Which rooms require a Mezuzah?
A common misconception is that only the main entrance to the home requires a mezuzah. Of course, it is better to have one mezuzah on the front door than no mezuzahs, and if you only have one mezuzah, it should be placed on the home’s main entrance. However, to properly fulfill the mitzvah, every room in the house or office should have its own mezuzah.
All rooms that are more than four cubits long and four cubits wide — approximately 6.5 feet by 6.5 feet (or its equivalent of 37 square feet) are required to have a mezuzah — as long as they have a full “doorway.” A blessing is not recited, however, if the room does not extend at least 6.5 feet in each direction.
A doorway that requires a mezuzah is only one that that has two doorposts and a lintel connecting the doorposts on top. If these conditions do not exist, a competent Rabbi should be consulted to determine whether or not that entryway requires a mezuzah.
One does not affix a Mezuzah on bathrooms, shower rooms or the like.
Do garage doors, boiler rooms, attics, outdoor sheds, or crawl spaces require mezuzahs?
Yes, they do, provided that they comply with the required measurements (approximately 37 square feet ). At the entrance to a crawl space, the doorposts themselves must be at least 10 handbreadths high (approximately 32 inches).
An attic also requires a mezuzah unless it is entered via a “trapdoor” (a horizontal opening in the floor rather than a vertical opening in a wall).
What about porches or sun porches?
There is a difference of opinion whether the mezuzah is to be placed on the right side relative to a person entering the house, or on the right side relative to a person going out onto the porch.
Am I obligated to affix a mezuzah on the doorpost of a gate that leads to my backyard?
One has to affix a mezuzah only if there is a cross bar on top of that gate.
Do I need a mezuzah at my workplace?
Yes. In addition to private places of residence, mezuzahs should be affixed in businesses and stores without a blessing.
If you’re working for a non-Jew and you are renting space from him, a mezuzah should be affixed on your office door without a blessing.
However, if you are not renting the space, and there is the possibility that your office space could be relocated, then you would be exempt from affixing a mezuzah.
We have a non-Jewish live-in maid. Am I required to put a mezuzah on her door?
Yes, providing that upon your discretion, her room may be changed to another location in the house at any given time.
What if I never use that door?
Unused doors that are sealed closed (doors actually nailed to the door frame) are exempt from mezuzahs. An entrance that is blocked by furniture or a door that is usually kept locked requires a mezuzah.
When Do I Need a Mezuzah?
When purchasing a home, affix the mezuzahs, with the blessing, immediately upon moving in.
If you are renting the home or apartment the obligation to install a Mezuzah applies only after thirty days. However it is obviously preferred not to be without a Mezuzah, therefore many have the custom to affix all of the mezuzahs immediately upon occupancy, without reciting the blessing. Once the 30-day period has elapsed, one of the mezuzahs (from a room that has a door) should be removed, checked and replaced. That mezuzah may also be replaced with a new or upgraded one. The proper blessing is then recited on the new Mezuzah while having in mind the other Mezuzahs as well.
Some have the custom of temporarily affixing the mezuzahs immediately upon occupancy using tape, and nailing them in on the 31st day. The first mezuzah that is nailed in should be on a room that has a door. The blessing is recited at that time.
The above applies only outside the Land of Israel. In the Holy Land, the mezuzahs are affixed immediately with a blessing.
Where on the doorpost do I place the Mezuzah?
The Mezuzah is affixed on the right-hand side of the door as you enter the room. It should be placed at a slight angle, with the top of the Mezuzah pointing toward the inside of the room and the bottom pointing toward the outside.
The proper place for the Mezuzah is at the bottom of the top third of the doorway. In other words, measure the height of the doorway and divide by three; then align the bottom of the Mezuzah with the point two-thirds of the way up the doorpost (see illustration). In most homes, the doorways are approximately 78 inches high, so the bottom of your Mezuzah should be no lower than 52 inches from the floor.
If your doorway is much higher (say 90 inches or higher), affix the Mezuzah at shoulder height, even if this is lower than the upper third of the doorway. If the doorpost is very low, a rabbinical authority should be consulted in order to determine where the Mezuzah should be mounted.
If the doorpost or archway is wider (thicker) than a handbreadth (approximately 3¼ inches), the Mezuzah should be mounted within the outermost handbreadth of the doorpost, rather than in the center. However, if there is a protrusion (such as a jamb) running along the height of the doorpost, some rabbinical authorities advise affixing the Mezuzah on the protrusion.
The Right Side
There can be confusion as to which is the “right side” of the doorway. Is it the right as you enter a room or as you exit? And what about a doorway that is between two rooms (e.g., a doorway between a kitchen and dining room)?
The basic rules are:
- For the door at the entrance of the house, the right as you enter is always considered to be the right side.
- Inside the house, if the doorway can be used as an entrance from either side, the right side is determined by how the door opens. Whichever room the door opens into is considered the primary room, and the Mezuzah is placed on the side that is on the right when entering that room.
The laws defining the terms “entrance” and “exit” are many and complex. If there is no door, if there is a swinging or sliding door, or if you are in doubt that you affixed the Mezuzah correctly, it is advisable to have a reliable rabbi visit your home to determine the correct location for the Mezuzah.
When one has young children and they cannot reach the Mezuzah to kiss it, the Mezuzah should still not be placed lower than the top third of the doorway. Instead, you can lift your children up to the Mezuzah or keep a stool nearby so they can reach it on their own. Doing this provides an opportunity to instill in them—and yourself—a valuable lesson: if an ideal is beyond your reach, strive upwards towards it instead of compromising the ideal.
When There Is No Room
There are cases when it is physically impossible to affix the Mezuzah on the inside of the doorpost itself—for example, a swinging door interferes with the placement of the Mezuzah.
In such a case, the preferred approach would be to make a groove that is less than a handbreadth deep, and place the Mezuzah in the groove.
If that is not possible, then it would be permitted to affix the Mezuzah behind the door, provided it was placed on the doorpost.
When necessary, it can be put on either the inner or outer side of the doorpost, as long as it is within about three inches from the opening of the doorway.
You may also place the Mezuzah on the inner side of the doorpost if you are genuinely concerned that it will be stolen or defaced were it to be mounted on the actual doorpost.
Two portions of Deuteronomy are written on the Mezuzah parchment scroll in their original Hebrew. The verses, from 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, are:
Hear, O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One.
You shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day, to love the L‑rd Your G‑d and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, I will give rain for your land at the proper time, the early rain and the late rain, and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be sated. Take care lest your heart be lured away, and you turn astray and worship alien gods and bow down to them. For then the L‑rd’s wrath will flare up against you, and He will close the heavens so that there will be no rain and the earth will not yield its produce, and you will swiftly perish from the good land which the L‑rd gives you. Therefore, place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be a reminder between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, to speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise. And you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates-so that your days and the days of your children may be prolonged on the land which the L‑rd swore to your fathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth.
These verses are the only inscription on the parchment scroll (except for one of G‑d’s names, Sha-dai, which is inscribed on the reverse side) and emphasize our belief in the oneness of G‑d.
The Mezuzah scroll is made from handmade parchment from a kosher animal and inscribed in black ink with a special quill pen. It is written by a specially trained, religious devout scribe, known in Hebrew as a sofer. The soferconcentrates intensely and writes with special Hebrew characters in a beautiful calligraphic hand.
A Mezuzah has 713 letters. Every letter has numerous laws pertaining to its form. In order for a Mezuzah to be written in accordance with all of the laws, it must meet thousands of requirements.
If even one of the Mezuzah’s 713 letters is missing, or shaped incorrectly, the Mezuzah is rendered invalid and the commandment is unfulfilled. Even the best scribe is human and subject to error. While some errors can be corrected in accordance with Jewish law, others cannot. Therefore, when a Mezuzah is purchased from a reputable seller, it is inspected by a second scribe before being sold.
For more on the making of the mezuzah scroll, see The Scribal Art.
The Mezuzah Case
The Mezuzah should be placed inside a protective case. The scroll should be rolled from left to right, so that G‑d’s name, “Sha-dai,” is facing the front. It is then placed right-side-up inside the case, with the Sha-dai in front. If you do not have a Mezuzah case, wrap the Mezuzah in thick paper or some other material.
Mezuzahs are often acquired from the soferor Judaica store already rolled and encased. It is important to make sure you obtain your Mezuzahs from a reliable source, so that you can be sure they have been placed properly. Sometimes, Mezuzah cases are sold fraudulently, with a photocopied paper scroll which does not fulfill the commandment, or even completely empty!
There is so much variety when it comes to Mezuzah cases today, from plain plastic cases that cost a few dollars to artistically decorated cases in a range of precious materials. While it is a good thing to beautify any mitzvah, remember that the most important thing is to invest in the quality and “beauty” of the scroll inside.