Halacha for Monday 12 Tammuz 5779 July 15 2019

Kissing the Mezuzah and Wearing a Mezuzah for Protection

Question: May one place a Mezuzah on a necklace and wear it around one’s neck as an amulet? Similarly, is it proper to kiss the Mezuzah and Sefer Torah?

Answer: The Mitzvah of Mezuzah has a special property in that in its merit, Hashem protects the doorways of the houses of the Jewish nation from all harm. It is for this reason the name “Shaddai” is written on the outside of the Mezuzah, for this word is an acronym for “Shomer Daltot Yisrael,” meaning “Guardian of the doors of Israel.”

Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l in his Responsa Igrot Moshe (Yoreh De’ah, Volume 2, page 239) proves from the words of the Poskim that there is a certain “Segula” for protection by using a Mezuzah as an amulet.

Regarding our question, there are several halachic concerns that arise; we shall now discuss two of them.

Firstly, it is possible that any usage of a Mezuzah is considered degrading. Thus, it should only be permissible to affix a Mezuzah to one’s doorposts just as Hashem as commanded us. However, it may be forbidden to place a Mezuzah on a necklace like an amulet.

Indeed, the Maharil (Moreinu Harav Yaakov Molin, one of the great Ashkenazi Rishonim) refused to give his non-Jewish mayor Mezuzot to protect his fortresses. We can infer that the Maharil maintained that any usage of a Mezuzah which is not for the Mitzvah and merely for purposes of protection is forbidden.

On the other hand, Hagaon Ya’abetz (Rabbeinu Yaakov Emdin ben Tzvi, son of the great Chacham Tzvi) proves from the Talmud Yerushalmi that it is permissible to give Mezuzot to a non-Jew to affix to his doorposts, provided that the non-Jew will treat the Mezuzot respectfully, for although non-Jews are not commanded to fulfill the Mitzvah of Mezuzah, they may nevertheless use a Mezuzah for protection. Based on this, the Ya’abetz wonders why the Maharil prohibited giving the non-Jewish mayor Mezuzot.

Hagaon Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (ibid.) explains that even the Maharil is in agreement that there is no prohibition to give a Mezuzah to a non-Jew or to use it as a protective amulet. However, the Maharil nevertheless refused to give the Mezuzot to the mayor, for the mayor requested these Mezuzot to protect his fortresses from thieves (which the Maharil writes). Thus, since we have no explicit source that a Mezuzah protects from thieves, he was concerned that if thieves robbed the mayor’s fortress, he would become angry that the Mezuzot did not protect him and would throw them away disrespectfully. All opinions agree that when there is concern that the Mezuzah will be treated disrespectfully, it is forbidden to give it to a non-Jew.

Based on the above, it is permissible to use a Mezuzah as an amulet.

Regarding kissing the Mezuzah, this is indeed a fine custom that was observed for many generations. There is somewhat of a source for this custom based on the Gemara (Avodah Zara 11a) which records that when the Caesar’s soldiers took Unkelos the proselyte to be tried, he placed his hand on the Mezuzah of his home and smiled. They asked him, “Why are you smiling?” Unkelos replied, “Usually, a king sits within and his servants protect him from the outside. On the other hand, Hashem, King of all kings, does not act in this manner. His servants sit inside while He protects them from the outside.” Although the Gemara makes no mention of Unkelos kissing the Mezuzah and only refers to his placing his hand on the Mezuzah, it is nevertheless apparent that those who kiss the Mezuzah are doing so in order to endear the Mitzvah and strengthen their belief in Hashem. Kissing the Mezuzah can therefore not be considered obligatory; rather, it is merely a fine custom for those who observe it.

Regarding kissing the Sefer Torah, there is a prevalent custom among the entire Jewish nation that all those standing near the Sefer Torah kiss it with their mouth or hand or with their Tallit (for hygienic purposes).

 

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