Mezuzos on Inner Rooms – Part I
The Torah teaches that mezuzos must be placed on the door into our houses (Deuteronomy 6:9). Does every room inside the house require a mezuzah as well? This question was asked of The Maharil (Rav Yaakov Moelin, 1365-1427) in an unusual way. The questioner felt that he wanted to show extra love for the mitzvah of mezuzah by placing a mezuzah on every door inside his home. He was concerned however that doing so would demonstrate haughtiness (yuhara) because common practice at the time was to place a mezuzah only on the main entrance of the home. The Maharil assured him that not only is placing a mezuzah on each door not haughty, it is what the halacha requires. The Maharil laments that he doesn’t know where the idea of only putting up the one mezuzah came from, and that many Jews are losing out on mitzvos because the rooms inside their homes lack mezuzos. He adds that the Maharam of Rothenberg had 24 rooms in his home and each one had a mezuzah on its door.
The Rama (Rav Moshe Isserlis, 1530-1572) records in his gloss to Shulchan Aruch (YD 287:2) that although many Jews placed mezuzos only on their front doors, that practice is incorrect, and there is nothing to rely on for such a practice.
We’ve established the need for a mezuzah on each interior door. This leads to one of the most complex and subjective areas of hilchos mezuzah. The basic principal is that the mezuzah goes on the right side of the door as you enter the room, but in most modern homes, doors are used in both directions.
With many different rooms and entrances, on which side of the door should the mezuzah be placed?
The first thing to look for is whether the door leads from outside to inside. The mezuzah will almost always be on the right side as one enters the home from the outside. Even a door that can only be opened from the inside, such as an “exit only” door, should have the mezuzah on the right side as one enters the building. The one possible exception to this rule is when a door leads from the house to a completely enclosed yard or a porch. In such a case, many authorities (for example, Chovas HaDar 8:1 (6)) argue that the mezuzah should be on the right side heading out to the yard.
When a doorway connects two indoor rooms, the decision becomes more ambiguous. The Gemara (Menachos 33a) provides just one clue, heker tzir, which literally means the ‘indication of the pivot’. Whichever room the door turns into should have a mezuzah on the right side going into that room.
The condition of “heker tzir” does not solve too many problems though. First, it will only work when there is an actual door present and many of the doorways where these questions come up don’t have doors. However, the bigger question is how much weight to give the condition of heker tzir when considering other indicators. Chabad Chasidim have a tradition to have heker tzir decide where to put the mezuzah regardless of other factors which can lead to interesting results. For example, in a large room such as a shul, you would end up putting the mezuzah on the right side when leaving the room just because that is the way fire regulations require the door to be hung.
Most other authorities though maintain that haker tzir is only to be used as a final decision makerwhere other factors will not provide a conclusion for where to place the mezuzah. The other factors to consider are whether there is only one entrance to the room, what the normal flow of traffic is, and which room is more important. We will discuss each of these considerations in the next article.