Covering a Mezuzah

Covering the Mezuzah-Mezuzah Cases:

This Halacha tackles three different subjects associated with covering a Mezuzah. 1) The need to cover a Mezuzah in certain areas of filth and immodesty. [Halacha A] 2) The custom leave the name Shakaiy of the Mezuzah visible to the outside, in areas that a cover is not required [Halacha B]  3) The material that is to be used as a Mezuzah cover. [Halacha C]


A. Should the Mezuzah parchment be covered or revealed?

The parchment of the Mezuzah that is placed on the doorpost is to be covered.[1] One is to place the parchment of the Mezuzah in a tube and then attach it to the doorpost, as explained in the next Halacha.

Is the Mezuzah to remain visible through the cover/Should the cover be transparent? It is best for the Mezuzah [parchment] placed on the doorposts to be visible.[2] This especially applies to the name Shakaiy written on the external part of the Mezuzah, which is meant to remain visible, as explained in B.[3] Thus, one should use a transparent casing of clear plastic or glass for his Mezuzah parchment. This however is with exception to a room in which marital relations take place, and according to many Poskim also in a room in which women are not dressed modestly, in which case the Mezuzah is not to be visible even through glass or plastic, as explained below.

If one cannot allow the Mezuzah to be visible:[4] If for whatever reason one is unable to allow the Mezuzah to be visible, it may be placed in a non-transparent cover, and even hidden within a hole in the doorpost, as the main Mitzvah of Mezuzah does not require it to be visible.

A room with feces and a diaper changing room:[5] By a room which contains filth [i.e. urine or excrement], such as rooms in which children are found [and have their diapers changed in that room[6] or use the potty in the room], it is best[7] for the Mezuzah of its doorpost to be covered. One may [and should[8]] use a transparent covering in such areas so the Mezuzah still remains visible.[9]

Rooms in which people undress and are not fully clothed:[10] When placing a Mezuzah on the door of rooms in which women [or men[11] or even children[12]] at times are undressed, the Mezuzah is to be covered.[13] Many Poskim[14] rule that in such areas the Mezuzah is to be covered by a non-transparent covering. However from some Poskim[15] it is implied that one may [and should] use a transparent covering even in such areas so the name of Hashem remains visible.[16] [According to all opinions one may/should have a transparent covering if people will not be naked in front of it, even if they are not fully clothed in front of it[17], although some[18] write to be stringent even in such a case.]

Rooms not of dwelling in which people are unclothed within:[19] All rooms which are not actual rooms of dwelling, such as a storage room, in which a woman or man are accustomed to be naked in, such as a shower, are not to have a Mezuzah placed by their entrance.[20] This applies even if one desires to cover the Mezuzah.[21]

Parents room-Room of marital relations: In a room where a couple has marital relations, and the Mezuzah is inside the room[22], the Mezuzah must be covered in a way that it cannot be seen, and hence a transparent covering [such as plastic or glass] is invalid.[23] If the Mezuzah is only covered by a transparent covering, such as glass [or plastic], it is forbidden to have relations in such a room while the Mezuzah remains visible.[24] Regarding if the Mezuzah must contain a double covering, it is disputed in Poskim. Some Poskim[25] rule the Mezuzah needs to be within two vessels, which means that it is to have a double covering.[26] Other Poskim[27] however rule that it is not required to be within two vessels and hence a single covering [that is not transparent] suffices.[28] Practically, one may be lenient like the latter opinion that does not require a double covering.[29] The above requirement for covering the Mezuzah during marital relations is only in a case that the Mezuzah is visible within the room; if however upon closing the door the Mezuzah is outside the room, it does not need any covering while the door is closed.

 

Summary:

It is best for the Mezuzah [parchment] placed on the doorposts to be visible, although within a transparent covering. If one at times is naked in the room, or feces is revealed in it, then this covering is treated as mandatory, although in the latter case of feces, it suffices to have a transparent covering. If a couple has marital relations in the room, and the Mezuzah is placed inside the room, then the Mezuzah must to be covered with a non-transparent cover. If upon closing the door, the Mezuzah is outside the room, it does not need any covering, and marital relations may take place while the door is closed. In all cases that a covering is required, it suffices to have a single covering, even if it is designated for the Mezuzah.

 

Doing belittling acts in front of a Mezuzah:[30]

It is forbidden to perform belittling acts in front of a Mezuzah on a constant basis. This applies even if the Mezuzah is covered by a non-transparent covering. It is thus forbidden to constantly change diapers in front of a Mezuzah, or wash soiled clothing in front of it. One mere occasion this may be done if the Mezuzah is covered, as explained above. The Mekubalim[31] write that one is to be careful that the four cubit area surrounding the Mezuzah remain always clean.

 

  




















 

B. Leaving the name Shakaiy visible:

The [name of Hashem of Shakaiy by the Mezuzah[32]] is to be revealed and not covered [unless the Mezuzah is found in an unclean area, in which case it is to be covered as explained in A].[33] [If using a non-transparent tube] the custom is to make a hole in the tube opposite the name Shakay [the ShinDaled-Yud] which is written on the outside of the parchment, in order for it to be visible to the outside.[34] The name of Hashem however is to be covered by glass or plastic in order to prevent it from being erased upon being touched often.[35] [Thus, based on the above, one should use a transparent casing of clear plastic or glass for his Mezuzah parchment. This however is with exception to a room in which marital relations take place, and according to many Poskim also in a room in which women undress, in which case the Mezuzah and name of Hashem is not to be visible even through glass or plastic, as explained above.]

 

Should the entire name of Hashem [Shakaiy] be left visible?[36]

Yes. The entire name is to be made visible and not just the letter Shin.

 

 



C. The Mezuzah case:

The parchment of the Mezuzah that is placed on the doorpost is to be covered, as explained in A.[37] The Mezuzah is to have its parchment [rolled and] placed in a tube made of reed, or of any other material.[38]

What material is to be used as a Mezuzah case? Any material may be used as a case for the Mezuzah.[39] [Nevertheless, based on the above requirement to leave the name Shakaiy revealed, it is best to use a transparent Mezuzah case, such as plastic or glass for one’s Mezuzos. Alternatively, one can use a case of other materials that leave a glass opening opposite the name of Hashem. There is a tradition from the Baal Shem Tov that one is not to use tubes made of metal or iron.[40] Some[41] learn that this only applies to iron and not to other metals. There is an unverified tradition that the Rebbe instructed in the 1940’s that according to Kaballah one is not to place the Mezuzah in any casing, but rather in a paper or plastic wrapping.[42] Practically, the Mezuzos in 770 and the Rebbe’s home are covered in a soft plastic cover, and many Chabad Chassidim are accustomed to use a soft plastic or paper cover.[43] There is a written testimony that in the house of the Tzemach Tzedek the Mezuzos were wrapped in paper.[44]]

 

 

Summary:

The parchment of the Mezuzah is to be rolled and placed in a tube or covering. The name Shin-Daled-Yud is to remain visible through the tube/covering, although is nevertheless to be covered by plastic or glass. This can be accomplished by having a Mezuzah case with a hole by Hashem’s name that is covered with plastic or glass, or through simply using a transparent Mezuzah cover [i.e. glass or plastic] for one’s Mezuzos. This however is with exception to a room in which marital relations take place, and according to many Poskim also in a room in which people undress, in which case the Mezuzah and name of Hashem is not to be visible even through glass or plastic, as explained above.

 

Nylon wrap:[45]

The custom is to wrap the parchment of the Mezuzah in plastic [saran-wrap] in order to prevent the parchment from drying out. It is then placed into the tube.

 

Why today are many people not particular to use a transparent glass of plastic Mezuzah case that allows the Shin to be seen?

Several reasons can be attributed for this matte: 1) By outside doors the sun penetrates the transparent case and can ruin the Mezuzah; 2) People are not careful to undress in face of the Mezuzah. Practically, when no sun damage is foreseen, one is to be particular to use a transparent Mezuzah case, and be particular that family mebers do not undress in front of it.

 


 


[1] Michaber 289/1; Taz 286/5; Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol on Michaber 286/5 which rules the Mezuzah is to remain revealed and uncovered in an area of purity, perhaps however he only refers here in 286/5 to the name of Hashem, and not the entire Mezuzah. [See Mikdash Me’at 289/21]

The reason: From the letter of the law, the parchment of the Mezuzah does not need to be covered, with exception to cases of impurity. Nevertheless, even when one is able to leave the Mezuzah visible, it should still have a covering over it which is see through, such as glass, as otherwise the touching of the parchment upon leaving/entering the room will eventually cause the name of Hashem which faces the outside to become erased. [Taz ibid] Another reason for covering it is to suspect for those Poskim that prohibit touching Holy writings with bare hands. [R. Akivah Eigar brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 285/4; Seemingly the Taz is not bothered by this issue]

[2] Michaber 286/5; Taz 286/5

[3] Rama 288/15; See next Halacha!

[4] Taz 286/4

[5] Michaber 286/5; Shach 289/9; Taz 286/5; Regarding the general obligation of not having feces revealed in front of Sefarim-See Siddur Admur; “Awaking like a Jew”  7/16

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule one should not place Mezuzahs in such a room. [Bach, brought in Shach 286/9] The Shach ibid concludes that one should place a Mezuzah in the room and cover it.

[6] Pashut, as certainly the Michaber does not require a Mezuzah to be covered in a room that has children that have simply made in their diapers, and rather the intent is that the children either do their needs inside that room, or on a potty in the room, as was common back then when bathrooms were not commonly found in the home.

[7] So is the wording of the Michaber ibid; Taz ibid “It does not even require a glass covering, however this is the best option”

Letter of law: From the letter of the law a Mezuzah that is attached to the doorpost does not need to be covered even in the face of filth and excrement, and women who bathe, as since the Mezuzah is above 10 Tefach from the ground it is considered as if it is in a different area. [Taz ibid based on Semag; See 79/4 and Siddur Admur that Sefarim may be left on a table ten Tefach high in front of feces] Alternatively, since the Torah obligated one to place a Mezuzah in such rooms, it does not require it to be covered in face of belittling acts. [So proves Mamar Mordechai 40/2; Aruch Hashulchan 286/15, see there!]

[8] In order so the name Shakaiy remain visible, as brought in Rama 288/15 and Taz ibid

[9] Taz 286/5; Aruch Hashulchan 286/10; Ben Ish Chaiy 2 Ki Savo 15; Shulchan Melachim 162; Yad Hekatana Mezuzah 3/13

The reason the Mezuzah may remain visible in face of the feces: Although the Mezuzah still remains visible through its case in full view of the excrement, nevertheless this is permitted, as regarding the laws of Shema the Torah only forbade having the feces revealed outside of a cover, while if it is covered even by glass it is permitted to read the Shema, as the Torah only requires a covering and covered it is. This same law applies here in the opposite case where the name of Hashem is covered by glass, that since the name is covered there is no prohibition involved, as the Torah was not particular in it remaining visible. [Taz ibid; See also Admur 76/1]

Other opinions: Some Poskim are stringent that the Mezuzah may not be visible through its covering even in face of excrement. [Rishon Letziyon 286/5; Pischeiy Teshuvah 286/8 in name of Chomos Yerushalayim 277; Birkeiy Yosef]

[10] Shach 286/9; Taz 286/5; Regarding the general obligation of not being naked in front of Kisveiy Kodesh/Sefarim-See Admur 45/3; M”A 45/2; Shabbos 120b that one may not be naked if Hashem’s name is written on his skin as “it is forbidden to stand before Hashem naked”.

[11] Daas Kedoshim 286; Shevet Halevi 2/156; Shulchan Melachim 161; Pischeiy Shearim 286/25

[12] Admur 45/3 in parentheses based on 275/13 that prohibits children being naked in front of candles

[13] Letter of law: Some Poskim rule that this is not required from the letter of the law. [So proves Mamar Mordechai 40/2; Aruch Hashulchan 286/15, see there!; Taz ibid: From the letter of the law it does not need to be covered as since the Mezuzah is above 10 Tefach from the ground it is considered as if it is in a different area. [See also Siddur Admur that Sefarim may be left on a table ten Tefach high in front of feces] These words of the Taz seemingly also apply to being naked in front of the Mezuzah. To note however that in 40/5 regarding marital relations Admur a) mentions forbidden and b) does not mention ten Tefach.

[14] Aruch Hashulchan 286/10; Ben Ish Chaiy 2 Ki Savo 15; Shulchan Melachim 162; Yad Hekatana Mezuzah 3/13

Opinion of Admur: It is implied from Admur 40/5 that it is definitely forbidden to be naked in front of a Mezuzah, even if it is covered by glass, as Admur forbids marital relations being it is similar to Erva, and hence certainly he would forbid Ervah itself! Vetzaruch Iyun.

[15] Taz 286/5 “By placing a glass covering over the Mezuzah one nullifies the claim of some who refrain from placing Mezuzahs on rooms that women bathe in occasionally as through this [glass] the Mezuzah is covered even though it is visible”; Beir Heiytiv 286/8 in his summary of Taz; However some of the above Poskim in previous footnote seem to not understand the Taz ibid to be referring to women who are at times naked in the room, and that in such a case in truth a non-transparent cover is required. So is implied from Aruch Hashulchan ibid and Shulchan Melachim ibid. Furthermore, the Mikdash Me’at 286/12 explains the statement in the Taz of “women bathe in occasionally” to refer to women who are not naked while they bathe. It is however clearly implied from the Taz ibid, as he writes in his conclusion, that only marital relations in a room requires a non-transparent cover, and not a mere undressed woman.

[16] The reason: Although the Mezuzah will still remains visible through its case, nevertheless the Torah was only stringent that the Mezuzah be covered, and covered it is. This is similar to the law regarding covering excrement before praying. [Taz ibid] Now, although by Davening in front of the Ervah we rule that being covered does not suffice and it must also not be visible [see Admur 75/8-9] nevertheless perhaps the Taz holds that this only applies regarding Davening, while regarding simply being naked in front of Kisveiy Kodesh it is allowed.

Opinion of Admur: It is implied from Admur 40/5 that it is definitely forbidden to be naked in front of a Mezuzah, even if it is covered by glass, as Admur forbids marital relations being it is similar to Erva, and hence certainly he would forbid Ervah itself! Vetzaruch Iyun.

[17] So is implied from even the stringent opinions as they only mention being naked in front of the Mezuzah; See also Mikdash Me’at ibid which learns this way in the Taz ibid

The reason: As we have no source anywhere in Poskim for forbidding immodest dress [that is not nudity] in front of Sefarim, and on the contrary we find Poskim that explicit write it is permitted [Taz ibid]. The only prohibition we find is to Daven and learn in front of immodestly dressed women, and who says this applies regarding a Mezuzah? Furthermore, even by Davening and Shema the Biblical prohibition is only if the actual Erva is revealed, while immodest dress is only Rabbincially forbidden due to erotic thoughts; something that is not applicable to a Mezuzah. [See Admur 75/1; Panim Meiros 1/74; Maharam Brisk 2/70; Chayeh Adam 4/1]

[18] See Ateres Paz 2/15 that for this reason one should not sell transparent covers to the unscrupulous; He however does not address any of the points mentioned above for why it should be permitted according to all when mere immodesty is in question and not actual nakedness.

[19] Michaber 286/2;

[20] The reason: It is not honorable towards G-d to place a Mezuzah in such areas. [Michaber ibid]

[21] See Michaber and Rama ibid; Shach 286/8 and 12

[22] This means that the Mezuzah is actually set by a doorpost that is inside the room. This can occur if this room has a second door leading to another room, in which case its Mezuzah is placed inside the actual room. Alternatively if the door of the room opens to the outside, then according to Chabad custom of Heker Tzir, the Mezuzah is placed inside the room. Alternatively, even if the Mezuzah is outside the room, as is the case with most bedrooms, nevertheless if the door is opened and the Mezuzah is visible, seemingly this same law applies, as explained in Admur 75/98

[23] Admur 40/5; Taz 286/5

The reason: A glass covering is not valid and thus forbids marital relations, as the Mezuzah is visible through it. By Erva [a naked private part] the Torah forbids saying Shema even if the Erva is in a transparent covering, due to the verse “Lo Yiraeh Becha Ervas Davar”. Now, marital relations is also a belittling matter [to be done in front of Kedusha items] and is similar to the Ervah prohibition and thus requires that the Mezuzah be covered in a way that it cannot be seen at all through the covering. [Admur ibid; Taz ibid; See also Admur 75/8-9]

Other Poskim: Some Poskim rule that even in a room of marital relations one isn not required to cover the Mezuzah from the letter of the law. [So proves Mamar Mordechai 40/2; Aruch Hashulchan 286/15, see there!

[24] Admur ibid

[25] M”A 40/2; 1st opinion brought in Admur; Chesed Leavraham; Kaf Hachaim 40/13 concludes it is best to be stringent

[26] The Magan Avraham is stringent to require two coverings while the Taz is lenient claiming that since the Mezuzah is attached to the wall its considered part of the wall, which is not considered as part of the room that relations is being done in.

According to this opinion, may one covering be of transparent material? Even according to the above stringent opinion, one of the two covers may be of transparent material, and hence if the Mezuzah is covered by glass it suffices to place a single piece of cloth over it. [Admur 40/5; M”A ibid; Pischeiy Teshuvah 286/8 in name of Chomos Yerushalayim 277]

[27] Taz 186/5; 2nd opinion brought in Admur; Mamar Mordechai 40/2

[28] The reason: As the wall is considered its own domain, and hence everything that is inside the wall is considered to be in a separate domain than the inside of the room. Furthermore, even if the Mezuzah is not inside the wall but placed in a tube that is attached to the doorpost of the wall, it is nevertheless considered a separate domain, as since it is attached to the wall it is considered like the wall. [Admur ibid; See Pischeiy Teshuvah 286/8 in name of Chomos Yerushalayim 277] The Taz ibid however makes no mention of this reason of Admur [that the wall is a separate domain] and rather states that the fact the Mezuzah is above ten Tefach makes it a separate domain. This idea [of ten Tefach separating domains] is also brought in Admur 79/4 and in Siddur Admur regarding Sefarim being in sight of feces. It however was omitted in Admur 40/5.

If the Mezuzah is inside the wall but the name of Hashem is visible through a hole: Admur ibid requires that one place a permanent piece of wax or other material over the hole, in order to consider it within a separate domain. However a temporary covering of the hole would not suffice.

[29] Admur ibid; Mamar Mordechai 40/2; Zivcheiy Tzedek 2/38

The reason: As this matter is only Rabbinical, and one may be lenient in a Rabbinical dispute. Furthermore, one can say that even according to the stringent opinion [of the M”A ibid] which requires a double covering, this was only in a case that the Mezuzah is placed in a temporary vessel, as such a vessel is not permanently nullified to the wall [being that one will remove it], and it is only for this reason that it does not help to cover the hole of the wall of the Mezuzah to refrain the Mezuzah from being considered part of the room. [Admur ibid; See Hearos Ubiurim 369/26]

[30] Yad Ketana 3/13; Pischeiy Teshuvah 286/7; Ben Ish Chaiy 2 Ki Savo 15; See also Taz 289/5 “An area that at times has filth, and on occasion women bathe”

[31] Shela Hakadosh Miseches Chulin; Yosef Ometz 600 in name of Rav Chaim Vital

[32] However the rest of the Mezuzah is to be covered by the tube, as ruled in Michaber 289/1; See Mikdash Meat 286/21

[33] Michaber 286/5; Kol Bo

[34] Rama 288/15; Mordechai and Hagahos Maimanis; Zohar Vaeschanan brought in Biur Hagr”a 2

[35] Taz 286/5

[36] Meorer Yisheinim 172

[37] Michaber 289/1; Taz 286/5; Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol on Michaber 286/5 which rules the Mezuzah is to remain revealed and uncovered in an area of purity, perhaps however he only refers here in 286/5 to the name of Hashem, and not the entire Mezuzah. [See Mikdash Me’at 289/21]

The reason: From the letter of the law, the parchment of the Mezuzah does not need to be covered, with exception to cases of impurity. Nevertheless, even when one is able to leave the Mezuzah visible, it should still have a covering over it which is see through, such as glass, as otherwise the touching of the parchment upon leaving/entering the room will eventually cause the name of Hashem which faces the outside to become erased. [Taz ibid] Another reason for covering it is to suspect for those Poskim that prohibit touching Holy writings with bare hands. [R. Akivah Eigar brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 285/4; Seemingly the Taz is not bothered by this issue]

[38] Michaber 289/1; Tur 289

The reason: This is to prevent the Mezuzah from falling and from getting ruined due to moisture on the wall. [Sefer Hayashar; Bach 289; See Pischeiy Shearim p.190] Alternatively, it is done in order so the parchment remains in a rolled state in order so it not open and get ruined. [Levush 289/1]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that one is not to place the Mezuzah in paper or parchment, as one should not have any thing blocking between the doorpost and the parchment, as the parchment needs to lie directly on the doorpost. [Gra in Maaseh Rav, brought in Pischeiy Teshuvah 289/22] Seemingly, in his opinion, the Mezuzah case should not completely surround the parchment, but rather only cover its external side. [However see Mikdash Me’at 289/1] Some Poskim rule one is to suspect for their opinion. [Mikdash Me’at ibid] Practically, the Poskim negate this opinion and so is the custom. [Aruch Hashulchan 289/19 “certainly the Gr”a did not say this”; Tum Taam Vedaas 245; Maharahm Shick Y.D. 288; Divrei Malkiel 5/65; Maharsham 4/139; Halichos Shlomo Pischeiy Shearim 289]

[39] Michaber 289/1

[40] Daas Kedoshim 289/1; Pischiey Shearim 190

The reason: There is a known tradition in the name of the Besht not to use tubes made of iron since iron is used to make weapons which kill, while the Mezuzah is grants long life. Hence, just as stated regarding the Mizbeiach, it is unfit for that which shortens to be placed on that which lengthens. [ibid] 

[41] Daas Kedoshim ibid, although he received in the tradition he heard that also metal is included.

[42] Mikdash Melech 2/439

[43] So was told to me by Harav Groner

[44] Kerem Chabad 2 p. 85

[45] Pischeiy Shearim 190

 

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