Seasons - Then and Now

For the week ending 2 September 2017 / 11 Elul 5777

Check It Out!

by Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Elul, the Hebrew month preceding Rosh Hashanah, is here! Traditionally, this is a time for self-improvement and an opportunity to “get right with G-d” before the Day of Judgment. During this period, some meticulous individuals have a custom of having their mezuzot checked every year to make sure that the parchment and the letters have not been damaged.

However, this custom is not obligatory. The Talmud requires that an individual check his mezuzot only every three-and-a-half years. That being said, a yearly check-up is actually a good idea for mezuzot that might have sustained damage due to exposure to harsh sunlight or excessive humidity. Of course, if one notices that a particular mezuzah has been affected by the elements, he should check it right away.

Aside from these set times, it is customary to check one’s mezuzot if he finds himself or his family in a “sea of troubles” or ill health. Our Sages attribute special protective powers to the mezuzah, and if things are going haywire there might be a glitch in the “mezuzah force-field”. Of course, it might be a good idea to check one’s moral and ethical behavior at the same time!

Clearly, it is preferable to have one’s mezuzot checked by a reliable sofer who is trained to pick up subtleties that the layman’s eye might miss. However, if your mezuzot were already checked by a professional sofer, the purpose of re-checking them now is mainly to see that the letters have not cracked or have otherwise been damaged by moisture or sun exposure. This kind of checking can be done by a competent layman, when necessary.

If you find no problems, you should immediately return the mezuzot to their posts. In this case, no new blessing is recited. Ideally, one should put them back without delay, as there are some authorities that require a new blessing after just a few hours, especially if one has engaged in other activities in the meantime.

When mezuzot are removed overnight, a blessing should be recited when they are re-affixed. If all the mezuzot are re-affixed at the same time, one blessing suffices for all of them.

If you replace a mezuzah on a different doorway, you may make a blessing even before the next day. However, you should make sure not to “demote” a mezuzah by moving it from a doorway whose obligation is clear to one whose obligation is doubtful.

  • Sources: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:3; Mateh Efraim 581:10; Pitchei Teshuvah Y.D. 291:3

Got a mezuzah question or story? Email rabbi@ohrsandton.com or submit on my website mymezuzahstory.com

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