Removing Mezuzos When The Lease Is Up
‘For It Was A Residence For The High Priest’
Our daf discusses the absence of mezuzos in the Beis Hamikdash. The Parhedrin Chamber was an exception, however. The Gemara suggests that it required a mezuzah since it was the kohen gadol’s dwelling place. However, since other dwelling chambers in the Beis Hamikdash didn’t have a mezuzah, the Gemara is forced to conclude that the only reason the Parhedrin Chamber had a mezuzah was due to a special rabbinic decree.
The Gemara (Bava Metzia 102a) states that if a person vacates his premises, he may not remove his mezuzos if the next resident will be Jewish. The Gemara does not tell us if he may demand payment for the mezuzos from the next resident.
Two Reasons To Forbid
Tosafos offer two reasons to forbid a vacating resident from removing his mezuzos: 1) harmful spirits (mazikin) may enter a house without a mezuzah – removing the mezuzos, therefore, may be tantamount to actually inviting them in (Bava Metzia 101b, s.v. “lo yitlenah veyeitzei”); 2) a mezuzah not sitting on a doorpost is not being used for a mitzvah – removing it, therefore, is akin to stripping it of its purpose, which is forbidden. A similar issue, writes Tosafos (Shabbos 22a s.v. “Rav”), arises with removing tzitzis from one tallis and placing them on another.
The Gemara (Bava Metzia 102a) relates that someone once moved from his home and took along his mezuzos. For this deed, he later lost his wife and children.
Payment For Mezuzos
Many Rishonim do not clearly state whether a new resident must pay for the mezuzos which the previous resident left behind. The Ritva, for example, states that “he may have to pay.” The Beis Yosef (Y.D. 291) cites Rabbenu Manoach’s opinion that “if the previous resident demands it, it is better to pay him, but we must not use coercion.” The Rema rules (ibid.) that “if the previous tenant demands it, he is to be paid.” Later poskim ask whether this means that the departing tenant can demand payment through a beis din. It’s not clear. Perhaps the Rema is merely advising a new tenant to pay the old one. Perhaps he cannot be forced, however.
The Bach (ibid.) explains why we are unsure whether the new resident must pay the old one. He says the answer depends on the two reasons why a person has to leave his the mezuzos on his old residence. If the reason is the mazikin, then the new resident must pay the old one for leaving these protective mezuzos up for his benefit. If, however, the reason has to do with stripping the mezuzos of their function, the new resident need not pay for them. He can say to the old resident, “You left the mezuzos to fulfill your obligation; I owe you nothing” (see Perishah 291:2).
Where Being Affixed Elsewhere
The Ritva (Bava Metzia ad loc.) quotes the She’iltos stating that a departing tenant may not remove his mezuzos if he doesn’t need them in his new premises. If he does, however, he may remove them since the mezuzos will continue to be used. According to the She’iltos, then, mazikin are not a factor in considering whether one may remove his mezuzos. The only thing to worry about is whether the mezuzos will continued to be used.
One Who Is Not Of Means
If we are not worried about mazikin, then a poor person, in particular, would be allowed to take down his mezuzos and use them in his new residence. If we are worried about mazikin, however, even a poor person may not remove the mezuzos from his old residence. The poskim (Birkei Yosef 291, s.k. 3; Peri Megadim, O.C. 13; Mishbetzos Zahav s.k. 2; Da’as Kedoshim by the Rav of Butczacz on Y.D., Hilchos Mezuzah 291, s.k. 1) rule that if a poor person absolutely cannot afford new mezuzos, he may rely on the second reason for the prohibition and take his mezuzos with him. (See Nimukei Yosef, who offers a third reason why one may not remove mezuzos – to avoid disturbing the presence of the Shechinah that dwells in premises graced by a mezuzah.)
His Life Comes First
According to a clever suggestion in Responsa VaYechi Yaakov (Y.D. 71), even if the reason for the prohibition is to repel mazikin, a departing tenant who can’t afford new mezuzos may take his mezuzos with him. After all, he is not required to live without mezuzos just in order to protect someone else (see Responsa Iggros Moshe, Y.D. 4:44; Responsa Minchas Yitzchak 9:106; Responsa Yabia Omer, Y.D. 3:18).
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at email@example.com. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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