Shmuel, permits moving the tzitzis from one garment to another, since they are still utilized for a mitzvah (Shabbos 22a). Both Rav and Shmuel prohibit removing the tzitzis when he will not use them on another garment as an act of bizuy mitzvah (She’iltos, Shlach; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 15:1). That is, removing tzitzis from a garment without placing them onto another garment is considered disrespectful. We follow Shmuel’s ruling, and therefore one may remove tzitzis from one garment to place them on another. One may also replace tzitzis with more mehudar ones, even if he will not use the removed tzitzis, since upgrading to a higher standard demonstrates increased respect for the mitzvah, the exact opposite of bizuy mitzvah (Taz, Orach Chayim 15:2).

REMOVING THE MEZUZAH

Just as Shmuel ruled that one may remove tzitzis from one garment to place them on another, but one may not remove them if one is not planning to place them now onto another garment, we can now appreciate why one may not remove a mezuzah upon vacating a residence, since this demonstrates disrespect for the mezuzah that is being forcibly retired from its role (She’iltos, Parshas Shlach; Tosafos, Shabbos 22a, s.v. Rav; Ritva, Bava Metzia 102a). (It would seem that one can derive from this that it is prohibited to forcibly retire someone from a position, or that one should strongly reconsider laying off employees, but we will leave this topic for a different time.) We will soon discuss whether the prohibition applies, even when one intends to use the mezuzah elsewhere.

By the way, the authorities dispute whether the new tenant, entering a house with mezuzos already on the door, recites a bracha, Baruch Atta Hashem Elokeinu Melech haolam asher kideshanu bemitzvosav vetzivanu ladur babayis sheyesh bo mezuzah (Magen Avraham 19:1; Shu”t Rabbi Akiva Eiger, end of #9). The reason why this bracha sounds so unfamiliar is that it refers not to placement of a mezuzah on the doorpost, but to entering a new dwelling where the mezuzah is already present. In practice, most late authorities follow the ruling of the Chida that one does not recite a bracha on a mitzvah if one is not actively performing the mitzvah (Birkei Yosef, Orach Chayim 19:2).

MOVING THE MEZUZAH FROM ONE HOUSE TO ANOTHER

At this point, we should note an important factor. If the only reason that one may not remove the mezuzah is due to bizuy mitzvah, is one permitted to remove a mezuzah from the “old” building to install it in one’s new residence? Indeed, those authorities who prohibit removing the mezuzah only because of bizuy mitzvah explain that one may remove a mezuzah from one building to install it in a new place (She’iltos, Shlach; Ritva, Bava Metzia 102a).

APPROACH #2: DIVINE PROTECTION

Most authorities explain that there is an additional reason, unique to mezuzah, why one must leave the mezuzah behind even if one wants to use it elsewhere. Although the primary reason a Jew observes any mitzvah is to fulfill Hashem’scommandment, the mitzvah of mezuzah has an additional benefit because it protects our homes and our families from mishap. Removing the mezuzah eliminates this Divine shield, exposing one to tragedy and misfortune (Tosafos, Bava Metzia 101b s.v. lo; Shitah Mekubetzes, Menachos 41b, note 24; Tosafos, Shabbos 22a s.v. Rav in his second answer). Because of this, there is a widespread practice to check one’s mezuzos if, G-d forbid, one is experiencing difficulties in one’s home, since these problems might indicate that the mezuzos are not providing the adequate protection that they should.

This approach understands that even though someone vacating a house is no longer responsible for there being mezuzos on the doors, removing them reduces the Divine protection on the domicile for the next Jewish person moving in. We now comprehend why removing the mezuzah may expose someone to danger, as the Gemara records.

If the property belongs to a gentile, however, one may, and according to many authorities must, remove the mezuzah, since removing the mezuzah is not depriving it of fulfilling a mitzvah, and the protection provided is only for Jews. Similarly, one may remove tzitzis from a garment that will no longer be used to fulfill a mitzvah (Rama, Orach Chayim 15:1 and Magen Avraham ad loc.).

HOW DO WE RULE?

The accepted halachic practice recognizes both concerns, forbidding one from removing the mezuzah to a new location. However, in an extenuating circumstance where someone is moving to a new residence and has no access to a kosher mezuzah, one may rely on the first opinion and take the mezuzah with him (Birkei Yosef, Yoreh Deah 291:2).

YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU

Despite our conclusion that one should generally not remove the mezuzos when vacating a house, there are instances when one is required to do so. As I mentioned above, the Gemara notes that one who rents from a gentile should remove the mezuzos upon leaving (Bava Metzia 102a). The authorities dispute whether this is simply permission to remove the mezuzah, or whether one is required to do so. Rav Yaakov Emden (Shaylas Yaavetz 2:121) rules that one must remove the mezuzah, out of concern that the gentile will treat it inappropriately, whereas the Aruch HaShulchan (Yoreh Deah 291:3) implies that it is permitted, but not actually required, to remove the mezuzah under such circumstances.

CHANGING OWNERSHIP

What is the halachah if a Jew vacates a residence that he was renting from a gentile, but a different Jew is moving in? May/should the first Jew remove the mezuzah when he leaves, since the owner of the building is non-Jewish, or must he leave the mezuzah for the new Jewish resident?

Rav Yaakov Emden discusses a similar case: A Jew was renting a house from a gentile who then sold the house to a different Jew. The tenant will be moving out before the change of ownership takes effect. Should he remove the mezuzah before he leaves, since the house is still owned by a gentile, or is this forbidden, since a Jew will soon be acquiring the house and moving in? On the one hand, we do not want to leave the house mezuzah-less, yet there is a concern that the gentile owner may deface or steal the mezuzah before the Jew moves in.

Rav Emden rules that the tenant should remove the mezuzah before he vacates, out of concern that the gentile may treat the mezuzah inappropriately. He also quotes the Maharil, who requires removing the mezuzah because one may not give a mezuzah to a gentile. However, if the gentile’s sales contract with the purchasing Jew specifies that the mezuzah is included, the tenant should leave the mezuzah (Shaylas Yaavetz 2:121).

GENTILE LANDLORD, JEWISH TENANT

Rav Emden’s case is when the gentile has sold the property to a new Jewish owner. What is the halachah if the property remains the gentile’s, but he usually rents to Jews? Should one leave the mezuzah for the next Jewish occupant or not?

Beis Lechem Yehudah (Yoreh Deah 291:1) rules that one should remove the mezuzos, even if the gentile landlord usually rents to Jews, as long as the next Jewish tenant is not moving in immediately.

We can now answer one of our opening questions: “My landlord is not Jewish, but this is a neighborhood where only frum Jews are moving in. Do I remove my mezuzos when I leave?”

This depends. If a new tenant is moving in immediately, one should leave the mezuzos for him. However, if there will be a time lag before he moves in, one should remove the mezuzos — out of concern that, in the interim, they may be abused.

There are other instances when one is required to remove the mezuzah and, accordingly, no calamity will result from doing so. If there is concern that someone may damage or deface a mezuzah that is left behind, one must remove the mezuzah. For example, if the residence will be painted, the mezuzos must be removed to prevent their becoming invalidated. Even if the landlord is Jewish and the new tenant is also Jewish, if the apartment will be painted between residents, the vacating tenant should remove the mezuzos to save them from damage, which is certainly bizuy mitzvah, and no harm will befall him for doing so. Once he has removed the mezuzos for a legitimate reason, he is not required to return them. The new tenant is now responsible to affix new mezuzos.

Similarly, if there is concern that the mezuzah will be stolen or otherwise abused, one should remove it.

NEW RESIDENT HAS HIS OWN MEZUZOS

As I mentioned earlier, although the first resident is required to leave his mezuzos behind, he is technically permitted to charge the new tenant for them. What is the halachah if the new tenant wants to install his own mezuzos rather than purchase or receive gratis those of the previous tenant? Does this present any halachic problem, and is there any basis for a safety concern in this instance?

The contemporary authorities assume that if the new resident wants to install his own mezuzos, he may remove the “old” mezuzos owned by the previous tenant and put up his own. In this instance, one is not leaving the house unprotected, since new mezuzos are immediately placed on the doorposts. Based on this ruling, there is a common practice of having the new tenant, or his agent, remove the old mezuzos and install the new ones.

One should be careful to remove the “old” mezuzah before installing the new one, since having two mezuzos on one’s door violates the prohibition of adding to the Torah’s mitzvos, bal tosif (Pischei Teshuvah 291:2). Just as one may not add a fifth parsha to one’s tefillin when the Torah requires four, and just as a kohen may not add a fourth bracha to thethree brachos of duchening, so may one not add a second mezuzah to the doorpost when the Torah requires only one. For the same reason, one who moves to a house that has an old, painted over mezuzah on the door must remove that mezuzah, even if it is probably invalid, and not just affix a kosher mezuzah alongside it.

MEZUZAH SWITCH

At this point, we can now address our first question:

“We are moving residences, and I understand that I must leave the mezuzos in my old home. However, they are beautiful, mehudar mezuzos that I would like to use in my new dwelling. Is there any way that I can take these mezuzos with me?”

The answer: One may remove the nice mezuzos one has on his door and replace them with kosher, non-mehudar mezuzos. Since one is leaving the house with a kosher mezuzah, this suffices to protect the house (Da’as Kedoshim, Yoreh Deah 291:1).

At this point, we can discuss our third question, concerning someone using a house in Eretz Yisrael who borrowed a mezuzah. It is indeed true that Chazal required a person to place a mezuzah on his doorpost in Israel, even if he stays only overnight. However, may he remove the mezuzah when he vacates?

In this case, there is an interesting complication, since the person borrowed a mezuzah and must return it. Assuming that the landlord and/or future residents are/will be Jewish, he cannot leave the house without a mezuzah. He can, of course, resolve the problem by putting up replacement mezuzos for the borrowed ones, but this is a solution that he wants to avoid.

The problem was resolved by contacting the management of the building. The management was interested in having a mezuzah on the door of the residence and took care of the matter.

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 be zocheh to be careful, always, in our observance of the laws of mezuzah and the other mitzvos, and reap all the rewards, both material and spiritual, for doing so!

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!

Does an Elevator Require a Mezuzah?

Many people will smile when they see this question. Others will frown. And everyone will gain from reading this article — since this question provides an opportunity to discuss many aspects of the laws of mezuzah.

Let us start from the very beginning:

“I live in an apartment building in New York. My building does not have a mezuzah; why should my elevator?”

The questioner is, of course, correct. Assuming that his building has both Jewish and non-Jewish residents, most authorities contend that there is no requirement to install a mezuzah (Rama, Yoreh Deah 286:1; quoting Mordechai). The commentaries provide two reasons why no mezuzah is required in this instance, some explaining that the Torah never required a mezuzah on a building unless all its residents are obligated in the mitzvah (Taz, 286:2). Others absolve these buildings from mezuzah out of concern that suspicious non-Jewish residents may think the Jew is hexing them with the mezuzah (Shach 286:6). Although some recognized authorities contend that one must place a mezuzah even in a building shared by non-Jewish residents (Aruch HaShulchan, quoting Rashba and several others), the accepted practice is not to do so.

EXCLUSIVELY JEWISH

However, a building with exclusively Jewish residents must have a mezuzah on every entrance to the building, as well as on any other doorways inside the building, even if some of the residents are not yet observant. This is true, notwithstanding the fact that no one lives in the hallway or foyer. This halacha requires some explanation:

When the Torah teaches (in this week’s parsha) about the mitzvah of mezuzah, it requires placing it on the side posts (mezuzos) of one’s house and one’s gates. A house is used predominantly for residence, while a gate is not; yet the Torah requires placing a mezuzah on the gates of a Jewish city, or on the gates leading to a Jewish house, because they are entrances to the house (Yoma 11a). Thus, if one enters one’s property through a full gateway, meaning that it has a lintel and side posts, one should place a mezuzah on that entrance. This is true regardless of how many such “gateways” one enters before one reaches the house (Rambam, Hilchos Mezuzah 6:8). Even a revolving door requires a mezuzah, if it has doorposts and a lintel.

Similarly, the hallway doors of a building whose residents are all Jewish require mezuzos. Although the hallways are not suitable for dwelling, they function as entrances to the apartments, and therefore qualify as “gateways.”

MULTIPLE GATEWAYS

Sometimes, the entrance to a residence includes a gateway to a building’s outside premises, then a gateway to a courtyard, followed by another series of doors leading into the building vestibule. If all the tenants of the building are Jewish, one must install a mezuzah on each entryway, as I explained above.

KEEP RIGHT

The Gemara teaches that one places the mezuzah on the right doorpost entering the house (Yoma 11a). Placing the mezuzah on the wrong side invalidates the mitzvah, and reciting a bracha before affixing such a mezuzah is, unfortunately, a bracha levatalah (a bracha recited in vain). Thus, it is very important to determine whether a doorway is considered an entrance to one room, or the entrance to the other, since this is the paramount consideration in determining which side-post is graced with a mezuzah.

WHO IS RIGHT?

Regarding an internal house door connecting one room to a second, it is usually clear to which room it serves primarily as an entrance. However, there are instances when it is unclear whether the doorway is considered an entrance or an exit: what does one do in such an instance? This question often presents itself when there is a doorway connecting a living room to a dining room. Since there can be differing details in each such situation, I leave this shaylah for one to ask his or her rav.

STAIRCASES

If one lives in an apartment building with only Jewish inhabitants, the doors to the stairwells also require mezuzos, just as the entrances do, since they lead to residences (see Chovas HaDor, page 45). This halacha can be directly derived from a case in the Gemara, which describes a two family house in which an inside stairway connects the two apartments. The Gemara requires mezuzos on the entrances to the stairwells from each of the apartments (Menachos 34a as explained by Rashi). Although no one resides on the stairway, one must still install a mezuzah on its entrance, since the stairwell functions as a “gateway” to a residence.

WHICH IS THE RIGHT SIDE OF A STAIRWELL?

Regarding the placement of a mezuzah on the doorway of an apartment building’s stairwell, we are faced with an interesting predicament – on which side post of the doorway does one place the mezuzah? Is the doorway serving to enter the stairwell, obligating one to place the mezuzah on the right side entering the stairwell, or is it an entrance to the floor, obligating one to place the mezuzah on the right side exiting the stairwell?

The answer to this question may at first seem strange. On the entry level, one should place the mezuzah on the right side entering the stairwell, because this is the method of entering the building. However, on the other floors, one should place the mezuzah on the right side entering the floor because that doorway functions primarily as an entrance to the apartments on that floor! (Chovas HaDor, page 45). Thus, we have an anomalous situation of placing some mezuzos on the right side entering the stairway and placing others on the opposite side.

IS AN ELEVATOR DIFFERENT?

Having established that the stairwell of an all-Jewish building requires mezuzos, does the elevator of such a building require mezuzos? Do we consider the elevator doorways as “gateways” to the upper apartments of the building, just as a stairway is? Perhaps the elevators are even more of an entranceway to those apartments, since people use them more frequently than the stairs! Several responsa discuss this question.

(Bear in mind that many elevators have two doorways, the stationary door that is part of the building, and the door of the elevator “cage” or platform. For purposes of this article, I will refer to the “stationary doorway” and the “platform doorway.”)

EARLIEST TESHUVAH

Although people presumably asked this shaylah decades earlier, the earliest responsum I discovered on this subject is a 5724 (‘64) inquiry by the Helmitzer Rebbe (of New York) to Dayan Yitzchak Weiss, then Av Beis Din of Manchester, England, and later Av Beis Din of the Eidah HaChareidis of Yerushalayim (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 4:93). In this teshuvah, Dayan Weiss questions whether an elevator requires a mezuzah, since it constantly moves and cannot be considered a residence. He compares an elevator to a moving residence, regarding which we find a debate as to whether it requires a mezuzah. Rav Avraham Dovid of Butchatch, usually called “the Butchatcher,” rules that a moving residence requires a mezuzah. According to this opinion, someone who lives in a van or truck requires a mezuzah on the door, even if he constantly drives it to new locations (Daas Kedoshim 286:1)!

The major annotator to the Butchacher’s commentary, the Mikdash Me’at, disagrees, contending that a moving residence is considered a temporary dwelling and never requires a mezuzah. In a different responsum, Dayan Weiss deliberates whether mobile homes require a mezuzah, since people often reside in them, whereas using a bus or automobile as a residence is considered temporary and does not require a mezuzah (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 2:82; see also Chovas HaDor pg. 37).

Dayan Weiss initially compares an elevator to this dispute between the Mikdash Me’at and the Butchacher, since an elevator is constantly moving. However, he then suggests that an elevator might require a mezuzah even according to the Mikdash Me’at, because even though the elevator moves, it is part of a residence that does not move. He compares this to the following case, which requires some explanation:

SMALL HOUSE

The Gemara rules that a house smaller than four amos squared, approximately seven feet by seven feet, does not require a mezuzah (Sukkah 3a). A space this tiny is too small to qualify as a proper residence, even for people living in impoverished circumstances. The Torah requires a mezuzah only on a doorway to a house fit to live in.

What if a room is smaller than four amos squared, but is perfectly serviceable for its function as part of a house, such as a walk-in pantry that connects to the kitchen? This room is smaller than four amos squared, and one could argue that, as such, it is absolved from mezuzah. On the other hand, one could argue that it functions perfectly well for residential use, since it is part of a house that is more than four amos squared.

Indeed, the authorities dispute concerning the halachic status of this pantry. Some poskim contend that this room requires a mezuzah, notwithstanding its size, since it suffices for its household purpose (Chamudei Daniel, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah 286:11). This approach contends that although a house smaller than four amos squared is too tiny to be a domicile on its own, a room suitable for its intended use that is part of a house is not excluded from mezuzah. Dayan Weiss accepts the position of the Chamudei Daniel as the primary halachic opinion (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchak 1:8).

Other authorities dispute this conclusion, contending that a room this small is excluded from the requirement of mezuzah (Daas Kedoshim 286:19). In their opinion, affixing such a mezuzah is unnecessary, and reciting a bracha beforehand is a bracha levatalah, a bracha recited in vain. (Some authorities disagree with the Chamudei Daniel’s position, but still require a mezuzah on the right hand side reentering the kitchen as an entrance to the kitchen.)

HOW IS A PANTRY LIKE AN ELEVATOR?

Dayan Weiss explains that the underlying principle of the Chamudei Daniel’s position is that any part of a residence that has a domestic function requires a mezuzah. He reasons that just as the Chamudei Daniel required a mezuzah on a small pantry, since it is suitable for its specific use and it is part of a residence, an apartment building elevator also requires a mezuzah, since it, too, is suitable for its intended use and is part of a residence. He therefore concludes that the elevator platform door requires affixing a mezuzah, although without a bracha, out of deference to the authorities who reject Chamudei Daniel’s line of reasoning. (Obviously, one should be careful to affix the mezuzah in a place where it will not be crushed by the door as it closes.)

WHAT ABOUT THE ELEVATOR’S STATIONARY DOORWAY?

Does the stationary doorway entering the elevator also require a mezuzah? If it does, then one must install a mezuzah not only on the doorway of the elevator platform, but in addition on the stationary doorway of every floor! Dayan Weiss concludes that these doorways do not require mezuzos, since they are functional only when the elevator cage is opposite them, and at that moment the mezuzah servicing the platform door does double duty, fulfilling the requirement for both the platform as well as the stationary doorway. This last concept, that one mezuzah services all the elevator doors in the building, is by no means obvious, as we will soon see.

A DIFFERING APPROACH

Rav Yaakov Blau, currently a Dayan of the Eidah HaChareidis, reaches a different conclusion regarding whether an elevator requires a mezuzah. He contends that the modern elevator is comparable to the case of the Gemara requiring mezuzos on the doors leading to a stairwell. Rav Blau maintains that an elevator is identical to a stairwell, except that one substitutes an elevator platform for a stationary stairway (Chovas Hador, page 44). He reasons that since the primary entrance to an apartment on the upper story of a building is through the elevator, the stationary doorways leading to the elevator are therefore “gateways” to the upper apartments, no different from the stairwells, and are definitely obligated to have mezuzos.

Having concluded that the “stationary doorway” of each elevator floor requires a mezuzah, Rav Blau then addresses the question concerning which direction the mezuzah should face. Do we place the mezuzah on the stationary doorway entering the elevator or exiting it? He concludes that since the elevator’s main function is to transport people to the upper floors, the doorway on the entrance floor requires a mezuzah on the right side entering the elevator, and the other floors require one on the right side exiting the elevator.

Why are the mezuzos on different sides? Since the function of the stairs and elevator are as means to access the upper stories, one should place the mezuzah on the right side as one walks in their direction.

On the other hand, whereas Dayan Weiss contends that the platform doorway requires a mezuzah because it is part of a residence, Rav Blau rules that the platform doorway does not require a mezuzah, since its function is exclusively as a moving passageway.

Thus, although both Dayan Weiss and Rav Blau require mezuzos on an elevator, they completely disagree which doorway requires a mezuzah, Dayan Weiss requiring one on the platform doorway, but not the stationary doorways, and Rav Blau concluding just the opposite, that the stationary doorways require mezuzos, but not the platform doorway. (By the way, the Helmitzer Rebbe, who asked Dayan Weiss originally, held the same way as the Chovas HaDor.)

Indeed, since these are two independent disputes, someone could conclude that the platform doorway and the stationary doorways both require mezuzos. If one accepts Dayan Weiss’s premise that the elevator requires a mezuzah because it is part of a stationary, permanent residence, and one disputes with his contention that the mezuzah on the platform suffices for the stationary doorway, one would conclude that both the platform doorway and the stationary doorways require mezuzos.

AN OPPOSITE APPROACH

On the other hand, one could reach the exact opposite conclusion and not require a mezuzah on any of the elevator doorways, as we will see. Rav Shlomoh Zalman Auerbach zt”l (Minchas Shlomoh 2:97:23) conjectures that the elevator should be treated differently from a stairwell, because the elevator is not suitable for residential use at all, but only for transportation. Further, he absolves the stationary door of the building from mezuzah, because it can never be used independently of the elevator. Thus, its use is also considered non-residential.

Rav Shlomoh Zalman presents another reason to absolve the stationary door from mezuzah — since as soon as the elevator changes floors, the stationary doorway becomes useless, and it therefore should not be compared to a stairwell.

In his written responsum on the subject, Rav Shlomoh Zalman concludes that it is preferable to install a mezuzah without a bracha on the right side of the stationary doorway entering the elevator on the entrance level of the building, since this is the main entrance and exit into the building. The reason for his differentiation between the ground floor elevator and the other elevators is unclear, and I have been told orally that he did not really feel that there was any necessity even for the ground floor mezuzah.

In practical terms, many follow the lenient opinions that do not require a mezuzah on either the platform doorway or the stationary doorway. Residents of a building with only Jewish inhabitants should agree to jointly ask a rav whether or not they are required to install a mezuzah on the doorway.

CONCLUSION

Just as a properly functioning elevator lifts us to great heights, so the properly fulfilled mitzvah of mezuzah takes us far higher. We touch the mezuzah whenever we enter or exit a building to remind ourselves of Hashem’s constant presence, and it is a physical and spiritual protective shield. Whenever passing it, we should remind ourselves of Hashem’s constant protection.

Mezuzah Mysteries — or Is this really a doorway?

Within the last few months, I was sent the following e-mail shaylos complete with accompanying diagrams and photos.

Question #1:

Raphael* sent me an e-mail which included an attachment with the layout of his new apartment (see attachment entitled "map"). He wants to know whether he needs to place a mezuzah at the doorway out of the lounge marked "Sofek 1", and also whether the entrance to the kitchen requires a mezuzah. Both instances are not architecturally proper doorways, but entrances formed by walls.

Click to download Apt map pdf

*Although all questions mentioned here are authentic, names have been changed to protect each individual’s privacy.

Question #2:

Yisroel sent me photographs of his hallway to determine whether he needs to place a mezuzah at its entrance (see attachment entitled "is this a mashkof").is this a mashkof

Answer:

In modern residences, many rooms are not entered via doors, but through entranceways. Do these entrances require a mezuzah? In order to answer, we need to explain when a doorway requires a mezuzah.

The "Ten Commandments" of Mezuzah

The laws governing when one must place a mezuzah are indeed complicated. The Rambam establishes ten rules that must be met to require a mezuzah, of which the following three issues are germane to answer the above questions.

LSD

Is there a lintel?

Are there sideposts?

Is there a door?

Lintel

According to all halachic authorities, a doorway does not require a mezuzah unless there is a mashkof, a lintel that comes down from the ceiling to form the appearance of a doorway. Let me explain.

What is a mashkof?

When building a house, one must be certain that the part of the building above a door or a window is properly supported so that the building does not tumble down on its inhabitants, something that will ruin the contractor’s reputation and potentially could hurt someone. A lintel is the architectural piece that provides this support. The lintel rests its own weight and that which it supports on sideposts.

The laws of mezuzah do not require that the sideposts or the lintel actually carry the weight of the area above the door. It is adequate if the mashkof, or lintel, merely provides an aesthetic function of giving the entrance the appearance of a doorway. However, when there is no mashkof at all, that is, nothing comes down vertically to give the appearance of a lintel, there is no requirement to install a mezuzah, even when there are two proper sideposts and even when there is a door.

In modern construction, most doorways to kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and dens do have a piece of wall that protrudes down from the ceiling to give the appearance of a mashkof. This is for aesthetic reasons – to provide more of a sense that this is a separate room. However, when the ceiling above the room’s entrance is a horizontal plane without anything protruding downward to form a mashkof, there is no requirement to install a mezuzah even when the entrance has all the other appurtenances of a door.

At this point, I suggest you look carefully at the other attachment, the one that Yisroel sent. Is this considered a mashkof?

What happened here is that air conditioning ducts were installed in the hallway thus giving the entrance to the hallway somewhat of an appearance of being a doorway. However, in my opinion, there is no real mashkof here since it does not come down vertically to create an entranceway. The ducts have become the ceiling of the hallway, which therefore has a lower ceiling than the larger room in front. I do not consider this a proper mashkof and therefore ruled that they do not need to place a mezuzah here.

The map that Raphael sent bears no indication whether either questionable doorway contains a mashkof. Thus, on the basis of the map alone I could not provide an answer.

Is this considered a sidepost?

Assuming the there is some form of mashkof on each questionable entranceway, our next question is whether the walls that form each of Raphael’s "sofek" qualify as sideposts.

To understand whether this is considered a sidepost for the purposes of requiring a mezuzah, I will quote a passage of the Gemara:

"Ameimar said: an entranceway formed by a corner (in Aramaic de’ikarna) requires a mezuzah. Rav Ashi said to Ameimar: ‘But it has no sidepost!’ To which Ameimar retorted, ‘these [that is, the corners of the wall] are its sideposts’" (Menachos 34a).

What is meant by "an entranceway formed by a corner"?

A Sidepost Created by the End of a Wall

The Rosh (Hilchos Mezuzah #14) explains that the case is where one entire wall of the room or house is missing, and thus the entranceway is created by the wall ending, rather than the existence of an actual door. This is exactly what we find in modern construction, where the entrances to kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, dens, and hallways are often created without a proper entranceway, but simply by a wall. In our apartment map diagram, both entrances that Raphael labeled as "sofek" are graced with this phenomenon.

Rav Ashi rules that these rooms have no sideposts, and therefore no requirement to place a mezuzah. Ameimar disagreed, contending that the "ends" of the walls qualify as sideposts. Both scholars agree that if one side of the entrance does not have the end of a wall, but is a continuing wall, that there is no sidepost on that side. We have exactly such a phenomenon in Raphael’s sofek 1 where there is no sidepost on the left side. Does this automatically remove the requirement of mezuzah? For this we need to examine a different passage of Gemara.

"Rav Papa went to Shmuel’s house and saw a doorway that had a sidepost only on its left side on which there was a mezuzah. Rav Papa said to him: ‘Were you intending to follow Rabbi Meir’s opinion (who required a mezuzah even if there is only one sidepost)? Rabbi Meir required a mezuzah on a doorway with one sidepost only when its sidepost is on the right side, but not when there is only a sidepost on the left side.’"

Right, Left…

Thus, Rav Papa notes that when the only sidepost is on the left side, there is no requirement to place a mezuzah according to all opinions. When the solitary sidepost is on the right side (entering the room), then whether there is a requirement to install a mezuzah is dependent on a dispute between Rabbi Meir and the Sages.

Let us now return to the Gemara’s discussion:

"To what comment of Rabbi Meir are we referring? To the following teaching: A house with only one sidepost, Rabbi Meir requires it to have a mezuzah and the Sages exempt it. What is the reason of the Sages? The Torah says mezuzos, which is plural," or a minimum of two (Menachos 34a).

Do we rule like the Sages or like Rabbi Meir?

The Rambam concludes like the Sages and therefore in his opinion one needs a mezuzah only when there are two sideposts. This is how the Shulchan Aruch concludes. According to this approach, there is no requirement to place a mezuzah unless the entrance has two sideposts. This approach would exempt the doorway labeled "sofek 1" from the mitzvah of mezuzah.

However, most authorities rule that if there is a right sidepost one should place a mezuzah there, albeit without a beracha. Thus, according to most opinions, the entrance leading towards the bedroom of Raphael’s apartment would require a mezuzah (assuming that is has a mashkof) but without a beracha.

Is there a door?

In the Rambam’s opinion, a mezuzah is required only when the house or room’s entrance has a door.

In this instance, the Rambam’s position is a minority opinion, since most other Rishonim contend that the lack of a door does not absolve the requirement of a mezuzah. The accepted conclusion is to install a mezuzah in a doorway that has no door, but not to recite a beracha when doing so out of deference to the Rambam (see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 286:15).

So now Raphael has his answer: The rooms where there is a right sidepost upon entering require a mezuzah without a beracha, provided that they have some type of mashkof. One would not recite a beracha on placing the mezuzah unless there is an actual door and also sideposts on both sides of the door.

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. We touch the mezuzah whenever we enter or exit a building to remind ourselves of Hashem’s constant presence, and it is a physical and spiritual protective shield. Whenever passing it, we should remind ourselves of Hashem’s constant protection.

is this a mashkof.JPG