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Shabbat Parashat Bereshit | 5768

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Question: I am having a non-Jewish roommate in my college dorm this year. One of the issues that I wanted guidance on is whether I should affix a mezuza to our joint door.
Answer: [Much of the following is based on Living the Halachic Process, question G-3.]
 The gemara (Chulin 135b)investigates the significance of the Torah’s writing that mezuzot are to be put on “beitecha (your {singular} house).” It first suggests that beitecha excludes a house owned in partnership (even with a Jew). However, the gemara infers from the plural usage elsewhere in the Torah that the mitzva applies even for partnerships and derives something entirely different from beitecha. The Rashba (ad loc.) asks why the gemara didnot use the word beitecha to derive that, in a partnership between a Jew and a non-Jew, the Jew does not require mezuzot, as the gemara had done in several similar examples. He learns from this silence that, in such a “mixed” partnership, mezuzot are required. The Rashba also provides a rationale, saying that mezuzot are meant to provide protection, and anywhere that the Jew lives, he is to seek such protection. The Shulchan Aruch does not mention this issue, but in his addendums to the Beit Yosef (Bedek Habayit, Yoreh Deah 286), he discusses it and writes that the Rashba is correct.
 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 (YD 286:1). Commentators disagree as to the reasoning for the exemption. The following are possibilities: 1) The area is considered incomplete in regard to mezuzot, as it is partially owned by one who is exempt from the mitzva (BirkeiYosef, YD 286:2; Shach, YD 286:6). 2) That is what the analysis of the p’sukim indicates (Taz, YD 286:2). 3) There is a danger from the possible reaction of non-Jews to a mezuza (Shach, ibid.).
 Although how to rule appears to be a disputebetween Ashkenazim (like the Rama) and Sephardim (like the Beit Yosef), that doesn’t seem to be the case, as the later poskim do not make such a clear break. The Birkei Yosef  (ibid.) and Yalkut Yosef (Sova Semachot, Mezuza 50) are among prominent Sephardic poskimwho say that, although one should affix mezuzot in this case, he should do so without a beracha because of doubt. On the other side, the Aruch Hashulchan (YD 286:2) is followed by recent sefarim (see Chovat Hadar 2:2; Pitchei She’arim, pp. 127-130) that say that even Ashkenazim should attach mezuzot without a beracha in the case of a Jewish / non-Jewish partnership where there is no fear of non-Jewish hostility or desecration of the mezuzot.
 Your case is, in some ways, more lenient than the classic case, as you are only a renter. (If the college can switch your dorm room, you may be less than a renter.) According to many (see Shut R. Akiva Eiger I, 66), the obligation of any renter is only rabbinic, and it is likely that those Ashkenazim who are more stringent than the Rama do so only when there likely is a Torah obligation (see Aruch Hashulchan, ibid). On the other hand, if you have separate bedrooms, then one can argue that yours certainly requires a mezuza (see Shut R. Akiva Eiger, ibid. regarding a weaker case). In the final analysis, you should affix a mezuza without a beracha to all rooms you have access to, assuming there is no fear of fallout or desecration of the mezuza.
 Let us end on an educational point. Chazal wanted Jews to feel uneasy about living among non-Jews, which can be spiritually or physically dangerous (see halachot in Eruvin 62a and Avoda Zara 22a). The former certainly applies to a single college student. Granted, there are times when it cannot be avoided. The mezuza is very appropriate in such a case as a protection, especially spiritually, as you show all (including yourself) that you cling to the Torah’s holy precepts.
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