Shabbat Parashat Emor| 5764
Ask the Rabbi
Question: Does a place of business require a mezuzah, and, if so, does one make a beracha when affixing it?
Answer: This answer refers to the situation where the owner of the business is Jewish. Several other permutations exist, which are beyond our present scope (see Minchat Yitchak II, 83).
The gemara (Yoma 11b) says that in order for a structure to be obligated in mezuzah, it must be connected with a use of dira (dwelling). The problem is that it is not always so simple to determine what uses are considered of that type.
The Rambam (Mezuzah 6:9) says that a store in the market is not obligated in mezuzah, and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 286:11) brings his opinion as halacha. This is despite the fact that both of them rule that storage areas for straw or lumber are required to have a mezuzah. The Taz (ad loc.:10) explains that the type of use that one makes of the storage rooms is appropriate for both day and night, as opposed to the commercial activities of the store, which are limited to the daytime. Other distinctions can be made, including that the storage rooms are in the proximity of and an extension of the use of one’s home (see B’er Moshe II, 85).
Along the lines of the Taz’s distinction, the Pitchei Teshuva (ad loc.:9) cites the opinion of the Yad Haketana that if the store houses the owner’s merchandise during the night as well then it would certainly require a mezuzah. Even if one does not feel that storage of merchandise or equipment during off-hours is sufficient to turn a place of business into a dira, if the business or factory operates well into the night, it is more certain that one would need to put a mezuzah (B’er Moshe, ibid.).
A further reason to obligate a mezuzah is the approach of the Bach, Perisha (Yoreh Deah 286:22), and Yad Haketana (ibid.), according to whom, the Rambam (and likely, the Shulchan Aruch) were misunderstood. The Rambam (ibid.) rules that a sukka and living quarters on a ship are not obligated in mezuzah because they are not for permanent dwelling. The Rambam can be understood, in the same context, to be referring specifically to a store in a market, which was open only on special market days. (This was a common arrangement in the gemara’s time- see Bava Batra 22a). According to this approach, regular, full-time places of work would be obligated in mezuzah.
In summary, there is ample justification for Jewish owned places of work to affix a mezuzah. Regarding a beracha, the approach of several recent poskim is the safe approach, that it is better not to make a beracha because of the doubt in the matter (see Minchat Yitzchak, ibid.; Chovat Hadar 3:8; Pitchei Shearim 286:(132,133,138)). We recall that our mentor, Harav Yisraeli z.t.l. instructed us to make a beracha when affixing the mezuzah by our office. However, we cannot say with certainty if that was an across-the-board ruling or if it depended on the type of activity and conditions in the specific place of work.
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