Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Check Your Mezuzos Twice in Seven Years (A PSA)

My father, עליו השלום, once let me change the spark plugs on our car.  He warned me, "Be sure to take off only one at a time!"  I was a bit confused, as I had no thought to take them off (all eight... this was the 70s) by the handful.  As I started to remove the first one, though, I realized what he meant.  For those of you who are still mystified: Before electronic ignition, power was sent to the spark plugs via a distributor cap/rotor system.  The rotor, of course, delivers the power to the attached wires sequentially.  However, the cylinders of the car do not fire sequentially.  That means that the order of the spark plugs connected to the distributor cap is crucial to the running of the car.  In fact, the results of mixing up the order is at best a poorly running engine and at worst real damage to the engine.  So of course I replaced them one at a time, being careful with the order.  Also of course, though, I told my father, "Don't worry Dad.  I took them all off one at a time; now I am going to start connecting them one at a time."  I was a rewarded with a brief look of panic until he realized I was kidding.

Mezuzos need to be checked twice in seven years.  That's the halacha.  Some people like to have them checked every year right before Rosh HaShanah; extra credit... but it is the days of awe, after all.  Some check them every Adar II.  Since there are seven Adar II's every 19 years; that works out to just under three times in seven years.  That's comfortably safe.  Others have them checked when they think about it.  That's a very, very bad plan.  It is also the schedule I have been using till yesterday...

You are allowed to leave your house without mezuzos for a day while you have them checked.  Some sofrim will make house calls; but it's really not a big deal to handle it yourself.  First rule: mezuzos have to be returned to the same doorpost from which they were removed.  There are two basic reasons for that.  First, you are not allowed to downgrade a doorway with a less expensive/less beautiful mezuzah.  Since not all mezuzos are created equal, you are safest to keep them where they are; otherwise you will almost certainly be downgrading some doorways (albeit upgrading others, but errors don't cancel in halacha; they add).  Secondly, not all doorways are created equal.  Doorways with arches, partial doorposts on one or both sides, sans doors, inside doors are all obligated at different levels and all potentially obligated less than a regular outside door.  Therefore, play it safe and put them back from whence they came.

The easiest way to ensure the correct placement is to simply put one piece of masking tape on the doorpost and one the mezuzah case (or ziplock bag, if you are taking them out of the case); then write the same number on both.  Assuming all are kosher and you get them replaced on the same day, you just put them up without a bracha.  Of course... life is never quite that simple.

One of ours was פסול/invalid.  When I say פסול, that is an understatement.  The only visible evidence left of the mezuzah was the smear of ink on the inside of the cellophane in which it had been wrapped.  How did that happen, you may be asking yourself.  It was the mezuzah from the deck, that had -- despite a waterproof holder -- been bested by several (I am embarrassed to tell you how many) Chicago winters.  No problem; we'll just get a new one -- extra beautiful, of course.  One serious issue, though.

What's the issue?  The mezuzos were going back up on the day they were removed, so no bracha should be required.  That one doorway (on the deck), though, hadn't had a mezuzah for Lord Knows how long.  That one, therefore, might require a bracha when affixing the mezuzah.  Why only "might"?  First, the deck doorway only has half height doors (double, like many decks).  The Rambam holds that a doorway without a door does not require a mezuzah.  We put one up because of the other authorities that argue, but without a bracha; it's the Rambam, after all.  Secondly, if the mezuzah cannot be placed in such a way that it can survive the elements, then the Chazon Ish holds that it does not require a mezuzah.  Moreover, the Chazon Ish would not allow you to put up a mezuzah in that case because it will come to be invalidated and is therefore a disgrace to the mitzvah.

So I measured the doors; they are 39" tall and therefore meet the minimum 10 טפחים/handbreadth measure needed to be considered a full qualified door to require a mezuzah.  (In fact, 35" would have been good enough; 37" just to be safe.)  We got a better waterproof case to satisfy the opinion of the Chazon Ish.  We also moved one of the less beautiful mezuzos (from an inside doorway) to the deck and replaced it with a more beautiful mezuzah.  (Note well: upgrading the mezuzah would not be sufficient change to warrant a new bracha.)

There you have it.  One parting word.  The difference between a beautiful mezuzah and an extra beautiful mezuzah was $10.00.  I find it hard to justify being cheap for $10.00 per doorway on a house that retails for 100s of thousands of dollars.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Using a Mitzvah Object for Non-Mitzvah Purposes

As I am -- Baruch HaShem -- getting older, I am more cognizant of the fact that I'd like to stay as healthy as possible right up the moment I leave this world.  Stuff hurting is not the problem (I am told there is an old Russian saying that once you are 40, if you wake up and nothing hurts -- you're dead), stuff not working, however, is a problem.  To that end, for several years now I commute to work by bicycle (weather permitting, 30 minutes on an elliptical machine when weather does not permit).  I recently took up some upper body weight training.  Not because I want to be governor of California, just simply to slow down loss of bone mass and extend my body's healthy span.  Simple hishtadlus.  I have an 18 month old grandson who is just the right weight for arm curls (yes... I am that weak), so I do about 10 reps when I greet him at night.  He laughs, I get my exercise; all good.  (Main problem is explaining to the older ones why zeidy can't give them the same "…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…