The kosher consumer public has probably heard stories about the importance of having kosher mezuzos, and the fact that there are, unfortunately, many non-kosher mezuzos affixed in countless homes; however, most people probably do not realize that mezuzah cases can also be “non-kosher”. Although a “non-kosher” case does not usually invalidate the affixing of the mezuzah, sometimes it can.1 Even if an improper mezuzah case is still halachically permissible, one should not suffice with the bare minimum; rather, one should be scrupulous in this mitzvah and merit to lengthen the days of one’s life.2
Below is a brief section from a chapter on mezuzah cases from my new book on the laws of mezuzos – Mezuzah: Divine Protection and Blessing.
Mezuzah Cases should be in Good Condition
The purpose of the mezuzah case is to adorn and protect the mezuzah scroll.
Mezuzah cases should be in good condition.3 The case should be closed off well so that the mezuzah does not get ruined from moisture from the wall4 or from rain. If the mezuzah is exposed to direct sunlight, in which case it could get damaged, it should be placed in an opaque casing (or paper should be wrapped around the mezuzah scroll).
The case should look respectful and beautiful. Each case should be renewed occasionally5 just as someone would renew his or her clothing and other possessions. How much more so should one renew the mezuzah case when it comes to honoring Hashem with the mitzvahs, as it says, “This is my G-d and I will adorn Him.”6
Metallic Mezuzah Cases
It is written in the name of the Baal Shem Tov7 that it is proper to avoid housing the mezuzah scroll in an iron ברזל case. The explanation for this is that iron is intended to shorten the life of man while a mezuzah scroll is intended to lengthen the life of man, thus it is not proper that iron should house a mezuzah. This is connected to the law that it is forbidden to use iron to chisel the stone Mizbeach (alter).8
Concerning silver and gold mezuzah cases, the Daas Kedoshim9 suggests that it was always avoided due to the concern that the cases would be stolen. However, many in practice do not use any type of metallic mezuzah cases,10 even if there is no concern of them being stolen.
Forbidden Mezuzah Cases
A case made of the battim of tefillin is forbidden to use, for the holiness of tefillin was greater than the housing of a mezuzah scroll; thus the holiness of the tefillin box would be lowered. One may not lower a holy item such as a Sefer Torah, tefillin or mezuzos to a lower station of holiness11 as would be considered disrespectful to the mitzvah.12
A mezuzah case that was made on Shabbos by a Jew should not be purchased or used.13
Human Figurine Mezuzah Cases
Human figures14 (or the sun or moon)15 on a mezuzah case should preferably be avoided for housing a mezuzah parchment.16 Children’s figurine mezuzah cases can also be problematic.17 It is therefore better to avoid purchasing, using, or selling such mezuzah cases. If one already owns such a case and one does not want to get rid of it, it seems one could rub off the nose of the toy human figurine mezuzah case.18
This mezuzah case is only a profile (i.e. not a full 3D image of a human), therefore, it is not subject to the above mentioned rule.19 Nonetheless, it seems that it is still proper to avoid.20
Animal Figurine Mezuzah Cases
Animal images (in general) are not a problem.21 However, for a mezuzah case, since one touches it, and some kiss it, it seems advisable to avoid using this type of case.
Mezuzah Case that Slides off the Rack
The mezuzah needs to be affixed strongly so that it cannot be easily removed. Therefore, if removing a mezuzah is done by means of sliding it off a rack, it is not a valid setting.22
Velcro or Magnet Attached Mezuzah Cases
The mezuzah needs to be affixed strongly to the doorpost. Therefore, a mezuzah case affixed by way of magnet or Velcro is invalid since these methods are intended for attaching and detaching easily, without effort.23
- This would be mainly applicable if the setting was not strong or when the case positions the mezuzah out of the halachic requirement of the doorway.
- See Tur (Yoreh Deah 285).
- Tractate Sofrim 3:13.
- Tosfos Bava Metzia 102a.
- Pischei Shearim 285:25.
- Shemos 15:2.
- This is recorded in Daas Kedoshim 289:1 where it is written that he heard that this applies to all metals, however, the Daas Kedoshim was in doubt if this was also said by the Baal Shem Tov or a listener added it on his own, since it is implied from the Sages that the problem of shortening one’s life only applies to iron (see the Magen Avraham Orach Chayim 180:4). The Daas Kedoshim concludes that in his opinion, even iron is not such a problem. For the nails that affix the mezuzah case to the doorpost are usually made from iron, and only concerning a table, which is likened to the Mizbeach, is there a problem of having iron (like knives on it during the Birkas Hamazon), but not so regarding a mezuzah case.
See, however, the Pischei Shearim (289:86) who refutes this proof since the nails should not be compared to the case of the mezuzah because they do not touch the mezuzah directly.
- See Rashi on Shemos 20:22; Midos 3:4.
- See Nesivim Bisdeh Hashlichus Vol. 1 (p. 94)who brings this practice in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. See also Pischei Shearim (289:86) who quotes this practice in the name of the Skolia Rebbe.
- Menachos 32a.
- R. Moshe Weiner writes: In addition to lowering the holiness of the tefillin battim, one is disrespecting the tefillin battim (for one had to drill holes in them). It is an obligation to take down these tefillin battim and place them in geniza.
- See Ksav Sofer (Orach Chayim 50). When one purposely transgresses Shabbos in order to sell or bring benefit to others, all agree that the intended recipient may not benefit from the item. One who purchases from the Shabbos-transgressor is assisting him in his wrongful acts.
- Based on the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 141:4) we are not allowed to make tzuros (formed images) either protruding or indented images of angels or a human. Even the image of a face of a person alone is forbidden (Taz 141:15; see also Shach 141:32 and Pischei Teshuva 141:11).
The Shulchan Aruch (ibid) has the girsa (wording) “afilu Lenoi” (crafting even for decorative purposes, i.e. not for idolatrous purposes G-d forbid, rather just for mere decoration). It is forbidden to craft them lest people make a mistake and confuse them as idolatry. See also the Shach (ibid:22,23). See also Rambam (Hilchos Avodas Kochavim Chapter 3:10,11).
- Based on Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 141:3, 4).
- Even though the sources in the previous footnotes 364 and 365 were discussing the making of images of decoration as opposed to just owning them. Since there is an importance of looking at the mezuzah in order to remember the unity of Hashem (see Rambam Hilchos Mezuzah 6:13), and to touch it as mentioned in the Talmud with Onkelos the ger (Avoda Zara 11a), and it is not proper to look (see Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 168:4; Chochmas Adam 85:9) or touch (in a way of cherishing) images, the same should seemingly apply here as well.
See also the Rambam (Hilchos Mezuzah 5:4).
- It seems that a children’s figurine mezuzah case is less of a problem since toys in general are anyways permissible for children. See Yechaveh Da’as (3:64) and Yabia Omer (Vol. 3 Yoreh Deah 8) which are, in certain details, more stringent in this matter. However, based on the explanation of the previous footnote, preferably one should be stringent as possible, and avoid using these figurines for mezuzah cases.
- See Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (ibid:2).
This is to defend those that already have such toy figurine mezuzah cases affixed on their doors, though it is endorsed, nor Torah-like; however, it is not necessarily forbidden for certainty even if this was done.
- Shach (Yoreh Deah 141:25).
- Based on footnote 367. Also the Shach (Yoreh Deah 141:32) concludes, “the one that is stringent in all of these issues, a blessing should come upon him.”
- See Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 141:6).
- Mezuzos Melachim (Halacha Lemoshe 63). A mezuzah (case or scroll) that can be removed by hand without much effort it is not considered as affixed. See also Yoreh Deah (289:4) that one should affix a mezuzah case with nails (as to make it a permanent setting). Note: the blessing we recite is “Likboah Mezuzah” to affix a Mezuzah (scroll), showing that it should be affixed in a permanent way.
- See Pischei Shearim 289:81.