Mezuzah Maven

For the week ending 22 December 2018 / 14 Tevet 5779

Office in Jewish-owned Company

by Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines
Library Library Library

Q: I work in an office of a Jewish-owned company. In the past, I have always put a mezuzah on my own office door. But my present boss has indicated that he wouldn’t be happy for me to put one up. He has many people from different religions and cultures in the building, and he feels that allowing the mezuzah would impact negatively on the smooth relations between his employees, thereby affecting productivity. He himself doesn’t have one on his door.

I think this is a basic issue of religious freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. How can I work every day in a room without a mezuzah?! My friends are telling me that I shouldn’t make a fuss over this because an office is not obligated in a mezuzah. Can that be true?

A: The status of an office in terms of mezuzah is a matter of halachic controversy. Indeed, many authorities rule that it needs a mezuzah only if the owner or renter lives in the office day and night. It is also not a storage area, because even if it has a desk, a telephone, a computer and a file cabinet, these are there to facilitate the work; the office is not there to store them.

However, other authorities assert that modern offices cannot be compared to the temporary market booths exempted by the Talmud, as people spend a good part of the day in their offices on a constant basis. Indeed, the custom is to affix mezuzahs on Jewish-owned or rented offices, albeit without a beracha.

That being said, the obligation to put up a mezuzah falls on the owner or renter of the office and not on you. And since your employer could easily move you at any time to another room, he has not allocated your office to you in a way that can be construed as a rental. As such, you do not have a religious responsibility to affix a mezuzah on your employer’s door, and you definitely can continue to work in your office, even if he will not allow you to affix a mezuzah.

In addition, your employer’s judgment that placing the mezuzah would cause material damage to his business, whether correct or incorrect, would entitle him to rely on the lenient opinion in this matter. His refusal to allow you to do so cannot be construed as an assault on your freedom.

This consideration alone would also exempt you from reproving him any further.

· Sources: Turei Zahav 286:11; Chayei Adam 15:11; Prishah 286:22; Chidushei Rabbi Akiva Eiger Y.D. 286:11; Aruch HaShulchan 286:26; Minchas Yitzchak 2:83:4, 4:89:5; Chovas HaDar 3:8:24; Shevet HaLevi 2:156; Rema O.C. 656:1

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