Chazal teach us that a mezuzah is affixed on the right side of a doorway. However, this presents an interesting question: How are we to determine which is the right side? After all, wouldn’t that depend on which direction one is facing when passing through the doorway?
Chazal resolve this by clarifying that the mezuzah is meant to be affixed on the right side of the doorway as one enters a room as opposed to the right side as one exits the room.
For standard rooms like bedrooms where there generally is only one entrance, this is a simple and straightforward halacha. The mezuzah is affixed on the right doorpost as one enters the bedroom. However, we are all familiar with the reality that many rooms have multiple entrances and/or exits. For instance, the typical layout of the entrance level of a home allows for the ability to enter and exit living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens etc. via multiple doorways. Practically speaking this means that one can enter his living room from his kitchen and exit from the living room to the dining room – or vice versa! [Fig. 1]
How is one meant to determine the “right” side of the doorway in such situations?
Poskim differ in their approaches to tackling this conundrum. Let us first outline a number of halachic principles through which the “right” side of a room can be determined.
- Penimi. Penimi means “inner” or “deeper”. Essentially, this is the aforementioned concept which states that the mezuzah is affixed on the right side as one passes from the outer room to the inner room as one advances deeper into the home.
- Rov. Rov means “majority”. This concept dictates that if, for instance, the majority of traffic passing through the doorway between the living room and dining room flows from the living room to the dining room, the mezuzah would be affixed on the right doorpost as one passes from the living room to the dining room. Since only a minority of traffic flows from the dining room to the living room, that direction holds no halachic significance relative to hilchos mezuzah.
- Chashuv. Loosely translated, chashuv means that one room is more primary or important than the other. For instance, all would agree that a family living room is more primary and important than a side room used for jotting notes and doing homework. Hence, the living room is considered primary versus the homework room and the mezuzah would be affixed on the right doorpost as one passes from the homework room to the living room. [Fig. 2]
- Heker Tzir. Heker Tzir refers to the direction which the door swings. If, for example, there are French doors separating the living room and dining room and those doors swing into the dining room, the mezuzah would be affixed on the right side as one passes from the living room to the dining room. [Fig. 3]
There is significant discussion as to the order of implementation of these rules. The vast majority of poskim agree that Penimi is the primary consideration and would trump the other three considerations in any situation. (Even if the other three considerations point to the “other” direction.). Most also agree that Heker Tzir is the last consideration.
However, whether to prioritize Rov or Chashuv in a situation where Penimi can’t be determined with certainty, is subject to varying opinions. Therefore, one must consult with their personal Rav to seek guidance.
At this point it is important to mention that within the rubric of Chashuv there is an additional disagreement.
Take, for instance, the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room. Which room is more chashuv? Some poskim say, the dining room is more chashuv. After all, when hosting an important guest, would you sit with them in the kitchen? Of course not! You would clean the dining room, put out some drinks and such, and sit with them in the dining room. This proves that the dining room is more chashuv than the kitchen.
Other poskim maintain that the kitchen is more chashuv. After all, don’t we spend at least ten times as much time in the kitchen relative to the dining room? Most of the “action” in a typical family takes place in the kitchen, certainly relative to the dining room! Hence, this proves that the kitchen is more chashuv than the dining room.
In our next column we will discuss what one is meant to do when none of these rules resolve the issue… to be continued!