The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
And Korach took... (16:1) Korach asked... A house full of Seforim, does it require a Mezuzah? (Medrash Rabbah 18:3)
THE MITZVAH OF MEZUZAH: THE BASIC OBLIGATION
By pointing out the "absurdity" of affixing a Mezuzah to the door of a
house filled with holy sefarim, Korach hoped to discredit the legitimacy of
Moshe as the agent through whom Hashem transmitted His will to the Jewish
people. Korach claimed that laws that did not make sense to him were not of
Divine origin but formulated by Moshe. When the earth swallowed Korach and
his followers, their blasphemous claim was demolished by Hashem Himself
with utter finality: All mitzvos were given by Hashem to Moshe at Har
Sinai, complete in all their aspects and transmitted exactly as they were
received; we submit to all Divine commandments regardless of how sensible
they seem to our limited and imperfect understanding. As the halachos of
mezuzah were targeted by Korach as an object of derision, we shall discuss
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). The mezuzah also serves as
protection for a home (3) and safeguards the well-being of one's little
children (4). The intention that one must have, however, when affixing the
mezuzah to the door, must be "for the sake of the mitzvah of mezuzah" (5).
Indeed, 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. He is permitted to temporarily remain in
his home only if he is unable to obtain a mezuzah on the spot, or if he
found out on Shabbos that his home has no mezuzah (8). Other poskim are
somewhat more lenient and do not require the residents to move out if they
have already moved in (9). 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 (11). 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 (12). In
any case, the mezuzah parchment does not become muktzeh and it may be
picked up so that it does not lie on the floor in disgrace (13).
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 (14) [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 (15). Other poskim hold that once he has moved his
belongings into the house, the mezuzah may be affixed with a blessing (16).
It is only when one rents [or borrows] a home from another person [outside
of Eretz Yisroel] that a thirty day (17) waiting period is allowed until one
becomes obligated to affix a mezuzah (18). The rishonim argue as to the
reason for this exemption. Rashi (19) 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 (20). 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 (21), and one may conduct himself in accordance with
this view (22).
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 (23). 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 (24).
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 (25).
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 (26).
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
3 Tur Y.D. 285 based on Talmud 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 Mishne, 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 Pischei Teshuvah YD 285:1 quoting Pri Megadim; Aruch
ha-Shulchan 285:5; Ben Ish Chai (Ki Savo).
9 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 the mezuzah.
10 Sdei Chemed (Mem-115) quoting Ruach Chaim.
11 Mishnah Berurah 313:41; 314:8.
12 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.
13 Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Shalmei Yehudah, pg. 28).
14 See Chovas Hadar 9:1.
15 Mishnah Berurah 19:4. This is the proper way--Harav S.Y.
Elyashiv (oral ruling quoted in Avnei Yashfei 2:80).
16 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. 19:3.
17 The day of the move, even if it is close to night, is day
number 1. 29 days later, the obligation takes effect.
18 Y.D. 286:22
19 Menachos 44a.
20 Siddur Derech ha-Chayim quoted in Pischei Teshuvah 286: 18.
21 Several poskim quoted in Sdei Chemed (Mem--115) and Chovas
ha-Dar pg. 31.
22 Aruch ha-Shulchan 286:49. See also Chayei Adam 15:22.
26 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 act on Shabbos.