While we have mezuzahs at home, I never thought to get one for the door to our business office. Is that what is traditionally done?

created at: 2013-05-07The answer to your question is actually a little complicated. Here’s the easy part: Based on Deuteronomy 6:9, all traditional, Jewish authorities agree that a permanent domicile (any place you live for more than 30 days) should have a mezuzah on the doorpost of each room (excluding the bathroom and smaller spaces like closets). While there are differences of opinion about whether certain spaces in a home require a mezuzah (e.g., a sliding door, an attached garage, rooms with varied, architectural features), authorities agree on the general principle that Jewish law requires hanging a mezuzah on the doorposts of the rooms of a home

Of course, most of us don’t actually live in the spaces in which we conduct business. So, if we follow the precise letter of the law, we’re not obligated to hang a mezuzah on the doorway of a business. Interestingly, the same is true of a synagogue building (which does not require a mezuzah on its doorposts). However, not being “obligated” is different from being prohibited. As far as I know, while not required, there’s no prohibition against hanging a mezuzah on the doorway of a business (or, for that matter, a synagogue).

Some authorities address these distinctions by teaching that you can hang a mezuzah in such places but should not say the associated Hebrew blessing (a blessing that praises God for the specific commandment of affixing a mezuzah to the doorpost). In this way, one avoids the implication that hanging a mezuzah in such a doorway is a mitzvah—a religious obligation commanded by God. In other words, the omission of the blessing reinforces the notion that this act is permitted but not required by Jewish law.

That said, there certainly are Jews who choose to hang mezuzot (plural) in their places of business, and you can choose to do so as well. However, I’d suggest taking some time to think carefully about the purpose of your choice. Traditionally, the mezuzah is a beautiful, symbolic reminder that when we enter these places and when we go out from them into the world, we want to be guided by the teachings, values and responsibilities of Judaism. For some of us, hanging a mezuzah is also a kind of public statement of Jewish identity and pride. The mezuzah silently proclaims to the world: “Jews live here.” Still others see the mezuzah as a kind of protective talisman, a kind of good luck charm for the house or business (the latter is probably not the meaning I would most encourage you to embrace).

It seems to me that if we choose to hang a mezuzah (with or without reciting the blessing) in a place like a business, we want to be careful that we do so in such a way that we preserve and never undermine the profound spiritual, ethical and communal significance of this symbol and the important commitments to which it calls us.

created at: 2013-05-07

Rabbi Jonathan Kraus is the rabbi at Beth El Temple Center, a Reform synagogue in Belmont.