“I am preparing to move to a new home. Should I remove the mezuzah on the front door of my current home?”
by Rabbi Joan Glazer Farber
The underlying question is what is the significance of a mezuzah that we are concerned with its position and its disposition? Why do you want to remove it?
One possibility is that the mezuzah is an art piece or has some significance as a gift, and you want to take it with you. The concept of mezuzah is introduced in Deuteronomy 6:9 “Inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” In its earliest form, the instruction in Deuteronomy is literally to inscribe the mitzvot on the doorposts. At some point, it became the custom to write on parchment instead of on the doorpost.
The piece of parchment called a klaf, is written by a scribe. The text includes the Sh’ma, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. Initially the klaf was placed directly into a hole in the doorframe and there are some communities in Israel which still insert the klaf into the wood. Today, the klaf is rolled and inserted into a case which is affixed to the doorpost. The case itself is not the significant part of the mezuzah.
Another possibility is that you believe the mezuzah protects the house and its inhabitants. This idea is pervasive, and may be linked to the Israelites’ experience in Egypt, when they applied blood from the Passover sacrifice on the doorposts prior to the final plague as a sign and protection. (See Exodus 12:21-23) On the reverse side of the klaf the word Shaddai is written. The letters of this name for God have been said to stand for Shomer Dilatot Yisrael, Guardian of the Doors of Israel. However, Maimonides greatly objected to the practice of people treating the mezuzah as an amulet and adding additional words that they thought would bring further protection. As mentioned before, affixing a mezuzah is a mitzvah, the fulfillment of the words contained on the scroll. Therefore, when affixing a mezuzah, a b’rachah which is recited:
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech haolam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu likboa mezuzah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to affix a mezuzah.
The case is then attached to the upper third of the right doorpost as you enter the house or room, placed on the diagonal with the top end pointing toward the inside. The mitzvah of mezuzah is the obligation of the person living in the house, apartment or dorm room.
Finally, you may be concerned about how the new inhabitants would treat the mezuzah, which is more than an art piece or an amulet, but a sacred ritual object that contains a parchment with God’s name. (Traditionally, parchments of this sort are buried in a genizah when they are no longer legible.) As a sacred object, this symbol is a reminder of the expectations written on the klaf. As we go about our day, we should act with God in mind. If the new resident might choose to remove and the dispose of the mezuzah in a manner which does not reflect an understanding of its significance, then you should remove it in advance. If not, there is no reason to remove the mezuzah.
Rabbi Joan Glazer Farber is an adult learning specialist for the Union for Reform Judaism and is the coordinator of 10 Minutes of Torah.