Shabbat Parashat Emor| 5765
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Two Jewish doctors own a medical practice together with a non-Jewish doctor. The premises, which include dozens of rooms and employees, is rented from a hospital group. Do some or all of the doors require mezuzot?
Answer: The gemara (Chulin 135b) searches for the significance of the Torah’s writing that mezuzot are to be put on “beitecha (your (singular) house).” It first suggests that the word comes to exclude a house owned in partnership (even with a Jew). But the gemara learns from plural usage elsewhere that the mitzva applies even for partnerships and learns something totally different from the word. The Rashba (ad loc.) asks why the gemara didnot use the word to derive that in a partnership between a Jew and non-Jew, the Jew does not require mezuzot, as the gemara had done in several similar examples (ibid.). He learns from this silence that in such an interfaith partnership, mezuzot are required. The Rashba also provides the rationale, saying that mezuzot are to provide protection, and anywhere that the Jew lives, he is to seek such protection.
On the other hand, the Mordechai (Avoda Zara 810) says that in such a partnership, mezuzot are not required, and the Rama accepts his ruling (Yoreh Deah 286:1). Commentators disagree as to whether the exemption is because of danger from the possible reaction of non-Jews (Shach 286:6), because of the way to analyze the p’sukim on the matter (Taz 286:2) or because the area is considered an incomplete one in regard to mezuzot as it is partially owned by one who is exempt from the mitzva (Birkei Yosef 286:2). The Shulchan Aruch does not mention the matter, but in his addendums to the Beit Yosef (Bedek Habayit 286) he writes that the Rashba is correct.
Although the matter appears to be a machloket how to pasken between Ashkenazim (like the Rama) and Sephardim (like the Shulchan Aruch / Bedek Habayit), the later poskim do not make such a clear break. The Birkei Yosef (ibid.) and Yalkut Yosef (Sova Semachot I, pg. 365) are among prominent Sephardic poskim who say that although one should affix mezuzot in this case, he should do so without a beracha because of doubt. From the other side, the Aruch Hashulchan (286:2) is followed by recent sefarim (see Chovat Hadar 2:2; Pitchei Shearim pp. 127-130) who write that even Ashkenazim should attach mezuzot to houses jointly owned with non-Jews without a beracha in cases where there is no fear of non-Jewish hostility or desecration of the mezuzot.
However, in our case, there are additional grounds for leniency. Firstly, in commercial settings, the obligation of mezuzot even for a totally Jewish area is only based on doubt (we discussed the matter last year, also on Parashat Emor). Secondly, the premises are rented from a hospital group, which, if we understand correctly, is at least primarily non-Jewish. According to many (see Shut R. Akiva Eiger I, 66) the obligation of a renter is always only rabbinic, and it is likely that those Ashkenazim who are more stringent than the Rama do so only by the likelihood of a Torah obligation (see language of Aruch Hashulchan, ibid.).
We would make the following distinction. In those offices or rooms that are frequented by Jewish doctors, there is a hidur (a favorable but not required practice) to affix mezuzot, as well as on the front door, assuming it is not likely to cause animosity or invite vandalism. However, in the other dozens of rooms that Jewish doctors visit rarely (and the Rashba’s logic of requiring protection, among other things, is not so applicable), you do not need to place mezuzot.
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