Do backyards and porches require a mezuzah?

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Every room in one’s house requires a mezuzah. The question arises as to whether or not backyards and porches require a mezuzah as well. The root of the question is, are they also considered “rooms” of the house, or are they considered “outside” of the house? In other words, when one “goes out” to his backyard or porch, has he “left his house” or not?

If they are considered “rooms” of the house – no different than a bedroom or a living room – then obviously, a mezuzah is required. However, this begs the question, how can they be considered part of the house if they have no ceiling – and one of the conditions to require a mezuzah is that the “room” must have a ceiling!

The poskim answer that the normal requirement of a ceiling is based on the understanding that the rooms must have ceilings for a house to be functional. Indeed, it would be difficult to sleep in a bedroom or cook in a kitchen or enjoy a Shabbos seudah in a dining room with rain coming down or the sun beating in. On the other hand, a backyard or porch are specifically designed not to have a ceiling – and in fact, one prefers them without a ceiling. In such an instance, the obligation of mezuzah would set in even without a ceiling.

If, however, one who is in his backyard or on his porch is considered to have “left” his house, they should clearly require no mezuzah. This is because the Gemara teaches that a mezuzah is required on the right side as one enters the house. No mezuzah is required on the right side as one exits the house.

Nevertheless, some Acharonim maintain an interesting position. They acknowledge that a backyard or porch does not require a mezuzah since one is “leaving” his house to “go” there. However, they point out that one is now entering his house when re-entering the house from the backyard or porch. And an entrance to the house requires a mezuzah on the right side as one enters! Hence, although backyards and porches do not require a mezuzah on the “right” side, they require a mezuzah on the “left” side – meaning, on the right side as one re-enters the house.

Other Acharonim reject the aforementioned position since they argue that this cannot be considered entering the house – rather, it must be considered exiting the backyard or porch. Why? Because returning to where you were previously cannot be considered “entering”. If the only way one can get to the backyard or porch is from the house, by definition, one enters the backyard or porch – and then turns around and exits the porch back into the house.

Hence, these Acharonim maintain that either one requires a mezuzah on the right side entering the porch or backyard from the house – or none at all.

This is a dispute which continues till today, and no universal custom has developed. Therefore, one should present each case to one’s Rav for a decision.

Multi-door porches or backyards

Until now, we have been discussing porches and backyards which have only one entrance from the house. However, sometimes the porch or backyard has multiple entrances, for instance, from the kitchen and the living room. [Fig. 1]

Mezuzah on porch with two entrances
Fig. 1

Does this impact the halacha in any way?

According to those who maintain that the mezuzah is always affixed on the right side when entering the home from the porch or backyard, this case would be no different.

However, amongst the poskim who maintain that the mezuzah is affixed on the right side when passing from the home to the backyard or porch, some say that this case is different. They base this on the fact that one can enter the home, pass into the living room, pass into the backyard or porch, and pass into the kitchen. [Fig. 2]

Mezuzah on backyard and porch
Fig. 2

Or, one can enter the home, pass into the kitchen, pass into the backyard or porch and from there pass into the living room. [Fig. 3]

Mezuzah on backyard and porch
Fig. 3

Hence, there is no automatic presupposition that the natural flow of traffic takes one from the home to the backyard or porch. Rather, the natural flow of traffic may be carrying one from the backyard or porch to the home!

They, therefore, maintain that when there is only one door to the backyard or porch, the mezuzah would be affixed in accordance with the flow of traffic – on the right side when entering the backyard or porch. However, when there are two or more doors to the backyard or porch, the mezuzos should be affixed on the right side of each doorpost when entering the house from the backyard or porch.

Others disagree and say that we would look at each doorway individually and attempt to determine its primary function in such a case.

So, if, for instance, most people who pass through the doorway between the living room and backyard or porch are heading from the living room to the backyard or porch, the mezuzah would be placed on the right side as one passes from the living room to the backyard or porch.

And if most people who pass through the doorway between the kitchen and backyard or porch are heading from the backyard or porch to the kitchen, the mezuzah would be placed on the right side as one passes from the backyard or porch to the kitchen.

When impossible to determine a majority use, the mezuzah would be placed on the right side when passing from the home to the backyard or porch – same as if there was only one door.

When the porch or backyard has another entrance

Until now, we have been discussing backyards and porches which have one or more entrances – from the house. However, one can also access most backyards from the reshus harabbim (public domain) by walking up the driveway to the back of the house or in some similar fashion. In such an instance, the vast majority of poskim agree that the doorway between the house and the backyard requires a mezuzah on the right side as one enters the house. This is because it is now considered an entrance to the house rather than an exit from the house.

There is a bit of a question as to whether this would apply even when one rarely enters the house via the backyard, and therefore that doorway does not really function as an entrance to the house at all. However, it would seem that even in such an instance, one should affix the mezuzah on the right side as one enters the house from the backyard. Certainly, if the entrance from the reshus harabbim to the backyard is via a doorway with a proper tzuras hapesach, one must affix a mezuzah on the right side as one enters the backyard as well.

Rabbi Reuvain Mendlowitz

Author of "Inside STA"M - A Complete Buyer's Guide"

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