Mezuzah Maven

For the week ending 24 February 2018 / 9 Adar II 5778

Nothing but the Truth

by Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines
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Q: My little daughter loves to kiss the mezuzah before going to sleep. She keeps on asking me to move the mezuzah lower down on the post so she can reach it. I always tell her that it must stay where it is. But when she asks me: “Why?” I don’t know what to tell her, except “That’s where it is supposed to be!” To be honest, I would also love to know why!

A: The Talmud equates the mitzvah of tefillin to mezuzah, which follows it in the first paragraph of the Shema. Just as tefillin are placed on the upper part of the body and the head, so too, the mezuzah should be affixed within the top third of the doorway.

Also, the mezuzah must be visually noticeable to the adults who pass by it, as a reminder to observe the mitzvot incumbent upon them.

The custom of kissing a mezuzah, precious as it may be, cannot push aside these halachic principles. R’ Yonason Rosenblum, in his classic biography of Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky, records:

Reb Yaakov was particularly attuned to the dangers of exposing children to any kind of falsehood. He once visited the kindergarten of his son Binyamin's yeshiva and noticed that the mezuzah had been placed lower on the doorpost than halachically prescribed, so the children could reach it upon entering the classroom. The idea of getting children used to touching the mezuzah when they come into a room was a good one, said Reb Yaakov, but the means were wholly inappropriate. “Put the mezuzah on the upper third of the doorpost where it belongs,” he said, “and let them use a stool to reach it. Otherwise they will grow up thinking a mezuzah can be put anywhere you wish. One does not raise children with falsehood.”

Perhaps there is another lesson here as well: It’s important to convey to our children — and to ourselves — that our job is to lift ourselves up to meet our spiritual challenges, even when it’s “oh-so-tempting” to look for ways to simply lower the bar.

  • Sources: Agur B’ohalecha 12:9:26, citing Minchas Pitim; Yitzchak Yikarei 6:9:24, citing Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach; R’ Y. Rosenblum and R’ N. Kamenetsky in Reb Yaakov, Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 2004, pp. 326-7

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