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Thursday
Sep122019

Do Walk-In Closets Need a Mezuzah?

A collection of relevant halachos regarding checking placement Mezuzos in connection to the month of Elul, from AskTheRav.com & Halacha2Go.com.

By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, Mara D’asra and member of the Crown Heights Beis Din

Checking Placement of Mezuzos 

As part of our teshuvah preparations for the new year to ensure that we are fulfilling mitzvos properly, it’s a common custom to have one’s tefillin and mezuzos checked during the month of Elul. In fact, according to some opinions tefillin and mezuzos should be checked every twelve months.

Checking mezuzos entails not only ensuring that our mezuzos are kosher, but also that the makom kevi’as hamezuzos (the place where the mezuzos are affixed) is in accordance with halachah. If the mezuzos are not in their proper places it is as if one is not fulfilling the mitzvah at all, chas veshalom.

The mezuzah must be affixed to the right doorposderech bi’aschah (as you enter the doorway). However, there are complex halachos regarding which is considered the right side if two rooms have a shared doorway; in such a case, one should seek the advice of a rav to ensure that the mezuzah is placed in accordance with halachah.

”Isn’t it enough to have a Mezuzah on my front door?”

It’s a common misconception that a mezuzah on the front door of the house is somehow more important than the mezuzos inside the house. In fact, the halachah is that all doorways of a house that lead to rooms occupied by people or used for storage require a mezuzah.

The outside door of a home is actually sometimes less likely to need a mezuzah min HaTorah, since it often leads into a foyer—which is considered merely a bais shaar (an entranceway) into the home, and not an area of residence. According to some poskim, bais shaar needs a mezuzah only mi’d’rabbanan.

The foyer is often smaller than the requisite dimensions for a mezuzah, according to most poskim. A room needs to be at least four by four amos (arm lengths, i.e. approximately six feet in length and width) to require a mezuzah.

Any small room that is the same overall size as a room of four by four amos (an area of about thirty-six square feet), even with different dimensions, doesn’t require a mezuzah, according to some opinions; therefore, when affixing a mezuzah, no brachah may be recited. Some maintain that a bais shaar requires a mezuzah even if it is less than the requisite dimensions, but likewise, no brachah is recited. (The only pass-through that all agree does not require a mezuzah, is an area less than four by four tefachim—approximately one square foot.)

Accordingly, when homeowners recite the brachah on affixing mezuzos, they should choose the mezuzah of a larger room— ideally one with an actual door—upon which to make the brachah.

A room with multiple entrances requires a mezuzah on each doorway, and each is a mitzvah onto itself. A house where even one room is occupied requires a mezuzah—on the doorway(s) of the room being resided in, as well as all doorways of pass-through rooms on the way in and out.

A bathroom is an exception, since it’s not a diras kavod (respectable living quarters). The “leniency” of a single-mezuzah home harks back to a time of other modes of living, and certainly does not apply to modern buildings with indoor plumbing and more.(Halacha2go.com #671)

Does a Walk-In closet need a Mezuzah?

beis ha’otzar (a storage room) requires a mezuzah. According to most opinions, a brachah is recited when affixing a mezuzah on a beis ha’otzar of requisite size. A garage—where a car or other possessions are stored—falls under this category.

The requirement of a mezuzah on a beis ha’otzar is due to the sporadic visits the owner makes to the room in order to store, retrieve or view their possessions. The shiur (minimum size) for any room to require a mezuzah, according to the letter of the law, is four by four amos (arm-lengths, i.e. a total measurement of six feet by six feet.)

However, there is an opinion that any room that is chazu l’tashmisho (suitable for its [particular] purpose) requires a mezuzah—even if it is smaller than the regular shiur. Some qualify that this would only apply to a smaller room of significance, i.e., one that is attached to a larger room. Accordingly, there are those with the minhag to be stringent with regard to walk-in closets, and place a mezuzah even on the door of a space smaller than four by four amos—but without a brachah.

Even those who disagree on the designation of chazu l’tashmisho on a smaller walk-in closet, may still be of the opinion that it requires a mezuzah, since it’s an access door to the larger room, based on the psak of Rav Akiva Eiger (and they affix it on the opposite side of the doorway).

On the other hand, a doorway of a closet that is too small to qualify as a walk-in closet is exempt from a mezuzah, according to most opinions. It should be noted that a closet or storage room that is a walk-through passage—of any size—is similar to a foyer, and would require a mezuzah, according to mainstream psak.

Places exempt from a Mezuzah:

There are other places on a Jewish property where the owner is not required to place a mezuzah:

No mezuzah is affixed on a storage space for garbage—even if kept there only until it is permanently disposed of—and even if the place is not dirty or odorous (conditions that would preclude a mezuzah otherwise).

Affixing mezuzos to doors of rented units on our property are the responsibility of the tenants, and the room of a non-Jewish live-in worker does not need a mezuzah, unless their room is also used as storage for the Jewish owner’s personal possessions. (Halacha2go.com #698)

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