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Switching the Location of a Mezuzah

לעילוי נשמת

יואל אפרים בן אברהם עוזיאל זלצמן ז”ל

Question: I noticed that a storage room jointly owned by several residents of our apartment building in Jerusalem does not have a mezuzah. I bought a mezuzah myself, and because it is nicer than some of those in my home, I thought of taking the new one for myself and moving one of my apartment’s mezuzot to the storage room. Is there any problem doing that?

Answer: Yasher koach for taking care of the mezuzah. The responsibilities of multiple people can often be neglected (see Bava Batra 24b). Since you bought the mezuzah yourself, unless you had in mind to formally acquire it on behalf of the group, you do not need permission from anyone from a monetary perspective.

The issue has to do with the nature of the obligation to have a mezuzah in a storage room. In this column (Toldot 5783), we presented a machloket Rishonim (dispute) whether a storage room that is not part of a home’s daily activity requires a mezuzah. Although the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 286:2) rules it is required, we accepted the opinions of several poskim (see Yalkut Yosef, YD 285:28) that there is enough doubt to recommend not reciting a bracha when attaching a mezuzah to a storage room. The fact that it is jointly owned does not raise additional doubt (Chulin 135b; Shulchan Aruch, YD 286:1), unless there are non-Jewish partners (Rama ad loc.) – of course, we do not know your neighbors.

Moving a mezuzah from a location where it is definitely part of a mitzvah to one in which the obligation/mitzvah is doubtful could potentially violate the rule of ma’alin bakodesh v’lo moridin (mbkvlm), one is forbidden to lower the status of a sacred object). This concept is derived from pesukim (Menachot 99a) in the context of increasing and not decreasing the honor of holy objects in the Mikdash, and there are varied opinions on whether this is an authentic Torah law or a Rabbinic asmachta (reliance) (see Be’ur Halacha to Orach Chayim 42:1). Additional Talmudic applications of mbkvlm vary greatly (including: a temporary Kohen Gadol not returning to serve as a simple Kohen (Yoma 73a); increasing the number of candles as Chanukah progresses (Shabbat 21b); not using something from tefillin shel rosh (of the head) for a shel yad (of the hand) (Menachot 34b)). It is likely that some applications represent the heart of the Halacha and others are only related concepts (unpublished shiur by Rav Asher Weiss).

The following, cited by the Mishna Berura (15:1), is the closest case to ours that is discussed by classical Acharonim. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 15:1) permits moving tzitzit from one garment to another. The Pri Megadim (EA 15:2) is unsure whether it is permitted to move them from a garment with a Torah-level obligation to one with only a Rabbinic one. The Artzot Hachayim (15:5) permits it, whereas he forbids taking them from the garment of an adult to that of a child. (Their short pieces mention the possibility of bizuy (disgrace) to the tzitzit, not the concept of mbkvlm).

It is unclear whether we can extrapolate from these sources to our mezuzah question. There is a machloket whether mbkvlm applies only to matters related to kedusha (holiness) or even non-kedusha-related mitzvah objects (see Beit Yosef, YD 259). mezuzah is in the kedusha category, whereas tzitzit are not (Megilla 26b). We also have to consider to what extent the change in the mezuzah’s location impacts on its sanctity, as one can argue that wherever a mezuzah is, it itself has the same kedusha irrespective of the mezuzah-obligation status of the doorway (see discussion in Kvi’at mezuzah K’hilchata 14:5).

In any case, (among?) the first to write about taking a mezuzah from a doorway that fully requires a mezuzah to one in which it is only a safek (doubt) are contemporary poskim. The very influential Rav S.Z. Auerbach (Minchat Shlomo II, 97.24) reasons that it is forbidden because of mbkvlm, as does Teshuvot V’hanagot (I:649). In the absence of anyone of such prominence disagreeing with them, it is difficult to allow the move. On the other hand, it is reasonable to argue that one should be able to rely on the majority opinion that a storage room’s mezuzah obligation is definite.


Rabbi Mann is a dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University’s Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of “Living the Halachic Process Volumes 1 and 2” and “A Glimpse of Greatness.”

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