Mezuzah Maven

For the week ending 18 May 2019 / 13 Iyyar 5779

Knock-Out Blow!

by Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines
Library Library Library Kaddish

Q: My children look forward all year to searching for the Afikomen on Seder night. This year they and their cousins made a mad dash through a door and knocked the mezuzah out of its case. I immediately reached down to pick it up, but my brother-in-law asked the fifth question: “Isn’t it muktzeh?”

I hesitated for a moment, but before I could figure out what to do my ten-year-old son picked it up and put it in my hand. Now I had a second dilemma: Should I put it back in its case or carry it to a safe place? There was no one to ask, so I simply laid it on a side table and sat down to resume the Seder. But then my brother-in-law asked the sixth question: “Are we allowed to sit in a room that has no mezuzah?”

Now, I’m the one who is asking: Was the mezuzah muktzeh? Would I have been able to replace it into its case? And should we have vacated the room?

A: A mezuzah is a “miniature Torah scroll” containing the first two paragraphs of Shema Yisrael, and thus is not muktzeh. However, this particular scroll should be treated as muktzeh if its case was affixed to the doorpost in a manner that would require dismantling (forbidden on Shabbat and Yom Tov). This is because the word “muktzeh” means “set aside from use,” and this mezuzah was inaccessible when Shabbat came in.

Nevertheless, since a holy scroll is lying in disgrace on the ground, the authorities agree that one may pick it up. Preferably one should pick in up in an unusual manner in deference to those who maintain that it should still be treated as muktzeh.

Once the mezuzah enters one’s hand, he may walk with it until he finds a safe place to deposit it. Logically, one would then proceed to slip it into the case that it fell from, with aberacha, in order to resume the mitzvah. Many authorities hold that merely slipping the scroll back into its case is not problematic even though on Shabbat and Yom Tov one is not allowed to “build or construct.” Snapping a case onto the doorpost or onto the part of the case still affixed to the doorpost would not be allowed.

If putting up the mezuzah involves a possible Shabbat violation, one would be exempt from the mitzvah due to circumstances beyond his control. Because of this exemption one would not be required to leave the room, as this would entail effort. Certainly, there is no requirement to leave your house. When there is little effort necessary, some suggest that one should move to another room.

  • Sources: Shalmei Yehuda 1:12, citing Rav Eliashiv; Shevet Halevi 4:143; Agur B’Ohalecha 41:2-5;Bi’ur Halacha and Mishna Berurah 518:45; Magen Avraham 19:1;Pischei Teshuvah and Aruch HaShulchan Y.D. 285:1. Cf. Minchas Shabbos 88:122 andMezuzos Beisecha 186:22

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