September 28, 2023
September 28, 2023

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.

 This week we learned Bava Batra 12. Here are some highlights.

Bava Batra 12: Does a sandbagged doorway need a mezuzah?

A home was located near the southern border of Israel. Our enemies from Gaza were shooting rockets, mortars and bullets at our brethren in that community. A man was worried that a shell might explode near his home and his children would be wounded by the shrapnel. He filled the doorway facing Gaza with sandbags. It was no longer usable. Was he allowed to take down the mezuzah that was on the post of the doorway? Now that the doorway was filled with bags of sand and was impassible, was it considered a wall and exempt from mezuzah? What about if the mezuzah had fallen down, and he wanted to put a new one in its place? Should he recite a blessing when putting a mezuzah up in such a doorway?

Our Gemara sheds light on this issue. Our Gemara discusses the law that each doorway is to receive four amot, about six feet, worth of space in the courtyard in front of the home. What happens if a doorway gets blocked and filled up? Would it still be entitled to four amot in the courtyard? Abaye quoted a Baraita that it would depend how strongly the door was blocked. If a man filled his entrance with bricks, but left the two posts at the sides and atop the entrance so that the frame of a doorway was still visible, it would still be considered a doorway. It would still get four amot in the courtyard. However, if the posts, at the sides and top of the entrance way, were removed and the bricks that filled the doorway made that entire side of the home appear as a flat wall, the doorway no longer existed and would not be entitled to four amot in the courtyard. This law also has relevance to the laws of impurity. If there was a dead body in a home and the doorway was filled with bricks, if the sides of the entrance were still there so that the frame of the doorway was visible, the impurity would go out of that door but it would not be on each side of the home. However, if the doorway was filled with bricks and the posts at the sides and top removed, so that it appeared as a home with four walls and no door, the building would have the status of a grave and there would be impurity at each side of the grave for a distance of four amot, since the Sages created a law that a kohen becomes impure if he entered within four amot of a grave.

Aruch Hashulchan (YD Siman 286:38) applied this standard to the laws of mezuzah. “Every doorway in a home needs a mezuzah. Even those doorways that are not used often. The only way to remove the status of a doorway is to fill it in fully and remove the posts on the sides and top of the former entrance way. If the doorway is blocked with a big box, even though people cannot walk through because of the box, it still is a doorway that needs a mezuzah. A proof to this is the lesson of Gemara Bava Batra 12a that taught that a home in which the doorway is sealed with bricks still gets four amot of the courtyard if the sides and top posts have not been removed. A doorway is still a doorway, until the sides and top have been removed. This would be the standard for mezuzah as well.”

Igrot Moshe (YD Chelek Alef Siman 177) quoted his brother, Rav Mordechai, who disagreed with the lesson of Aruch Hashulchan. Rav Mordechai was of the opinion that the law of our Gemara that a doorway is annulled only when paratz et petzimav, the sides and top posts were removed, is only when that is the only doorway. When there is a single entrance to a home and the entrance is filled with bricks or sand, but the posts at the sides and top were left, the doorway is still considered a doorway, for we assume that the blockage will be removed and the doorway will be used again. However, if there are multiple doorways, and one gets blocked, since people are using the other doorways, we have no reason to assume that this block will be eventually cleared; therefore, the doorway loses its status of doorway and does not need a mezuzah anymore.

Therefore, in our case, according to Aruch Hashulchan, since the man merely sandbagged his doorway but did not remove the posts at the sides, it still needed a mezuzah. However, Rav Moshe and Rav Mordechai Feinstein were of the opinion that a doorway could lose its status as doorway even if there were sandbags blocking the door and the entrance posts were still in place. Rav Zilberstein pointed out that Rav Moshe’s rule was not truly applicable to the case of our question. Rav Moshe dealt with a person who wanted to permanently block a doorway; he had put a barrier in place but had not removed the posts. However, in our case, our resident of southern Israel does not want his doorway to be blocked permanently. He put the sandbags there due to the security situation. It is his hope that quiet will come and that there will be no need for the sandbags, which he will then remove. Since he is not intending to permanently block the doorway, even Rav Moshe and Rav Mordechai would agree that the doorway is still an entrance, even though it has sandbags in front of it and no one is walking in and out of it, and it needs a mezuzah. (Chashukei Chemed)

By Rabbi Zev Reichman

 Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.


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