A discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the
week. For final rulings, consult your Rav.
THE MITZVAH OF MEZUZAH: THE BASIC OBLIGATION
It is a Biblical obligation for all adults, men and women(1), to affix a
mezuzah to the right post of each doorway of their home. One who fails to do
so transgresses a positive command(2). Although a mezuzah also protects a
home(3) and safeguards the well-being of one's little children(4), this is
by no means the primary reason for the mezuzah. The intention that one must
have when affixing the mezuzah to the doorpost must be "for the sake of the
mitzvah of mezuzah(5)." Indeed, some poskim mention that it is prohibited to
consciously have in mind that the mezuzah is for the purpose of protection.
Such an intention detracts from the essential character of a mitzvah, which
is to fulfill Hashem's will with no other considerations(6).
Many poskim hold that it is Rabbinically prohibited to live in a home which
does not have proper mezuzos, just as it is prohibited to wear a
four-cornered garment without tzitzis(7). These poskim rule that if another
house is available, one must move out of his home as soon as he realizes
that it is lacking proper mezuzos(8). He is permitted to temporarily remain
in his home only if he is unable to obtain a mezuzah immediately, or if he
found out on Shabbos that his home has no mezuzah(9). Other poskim are
somewhat more lenient and do not require the residents to move out if they
have already moved in(10). All agree that the problem must be rectified
immediately. There is absolutely no excuse for delaying the purchase and
placement of a mezuzah for several days or weeks.
One may enter another Jew's home even though there are no mezuzos on his
It is clearly prohibited to nail a mezuzah case to a door-post on Shabbos
and Yom Tov(12). If the mezuzah case was nailed in before Shabbos or Yom Tov
and remains intact, but the mezuzah parchment fell out, some poskim permit
replacing the mezuzah in the case while others prohibit it(13). In any
event, the mezuzah parchment does not become muktzeh and it may be picked up
so that it does not lie on the floor in disgrace(14).
WHEN DOES THE OBLIGATION OF MEZUZAH BEGIN?
Contrary to what is commonly believed, the obligation begins as soon as one
moves into his own home. By the first day or night that a home will be
occupied, or by the first day or night that an addition to a home will be
used, every doorway must have a mezuzah.
[Indeed, many poskim hold that one should not affix a mezuzah before
actually moving into a house(15) (even though he owns it and plans to move
in in the near future), and certainly the blessing should not be recited
until the actual move(16). Other poskim hold that once he has moved his
belongings into the house, the mezuzah may be affixed with a blessing(17).]
It is only when one rents [or borrows] a home from another person [outside
of Eretz Yisrael] that a thirty-day(18) waiting period is allowed until one
becomes obligated to affix a mezuzah(19). The Rishonim argue as to the
reason for this exemption. Rashi(20) explains that until thirty days have
elapsed, one can easily change his mind about the rental; thus the house is
not really "his" until thirty days are over. Tosfos explains that the first
thirty days of residence are considered as "temporary dwelling," and
temporary dwelling does not obligate one to affix a mezuzah.
Based on Rashi's explanation, it follows that when a long-term contract is
signed which legally obligates the renter for an extended period of time,
then the obligation of mezuzah takes effect immediately(21). Moreover, if
upon moving into the house, the renter fixes it up in a manner which shows
that he is planning to remain there for a long while, logic dictates that a
mezuzah be put up and the proper blessing recited. This, indeed, is the view
of some poskim(22), and one may conduct himself in accordance with this
But many poskim advise that although the mezuzah should be affixed
immediately upon moving in, the blessing should not be recited until the
thirty-day period is up(24). At that time, it is proper to remove one
mezuzah, recite the blessing, and return the mezuzah to its proper place. If
it is difficult or bothersome to do so, then the mezuzah need not be
removed; merely touching it is sufficient for the blessing to be
recited(25). [An exception to this is when one rents a bungalow or a summer
home for a short stay. In such a case, the poskim agree that thirty days
should elapse before a mezuzah is affixed(26).]
If the thirty-day period is up on Shabbos or Yom Tov, the mezuzah should be
affixed on erev Shabbos or erev Yom Tov before lighting candles. The
blessing should be recited at that time(27).
1 Y.D. 291:3.
2 Sefer ha-Chinuch 423. See Menachos 44a where it states that two positive
commands are transgressed. See also Teshuvos Binyan Tziyon 7.
3 Tur Y.D. 285 based on Avodah Zarah 11a.
4 Shabbos 32b.
5 Tur Y.D. 285; Aruch ha-Shulchan 285:3.
6 Sdei Chemed (Mem,114) quoting Derech ha-Melech, based on Rambam (Hilchos
Mezuzah 5:4) and Kesef Mishneh, ibid. See also Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:141 who
explains this issue at length.
7 Magen Avraham O.C. 13:8 as explained by Pri Megadim O.C. 38:15; Avnei
Nezer Y.D. 381.
8 It remains unclear if in the opinion of these poskim one needs to move to
a friend's home or to rent a hotel room in order to avoid this prohibition.
9 Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 285:1 quoting Pri Megadim; Aruch ha-Shulchan Y.D.
285:5; Ben Ish Chai (Ki Savo).
10 See Sdei Chemed (Mem, 115), Kuntres ha-Mezuzah (pg. 6 and pg. 128) and
Tzitz Eliezer 13:53 who quote several poskim who hold that the Rabbis did
not prohibit entering a house that has no mezuzah nor did they require one
to move out of his dwelling when he realizes that there is a problem with
11 Sdei Chemed (Mem, 115) quoting Ruach Chayim.
12 Mishnah Berurah 313:41; 314:8.
13 Sdei Chemed (Mem, 115) quotes both views. See Binyan Shabbos, pg. 27 for
an explanation. Tzitz Eliezer 13:53 rules leniently, while Mezuzas Melachim
286:19 is stringent.
14 Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 28).
15 See Chovas ha-Dar 9:1.
16 Mishnah Berurah 19:4. This is the proper way; Harav Y.S. Elyashiv (oral
ruling quoted in Avnei Yashfei 2:80).
17 Harav C. Kanievsky (Mezuzos Bei'secha 276:78) quoting the Chazon Ish.
This also seems to be the view of the Aruch ha-Shulchan O.C. 19:2.
18 Moving day, even if it is close to night, is counted as day number 1.
Thus 29 days later, the obligation takes effect.
19 Y.D. 286:22
20 Menachos 44a.
21 Siddur Derech ha-Chayim quoted in Pischei Teshuvah 286:18.
22 Several poskim quoted in Sdei Chemed (Mem, 115) and Chovas ha-Dar, pg.
23 Aruch ha-Shulchan 286:49. See also Chayei Adam 15:22.
27 Kuntres ha-Mezuzah, pg. 82. Another option is to nail the mezuzah case to
the post before Shabbos and insert the mezuzah on Shabbos (Chikrei Leiv Y.D.
128). But, as stated earlier, some poskim do not allow this on Shabbos.