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If a Jew rents a home from a non-Jew and the home already has mezzuzot - does the Jew need to take them down and reaffix them to the door post - assuming they are fully kosher (ie, previous tenant/owner was Jewish, put them up and home was sold to a gentile and now rented out to a Jew?)

  • I'd suggest asking your local Orthodox rabbi. – ezra Mar 26 '18 at 4:16
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Fascinating theoretical question.

(Theoretical, because we're assuming you can rely on the non-Jew to not have touched the Mezuza since the reliable Jew affixed them.)

What's going on Halachically is that the house had a Chiyuv (Halachic requirement) for a Mezua when they affixed.

Then there was a period when it was Patur (Halachically exempt) from a Mezuza.

Then a Jew moves in and it once again has a Chiyuv.

I can think of 2 parallels - and they have contradictory answers.

  1. Sukkah

A Sukkah is exempt from a Mezuza. However, if you have a room with a Mezuza and now morph it into a Sukkah, you do not have to reaffix the Mezuza after Sukkoth.

As the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch says in סימן קלד - הלכות סכה:

סעיף ח': אַף עַל פִּי שֶסֻּכַּת הֶחָג פְּטוּרָה מִן הַמְּזוּזָה, מִכָּל מָקוֹם אֵלּוּ הַסֻּכּוֹת הַבְּנוּיוּת שֶׁמִּשְׁתַּמְּשִׁים בָּהֶן כָּל הַשָּׁנָה וְנִתְחַיְבוּ בִּמְזוּזָה, גַּם בֶּחָג לֹא נִפְטְרוּ, וְאֵין צְרִיכִין אַחַר הֶחָג לִקְבֹּעַ אֶת הַמְּזוּזָה מֵחָדָשׁ. ‏

Note, however, that even during Sukkoth it still has a Chiyuv of Mezuza - and thus may not be a good parallel.

  1. Doorless doorways

The Kitzur says in סימן יא - הלכות מזוזה that since (according to some opinions) you don't need a Mezuza unless the doorway has a door, therefore you have to install the door before you affix the Mezuza.

סעיף יג': יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים דַּאֲפִלּוּ אֵין דְּלָתוֹת לַפֶּתַח, חַיָּב בִּמְזוּזָה. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים דְּבָעֵינָן דַּוְקָא דֶלֶת. וְלָכֵן לֹא יִקְבַּע אֶת הַמְּזוּזָה עַד שֶׁיִּתְלֶה מִקֹּדֶם אֶת הַדֶּלֶת. וְלֹא יִקְבַּע אוֹתָהּ תְּחִלָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִתְלֶה אֶת הַדֶּלֶת, מִשּׁוּם דְּבָעֵינָן תַּעֲשֶׂה וְלֹא מִן הֶעָשׂוּי. ‏

The באר היטב mentions in Shulchan Aruch סימן רפו - מקומות החיבים במזוזה that if one removes the door there are opinions that one has to re-affix the Mezuza when one hangs the door back in place.

.טו: הַבַּיִת, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין לוֹ דְּלָתוֹת, חַיָּב בִּמְזוּזָה. וְיֵשׁ מִי (יח) שֶׁפּוֹטֵר‏

באר היטב (יח) שפוטר. ואם קבעה קודם תליית הדלת לא יצא חובתו כשנותן הדלת אח''כ דהוי תעשה ולא מן העשוי כ''כ הלבוש ולצאת ידי שניהם יתלה בה הדלת מיד ויקבענה ואם א''א לתלותה מיד יקבענה בלא ברכה או יברך תחלה על אחרת ויהא דעתו גם על זו וכשיתלה בה הדלת יטלנה ויחזור ויעשה כך ובזה יוצא ידי כולם עכ''ל הש''ך:‏

Back to our case: Since a house that belongs to a non-Jew is exempt from a Mezuza, so you should have to re-affix the Mezuzot since at one point the house was the equivalent of doorless; i.e. Halachically Patur from a Mezuza.

P.S. As stated in Shulchan Aruch סימן רצא - מזוזה מתי נבדקת ומי חיב בה, when a Jew rents from a non-Jew he really should remove the Mezuzoth when he leaves - unless there's a reason to believe he will come to some (physical?) harm by removing them.

All the more so when he sells his house to a non-Jew.

וְאִם שָׂכַר הַבַּיִת מֵעוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים, אוֹ שֶׁשְּׂכָרוֹ לְעוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים, נוֹטְלָהּ וְיוֹצֵא.‏
הגה: וְעוֹבֵד כּוֹכָבִים שֶׁבִּקֵּשׁ שֶׁיִּתְּנוּ לוֹ מְזוּזָה, וְרוֹצֶה לְקָבְעָהּ בְּפִתְחוֹ, אָסוּר לִתְּנָהּ לוֹ (כָּךְ הֵשִׁיב מהרי''ל) . וְנִרְאֶה לִי דְּמִכָּל מָקוֹם בְּמָקוֹם דְּאִכָּא לְמֵיחַשׁ מִשּׁוּם אֵיבָה, וְשֶׁיֵּרַע מִשּׁוּם זֶה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, שָׁרֵי כַּךְ נִרְאֶה לִי. ‏

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    Isn't there a better parallel case: a Jew moves out for some time and moves back in to his own house. Recall the obligation is on the dweller not the owner. A gentile intermediary is no different from no intermediate. – Double AA Mar 26 '18 at 12:28
  • @DoubleAA - that's a great case if you can find a source in Halacha that discusses it. (Or you suddenly trust answers without reliable sources.) – Danny Schoemann Mar 26 '18 at 12:46
  • There is a very famous source. See R Akiva Eiger about the Brakha וציונו לדור בבית שיש בו מזוזה on moving back in – Double AA Mar 26 '18 at 12:49
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    In terms of relying on the non-jew not having touched/invalidated the mezuzah: Assuming the non-jew owns a home in Boropark Brooklyn and has been renting his home to chassidim for years - one moves out and another moves in - does he need to reaffix the mezuzot? – Draizy-Levi Pine Mar 26 '18 at 16:44
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    @Draizy-LeviPine - as I tried to explain, if there is a moment in time between renters when it's not rented to a Jew, then the next Jew needs to re-affix the Mezuzoth. If the next lease begins as the other ends - and a lawyer may be needed to confirm this - then (if you trust the Mezuzot) they do not need to be reaffixed. (Ignoring the fact the a Mezuza needs to be checked twice in 7 years, i.e. every 3.5 years.) – Danny Schoemann Mar 27 '18 at 9:39

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