Letter and Spirit

For the week ending 16 March 2019 / 9 Adar II 5779

The Palace Doors of Achashverosh

by Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines
Library Library Library Kaddish

Megillat Esther is replete with palace scenes: At the King’s Gate, Mordechai refuses to bow down to Haman. Esther stands at the doorway facing the King’s chamber waiting for Achashverosh to extend his scepter. One can only imagine that these palatial doorways were suitably palatial in their dramatically huge dimensions of height and width.

It may be a bit whimsical to wonder how high on such gigantic posts would Mordechai have placed a mezuzah on his palace office when he was appointed as the new prime minister. (Would he have been obligated to affix one?) Generally, the halacha states that a mezuzah must be placed within the top third of a doorpost. But, on such posts, this would mean that the mezuzah could only be reached by ladder!

But, leaving ancient Persia for a moment, consider the following very real mezuzah conundrum I received regarding the tall doorways common in our homes:

Q: Our front door is not gigantic, but I measured it and found that the beginning of the top third is above my shoulders. (I’m average height, if that makes a difference). Actually, if I stretch a bit, my shoulders reach the beginning of the top third. Should I put the mezuzah at the height of my shoulder even though it will be below the top third of the post?

A: Since your shoulders can reach the beginning of the top third with a bit of a stretch, you should still put it within the top third. If this is not so, it should be placed at shoulder height of a normal person. Practically speaking, if the top third of the doorway begins above 5’11” (1.8 meters), the mezuzah should be placed at a little above 4’6” (1.4 meters), which is average shoulder height.

§ Sources: Misgeres HaShulchan, comments to Lechem Hapanim; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 11, cited by Mezuzos Beisecha 289:23; Kuntres HaMezuzah 289:20; Agur B’ohalecha 12:8

Got a mezuzah question or story? Email rabbi@ohrsandton.com or submit on my website mymezuzahstory.com. Free “Mezuzah Maven” book for every question or story submitted (when published in the near future!)

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