Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried
Chapter 11 : The Mitzvah of mezuza
It is a positive commandment to fix a mezuza (in one's home) to every doorway. Even if one's home contains several rooms, and each room contains several doors made for entrance and exit. This applies even when one ordinarily uses only one of them; a mezuza is required for each of them. Even if the (number of) people living in the home decreases and now there is a need for only one entrance, it is necessary (to fix mezuzot) on all of them. However, if one doorway is used only to bring in (from time to time) packages, and another doorway is used for coming in and going out, then the doorway used only to bring in packages, has no (mezuza) obligation.
Also gates to courtyards, alleyways, cities, and countries require mezuzot, as it is said: 1 "and on your gates."
- Deut. 6:9 and 11:20
It (the mezuza) must be fixed (on the doorpost) on one's right side as one enters. If it is fixed on the left, it is invalid. It must be removed, fixed on the right side, and one blesses (when correcting this error) over it. In this regard, there is no difference whether one is left-handed or not.
Two (rooms or) houses each of which possesses a doorway to a thoroughfare or to a courtyard and in the partition between them there is also a doorway, there is a question about this doorway, as to which side the mezuza should be placed. The determining factor in this regard is (termed) "know by the hinge", meaning (it depends) on which side are placed the hinges of the door, since the (fact that the) door opens into it, defines the (room or) house, and the mezuza is placed on the right side as one enters it. 1 The above applies only when both of the rooms are used equally. But if one of (the rooms) is used primarily, the determining factor is not considered the side on which the hinges are placed. Rather, the mezuza is always placed on the right as one enters the room which is principally used even if the door opens into the other room. 2
- When a door opens up to the public thoroughfare, the way it opens is not significant and the mezuza is always placed on the right side as one enters the house. However, if there is a courtyard behind a house and the only way of entering it is from a door in the house, that courtyard is considered just like any of the rooms of the house, and the mezuza is placed on the right side as one goes out to it (Misgeret Hashulchan 2).
Different rules apply regarding the placement of a mezuza at the entrance to the rooms of a house when it has only one entrance to the public thoroughfare. (The fact that it has a back or side door which opens up to an enclosed yard is not significant.)
The Misgeret Hashulchan (3) explains that in this instance, the determining factor is the manner in which one enters the room as one proceeds from the entrance to the house. Nevertheless, other authorities consider "know by the hinge" on the importance of the room's function as the determining factor.
Its' (the mezuza's) place is from the beginning of the top third of the height of the entrance. 1 If it is placed higher than that, it is still acceptable, as long as it is away from the lintel more than a hand-breadth. If one fixed it below the top third one must remove it and fix it properly (at the right height) with a blessing. Should one have fixed (the mezuza) within a hand-breadth on the lintel it must also be removed and fixed properly, but one does not (again) bless. One should 2 place (the mezuza) within a hand-breadth of the outside end. If one did not do this (the mezuza) is still valid.
- If the doorway is very high, one should place the mezuza at the height of one's shoulders, even though this is below the top third of the doorway (Misgeret Hashulchan 4).
- Even if the entrance way is wide.
How must one fix it? One should roll it from the end to the beginning i.e. from (the word) "one" to (the word) "Hear", place it in a tube or other container and fix it with nails to the doorpost. It should be placed at an angle with its head - i.e. the (word) "Hear" - pointed towards the house and the final line pointed toward the outside. Should the doorpost be narrow it (the mezuza) may be fixed upright. This is preferable to fixing it behind the doorpost. If it was not fixed in a permanent manner but merely hung up, this is not acceptable. Therefore, one should take care to nail it at the top and also the bottom, so that it will not be (considered as) hanging.
Before fixing it one blesses "who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to fix a mezuza". When one fixes a number of mezuzot one blessing is sufficient for all of them. If a mezuza falls by itself, 1 when one fixes it again one should also then bless. However if one removed it in order to be checked there is a question whether one needs to bless. 2
- That is, without any external influence.
- The common practice is not to say a blessing if the mezuza is put back the same day. However, if the mezuza is not put back up until the following day, or if the mezuza was determined as no longer acceptable and had to be replaced with another one, a blessing is said.
On some gateways there is a small doorway next to the large gate and through this small doorway they (usually) go in and out, and the large gate is opened only occasionally. Since there are two (separate) entrances and they are separated by a pillar a hand-breadth (at least) in width two mezuzot are required. 1
- The same principles apply to any entrance which is serviced by two doors, e.g. an entrance to a large storefront. As long as both doors are used and they are separated by a pillar a hand-breadth or more wide, a mezuza is required for each.
In a place where one fears that it (the mezuza) may be stolen if it is possible for one to make a cavity in the doorpost to the house one should place it there. However, not (make it) deeper than a hand-breadth, for there (at that depth) it is no longer "on the doorposts of your house" 1 but "within the doorpost" and is not acceptable. Also, one should make sure that in any case, the place of the mezuza is recognizable. If it is impossible to make a cavity within the doorpost one can rely (on the opinions which allow) in such a difficult circumstance, fixing it inside behind the door. 2 This (is allowed only when fixed) on the doorpost itself and not on the wall. Also, one should not distance it from the entrance way more than a hand-breadth for that would be unacceptable.
- Deut. 6:9
- Similar rules apply if for other reasons it is impossible to fix the mezuza on the doorpost.
A house only requires a mezuza if it is four cubits by four cubits. If it is not four cubits by four cubits, even though it is more in area than four by four (sixteen square) cubits i.e., its shape is rectangular or circular, some (authorities) require (a mezuza) and others do not require. 1
- The Misgeret Hashulchan (6) explains that rooms within a house require a mezuza even though they are smaller than this size, if they serve a specific purpose - e.g. storage - or they lead to larger rooms.
An entrance does not require a mezuza unless it has two doorposts, higher than at least ten hand-breadths, and a lintel over them. Even if the doorposts are not made of wood or other (separate) stones, as long as the walls of the house themselves are the doorposts and above them the ceiling, still (a mezuza) is required. If there is to a room only one doorpost, for example, if from one side the wall (of the room) continues beyond (the doorway on the other side) like this: door 1 Then, if it (the doorpost) is on the left side, (a mezuza) is not required; if it is on the right side, there is a doubt whether (a mezuza) is required or not. Therefore one should be fixed without a blessing. Alternatively, one may fix it, after fixing one on a doorway that does require (it), and so cover this (the first) as well. And in all cases where there is doubt 1 this should be done.
- Regarding whether a mezuza is required or not.
If (an entrance) has two doorposts but no lintel, rather has on them an arch - (curving over) like a rainbow; or alternatively, it also lacks doorposts, but the arch curves up from the ground: if it's height is (at least) ten hand-breadths
and four hand-breadths wide, it requires a mezuza. Regarding those stores which are made with one doorpost extending from the ground until the lintel and one doorpost which does not reach the lintel, but rather, one removes a space of a cubit or more from the wall, like this:
If the doorpost which is high enough to reach the lintel, is on the right side of the entrance, the mezuza is fixed to that doorpost. If the short doorpost, is on the right as one enters, if it is at least ten hand-breadths high one should fix the mezuza to it. If it is not ten hand-breadths high, one fixes (it) to the wide portion.
- According to the Rambam's opinion, a mezuza is not required unless the entrance extends directly upward for at least ten hand-breadths. Therefore, if the entire entrance way is arched, the mezuza should be fixed without saying a blessing. (Misgeret Hashulchan 9).
Some authorities say that even if there are no doors to an entrance it requires a mezuza. Others say that with regard to this case, it's actually (when there is) a door. Therefore, one should not fix the mezuza until one first hangs the door. One should not fix it (the mezuza) first and then hang the door, because of the principle "to do and not have it already done". 1
- i.e. it is required to "fix" a mezuza and not to use one that is already fixed - see Ch. 9:6.
A house which is not constructed as a permanent dwelling is (does not require a mezuza) exempt. Therefore, a festival succah during the holiday is exempt. Similarly, those stores that are put up on market days for the duration of a business fair and then are either taken down or left (vacant) unused, are exempt. However, stores which are permanently (filled) with merchandise require a mezuza. 1
- Some opinions do not require that mezuzot be fixed on stores. Hence, they should be fixed without a blessing (Misgeret Hashulchan 11).
A porch, which has three walls and a ceiling over them, with the fourth side open, even if it has (there) two pillars which resemble a doorway, is exempt from a mezuza; since these pillars were not placed there as doorposts, but rather as supports for the roof. If it has a wall on the fourth side, even if that wall is low and does not reach the ceiling or even if they are made with windows, the windows do require.
A gatehouse (i.e., a small house by the courtyard gate that the guard sits there), a balcony used to go up to a (storey which is) higher, a garden, and an (enclosure for animals) a pen are exempt from mezuza, because they are not made for living (dwelling) in. However, if there is a house which (does) requires a mezuza, opening up to one of these or to a porch, a (mezuza) is required even for the entrance to these from the public thoroughfare. Accordingly, the gates to courtyards, alleyways, countries, and cities, all require mezuzot, because houses that require mezuzot open up to them. Furthermore, ten (rooms or) houses, which lead one to another, (even if the nine outer ones are exempt because of their (low) height), if the innermost one requires a mezuza, all of them need. Therefore, the gateway leading from a garden to a courtyard requires a mezuza. Some (authorities) say that gatehouses and balconies do need, even if there is no house opening in to them. Therefore, it (the mezuza) should be fixed without a blessing.
A bathhouse, tannery, and mikveh are exempt because they are not for proper (normal) residence. However, a cattle barn or chicken coop, 1 a storage room for hay or for wood, a wine cellar or place where other beverages are stored if it is of the minimum size of a house, does require. Some (authorities in these cases) exempt them. 2
- At present, many do not fix mezuzot to chicken coops and barns because of the waste found there. Each situation should be considered individually (Misgeret Hashulchan 12).
- The Misgeret Hashulchan (13) rules in favor of the opinion which requires a mezuza and states that the matter is so clear that a blessing may be recited when the mezuza is fixed.
In a place where children stay or occasionally wash there or urinate there the mezuza should be covered. Only when these take place only occasionally a cover is sufficient. However, if it is permanently used for a disrespectful function e.g. (a bathroom where) a receptacle is placed there to collect waste, one should not rely on the cover. 1
- And should refrain from putting up a mezuza.
A room or courtyard שגם עכו"ם דר שם that is also lived in by (a Jew and) a non-jew, is exempt. 1
- However, a room that belongs solely to a Jew requires a mezuza, even though he has rented the whole house together with a non-jew. Nevertheless, if the doorway is located on the wall which is owned jointly with the non-jew, no mezuza is required (Misgeret Hashulchan 15).
A cellar whose doorposts and the entrance lie on the ground, is exempt. Because it (the doorpost) is not termed a doorpost unless it stands upright.
One who rents a house (in the Diaspora) outside Israel is exempt from (fixing) a mezuza for the (first) thirty days. Because (during this time) one is not (yet) considered as in a permanent dwelling.
One (a Jew) who leaves a house and (knows that) another Jew is coming (in his place) to live there, the first one should not take the mezuzot. Rather, he should leave them and the second one should pay him for them.
A person is obligated to be extremely careful concerning the mitzvah of mezuza, since it is a constant obligation for everyone. So that whenever he enters (his home) or leaves, he will be faced with G-d's Unity the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and remember His love. This will wake him from his sleep and his errors in the vanities of the time and he will realize that nothing lasts for eternity except the knowledge of the "Eternal Rock." Thus, he will immediately return to his senses and follow righteous paths. Our sages said: 1 "Whoever wears tefillin on his head and arm, tzitzit on his clothes, and has a mezuza on his door can be assured he will not sin, since he has many reminders. They are the angels who rescue him from sinning, as is said: 2 'The angel of G-d camps around those who fear Him and rescues them.' Our sages further said 3 that the sin of (not keeping) mezuza, (can cause) one's sons and daughters to die young. However, every one who is careful with (the mitzvah of) mezuza will have his days prolonged, as it is said: 4 "so that you will prolong your days and the days of your children..."
- Menuchot 43b
- Psalms 34:8
- Shabbat 32b
Since the mezuza is intended to recall the unity of His name, blessed be He, therefore as one leaves from the entrance of one's house and one enters, one should kiss (the mezuza) it. However, one should not place one's hand on (the parchment of) the mezuza itself. Rather, one should take care that there is a glass (covering) over G-d's name. When one leaves one's house and places one's hand on the mezuza, one should say: "G-d is my Guardian. G-d is my shadow on my right hand. May G-d protect my going out and returning now, and forever."
A mezuza (belonging to a private) individual should be checked twice in seven years. 1 Those (belonging to the) public (so it will not be a burden to them) should be checked twice in a Jubilee (fifty years) period.
- At present, improperly written mezuzot are quite common. Hence, before fixing a mezuza, one should have it checked by a competent Rabbinic authority. Also, some mezuzot are written on coated parchment. This causes the letters to crack and fade more quickly than otherwise. Hence, more frequent checking is required.