The Placement of the Mezuzah
On which side of the door should the mezuzah be placed?
A mezuzah is placed on the right side of the doorway as one enters the room. We are commanded U’Ktavtam Al Mezuzot Beitecha, “you shall write it on the doorposts of the home” (Deut. 6:9). The Talmud (Menachos 34a) derives the word biascha which means “to come in” from the word beisecha and teaches that a mezuzah should be on the side of the door at which one begins to move. The Talmud assumes that people generally move first with their right foot (Rashi) and therefore requires that the mezuzah be placed on the right side of the door. This halacha applies to lefties as well, and a mezuzah placed on the left side does not fulfill the mitzvah.
Defining where the right side of the door is can be confusing when what seems to be a large doorway is in fact rather narrow. One example is sliding doors where one of the panels is stationary. If that panel is on the right side, the mezuzah should be placed on the panel itself rather than on the doorframe (See picture).
Determining which is the side of entry between two rooms will be discussed in a future article.
How far into the doorpost should the mezuzah be placed?
The Shulchan Aruch (YD 289:2) maintains that the mezuzah should be placed under the lintel as close to the outside of the room as possible so that one will encounter the protection of the mezuzah as soon as he enters (Menachos 33b). Therefore, if the entryway has a very wide doorpost, the mezuzah does not get centered, but rather should be placed on the doorpost as close as possible to the outside of the room.
There are some special cases to pay attention to:
- A wide entryway which leads to a narrower door frame (picture). In such a case most authorities advise placing the mezuzah on the door frame itself and not on the entranceway (Sefer Hamezuzah 3:7).
- A very narrow door frame with no room to place a mezuzah and still be able to close the door. This is very common in office buildings where there are glass doors and walls separating office spaces. In such a situation the mezuzah is placed on the outside glass of the wall as close to the door as possible. The issue of mezuzahs in offices is complex and will be addressed in a future article.
How high should a mezuzah be hung?
The Talmud (Menachos 33a) explains that the mezuzah must be placed on the top third of the doorpost at least a tefach (4 inches) from the top. There are those who maintain that it should be hung at the bottom of the top third (Shulchan Aruch YD 289:2), and we should try to accommodate that opinion when possible.
There are some exceptions:
- A very tall doorway like you would see in institutional lobbies (picture) or old-style mansions. There are some who assume that the mezuzah should be in the top third even when the doorway is very tall (Yabia Omer 2:21 and others), but most opinions are that the mezuzah should not be above shoulder height even if that takes it below the top third of the doorway (Chovas Hadar 8:2:1).
- Archways present a concern as it is difficult to determine what halacha considers to be the top of the door. It is often best to place the mezuzah a tefach below where the arch begins. A case where the arch begins very low is beyond the scope of this article.
- A doorpost that does not reach all the way to the lintel (picture). This might be the case in kitchen entryways where the end of the kitchen counter forms part of the doorway. Most authorities assume that if the low doorway/counter is at least 10 tefachim (40 inches) high it is considered a doorway and a mezuzah should be affixed at least four inches from the top, even though it will appear to be very low.