Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day
Tefillin, Mezuzah, v'Sefer Torah Chapter Five, Tefillin, Mezuzah, v'Sefer Torah Chapter Six, Tefillin, Mezuzah, v'Sefer Torah Chapter Seven
How is a mezuzah written? The two portions, Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a, are written on one piece of parchment in a single column. Approximately half a fingernail of space should be left above and below [the writing].
Should one write [a mezuzah] in two or three columns, it is acceptable, as long as it not written tail-shaped, in a circle, or tent-shaped. If it was written using any of these forms, it is not acceptable.
If it was not written in order - e.g., one wrote the passage [V'hayah im shamo'a] before the passage [Shema] - it is not acceptable. If one writes a mezuzah on two different parchments, it is not acceptable even if they were sewn together [later].
A mezuzah should not be made from a Torah scroll or tefillin that have become worn, nor should a mezuzah be written on the empty parchment from a Torah scroll, because one should not lower an article from a higher level of holiness to a lesser one.
It is a mitzvah to leave a space between the passage Shema and the passage V'hayah im shamo'a, as if it were s'tumah. If space were left as if it were p'tuchah, it is acceptable, since these passages do not follow each other in the Torah.
One must take care regarding the crowns [on the letters] in a mezuzah. The following letters should have crowns.
In the first passage, there are seven letters which should each have three zeiynin upon it. They are: The shin and the ayin of [the word] Shema, the nun of [the word] nafsh'cha, the two zeiynin of [the word] mezuzot, and the two tettin of the word totafot.
In the second passage, there are six letters each of which should have three zeiynin upon it. They are: The gimmel of [the word] d'ganecha, the two zeiynin of [the word] mezuzot, the two tettin of the word totafot, and the tzadi of [the word] ha'aretz.
If no crowns were made, or one increased or decreased their number, [the mezuzah] is not invalidated. If the mezuzah was not written on ruled [parchment], if [the scribe] was not exact with regard to the use of the full or short form [of the words, or if [the scribe] added even a single letter inside [the mezuzah], it is invalidated.
It is a common custom to write [God's name,] Shaddai, on the outside of a mezuzah opposite the empty space left between the two passages. There is no difficulty in this, since [the addition is made] outside.
Those, however, who write the names of angels, other sacred names, verses, or forms, on the inside [of a mezuzah] are among those who do not have a portion in the world to come. Not only do these fools nullify the mitzvah, but furthermore, they make from a great mitzvah [which reflects] the unity of the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, the love of Him, and the service of Him, a talisman for their own benefit. They, in their foolish conception, think that this will help them regarding the vanities of the world.
It is a mitzvah to write al ha'aretz on the final line [of a mezuzah], either at the beginning or in the middle of the line. It has become universally accepted custom for scribes to write [mezuzot] with 22 lines, with al ha'aretz at the beginning of the final line.
These are the letters that appear at the beginning of each line in order: shema, י-ה-ו-ה, hadevarim, l'vanecha, uv'shochbicha, beyn, v'hayah, m'tzaveh, b'chol, yoreh, esev, pen, v'hishtachavitem, hashamayim, va'avad'tem, v'samtem, otam, otam, baderech, uvish'arecha, asher, al ha'aretz13.
When [a mezuzah] is folded, it should be rolled from the end of the line to its beginning so that when a reader rolls it open, he will be able to read from the beginning of the line to the end.
After rolling it, one should place it in a tube made of reed, wood, or any other substance and affix it to the doorpost of one's entrance with a nail. Alternatively, one should hollow out the doorpost and place the mezuzah within.
Before affixing it on the doorpost of the entrance, one should recite the blessing: "Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to affix a mezuzah."
One should not recite a blessing when writing [the mezuzah], because affixing it fulfills the mitzvah.
If one suspends [a mezuzah] within a pole, it is unacceptable, because it has not been affixed. If one positions it behind the door, it is as if one has done nothing.
Should one hollow out the doorpost and place a mezuzah within it horizontally, as the rods were put through the rings [in the Sanctuary], it is unacceptable. Should one place it deeper than a handbreadth [within the doorpost], it is unacceptable.
Should one cut a reed in half and insert a mezuzah within, and afterwards connect this reed with other reeds, making a doorpost for the house from them, it is unacceptable, because the affixing of the mezuzah preceded the making of the doorpost of the entrance.
A mezuzah [placed] on private [property] should be checked twice in seven years, and a mezuzah [placed] on public [property] should be checked twice in fifty years, lest a letter have become torn or faded. Since it is affixed within a wall, there is the possibility that it will decay.
Everyone is obligated [to fulfill the mitzvah of] mezuzah, even women and slaves. Minors should be educated to affix a mezuzah to [the doors of] their homes.
A person who rents a dwelling in the diaspora, and a person who rents a room in a hotel in Eretz Yisrael, are exempt from the obligation [to affix a] mezuzah for thirty days. One who rents a house in Eretz Yisrael, however, is obligated [to affix a] mezuzah immediately.
When a person rents a dwelling to a colleague, the tenant is obligated to obtain a mezuzah and affix it. [This applies] even if he would pay to have it affixed. [The rationale is] that a mezuzah is an obligation incumbent on the person dwelling [in the house], and is not incumbent on the house.
When [the tenant] leaves [the dwelling, however], he should not take it with him unless the dwelling belongs to a gentile. In that instance, he should remove it when he leaves.
There are ten requirements that must be met by a house for the person who dwells within to be obligated to affix a mezuzah. If one of the requirements is lacking, there is no obligation for a mezuzah. They are:
a) for the area [of the dwelling] to be four cubits by four cubits or more;
b) for it to have two doorposts;
c) for it to have a lintel;
d) for it to have a roof;
e) for it to have doors;
f) for the entrance to be at least ten handbreadths high;
g) for the dwelling not to be consecrated;
h) for it to be intended for human habitation;
i) for it to be intended to be used for a dignified dwelling;
j) for it to be a permanent dwelling.
A dwelling which is less than four cubits by four cubits does not require a mezuzah. If its area is equal to sixteen square cubits, although it is circular, pentagonal, and needless to say, if it is rectangular, since its area is equal to the above-mentioned figure, it requires a mezuzah.
An excedra, a structure with three walls and a roof, does not require a mezuzah even though it has two pillars on the fourth side. The pillars are intended as supports for the roof, and not as doorposts.
Similarly, a roof without walls which stands on pillars, even though shaped like a house, does not require a mezuzah, because it has no doorposts. The pillars are intended to support the roof.
[The following rules apply to] a house which has a doorpost on either side and an arch above the two doorposts instead of a lintel. If the doorposts are ten handbreadths high or more, it requires a mezuzah. If they are not ten handbreadths high, [the entrance] does not require [a mezuzah], because it does not have a lintel.
A house that does not have a roof does not require a mezuzah. If a portion of [a building] was covered by a roof and a portion was not, the [following ruling] appears to me [as appropriate]: If the covered portion is near the entrance, it requires a mezuzah.
The doors should be attached, and afterwards, a mezuzah affixed.
[The gates to] the Temple Mount, its chambers, courtyards, and, similarly, entrances to synagogues and houses of study which do not have apartments in which people live do not require mezuzot, because they are consecrated.
A synagogue in a village in which guests reside requires a mezuzah. Similarly, a synagogue in a metropolis, if it has an apartment, requires a mezuzah.
All the gates in the Temple complex did not have mezuzot, with the exception of the Gate of Nicanor and those further within, and the entrance to the Chamber of Parhedrin, because this chamber served as a dwelling for the High Priest during the seven days when he was separated [from his home in preparation for the Yom Kippur service].
A storage house for straw, a barn for cattle, a woodshed, or [other] storage rooms do not require a mezuzah [as can be inferred from Deuteronomy 6:9, which requires that a mezuzah be placed on] "your homes" - i.e., a house which is set aside for your use - thus excluding the above and their like.
Therefore, [if] a barn [is also used] by women as a dressing room, it requires a mezuzah, since it is used as a dwelling by a human being. A guardhouse, an excedra, a porch, a garden, and a corral do not require a mezuzah since they are not dwellings. If dwellings which require a mezuzah open up to these structures, they require a mezuzah.
Accordingly, gates to courtyards, gates to alleys, and gates to cities and towns, all require a mezuzah, since houses which require a mezuzah open up to them. Even when there are ten structures leading one to each other, should the innermost one require a mezuzah, they all require [mezuzot]. Therefore, [our Sages] stated: A gate which opens up from a garden to a courtyard requires a mezuzah.
A toilet, a bathhouse, a mikveh, a tannery, and the like, do not require a mezuzah, since they do not constitute a dignified dwelling.
A sukkah on the holiday of Sukkot, and a house on a ship do not require a mezuzah, for they do not constitute a permanent dwelling.
[With regard to] the two booths of a potter, one inside the other: The outer booth does not require a mezuzah, because it is not a permanent structure. Stores in a market place do not require a mezuzah because they are not permanently used as a dwelling.
A dwelling which has many doorways requires a mezuzah for each and every doorway, even though one generally enters and leaves through only one of them.
A small entrance between a dwelling and a loft requires a mezuzah. When there is a separate room in a house, or even one room which leads to another room, it is necessary to affix a mezuzah on the doorway to the innermost room, the doorway to the outer room, and the doorway to the house, since all of them are used for the purpose of dwelling and are permanent structures.
When a person frequently enters and leaves through an entrance between a synagogue and a house of study and his own house, that entrance requires a mezuzah.
When there is an entrance between two houses, [the position of the mezuzah] is determined by the door-hinge. The mezuzah is placed on the side on which the hinge can be seen.
Where is the mezuzah affixed? At the inside of the entrance, within a handbreadth of the outer edge of the doorpost, at the beginning of the top third of the entrance. If it was affixed higher up, it is acceptable as long as it is at least a handbreadth below the lintel.
It must be placed at the right-hand side as one enters the house. If it is placed on the left-hand side, it is invalid.
A house belonging to partners requires a mezuzah.
A person must show great care in [the observance of the mitzvah of] mezuzah, because it is an obligation which is constantly incumbent upon everyone.
[Through its observance,] whenever a person enters or leaves [the house], he will encounter the unity of the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, and remember his love for Him. Thus, he will awake from his sleep and his obsession with the vanities of time, and recognize that there is nothing which lasts for eternity except the knowledge of the Creator of the world. This will motivate him to regain full awareness and follow the paths of the upright.
Whoever wears tefillin on his head and arm, wears tzitzit on his garment, and has a mezuzah on his entrance, can be assured that he will not sin, because he has many who will remind him. These are the angels, who will prevent him from sinning, as [Psalms 34:8] states: "The angel of God camps around those who fear Him and protects them."
Blessed be God who offers assistance.
Hilchot Sefer Torah
It is a positive commandment for each and every Jewish man to write a Torah scroll for himself, as [implied by the commandment (Deuteronomy 31:19)]: "And now, write down this song for yourselves," i.e., write down the [entire] Torah which contains this song. [The basis for this interpretation is] that the Torah should not be written passage by passage.
Even if a person's ancestors left him a Torah scroll, it is a mitzvah to write one himself. If a person writes the scroll by hand, it is considered as if he received it on Mount Sinai. If he does not know how to write himself, [he should have] others write it for him.
Anyone who checks even a single letter of a Torah scroll is considered as if he wrote the entire scroll.
A king is commanded to write another Torah scroll for himself, for the sake of his sovereignty, in addition to the scroll which he possessed while a commoner, as [Deuteronomy 17:18] states: "And when he sits on his royal throne, he shall write...." This scroll should be checked against the scroll in the Temple Courtyard by the Supreme Sanhedrin.
The one which he possessed while he was a commoner should be placed in his storage chambers, and the one that he wrote - or had written for him - while he was a king, should be with him at all times. When he goes out to war, his Torah scroll should be with him. When he returns, it should be with him. When he sits in judgment, it should be with him. When he dines, it should be opposite him, as [Deuteronomy 17:19] states: "And it shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life."
If a king did not possess a Torah scroll before he became king, he must write two Torah scrolls after he ascends the throne: one to place in his storage chambers, and the other to accompany him at all times, never leaving his presence except at night, when he enters the bathhouse, the toilet, or when he sleeps.
A Torah scroll which was written on unruled [parchment] or which was written with portions on g'vil and portions on k'laf is invalid. It must be written either entirely on g'vil or entirely on k'laf.
How should a Torah scroll be written? One should write with very careful and attractive calligraphy, leaving the space the size of a small letter between each word and a hairbreadth's space between each letter. The space of a line should be left between each line.
The length of each line should be thirty letters so that one can write the word למשפחותיכם three times. This should be the width of every column. A line should not be shorter than this, lest the column appear like a note; nor wider than this, so that one's eyes will not wander through the text.
One should not reduce the size of a letter in order to leave the proper amount of space between one passage and another.
Should [a scribe] have to write a word with five letters [at the end of a line, and there not be sufficient space for them all], he should not write two within the column and three beyond its margins. Rather, he should write three within the column, and two beyond its margins. If there is no room on the line to write [at least] three letters, he should leave an empty space and continue at the beginning of the [next] line.
Should [a scribe] have to write a two-letter word [after completing a line], he should not write it between the columns. Instead, he should write it at the beginning of the [following] line.
[The following rules apply] if one had to write a word of ten - or more or fewer - letters in the middle of a line, and less space than necessary remained within the column: If it is possible to write half of the word within the column, with [only] half extending beyond the margin, he should. If that is not possible, he should leave an empty space and continue at the beginning of the next line.
One should leave four empty lines between each of the books of the Torah, neither more, nor less, starting the next book at the beginning of the following line.
One should complete the entire Torah in the middle of the line at the bottom of the column. If many lines remain in the column, he should write shorter lines, beginning at the beginning of the line, but not completing it, so that the words לעיני כל ישראל are in the middle of the line at the bottom of the column.
One should be careful regarding the oversized letters, the miniature letters, the letters that are dotted, the letters that have abnormal shapes - e.g., the pe'in that are bent over - and the crooked letters that the scribes have copied from each other in a chain of tradition.
[Similarly,] care should be taken regarding the crowns and the number [of crowns placed on a letter]. There are some letters that have [only] one crown, and others that have seven crowns. All these crowns are shaped like zeiynin. They should be as thin as a hair.
All the above matters were mentioned only because this is the most perfect way of performing the mitzvah. Should one, however, alter the structure [of a scroll from that] mentioned above or not be precise regarding the placement of the crowns, [the scroll is acceptable] if all the letters were written as they should be.
[Similarly,] if one wrote the lines closer together, separated them further, lengthened them, or shortened them, the scroll is acceptable, provided one letter does not touch another, no letters are omitted, extra letters are not added, the shape of even a single letter is not altered, and the [form of the passages, whether] p'tuchah or s'tumah, is not changed.
There are other practices which, although they are not mentioned in the Talmud, have been followed by scribes as tradition, transferred from generation to generation. They include that:
a) the number of lines in each column not be less than 48 nor greater than 60;
b) there is a space of approximately nine letters left empty between each passage, so that one could write the word אשר three times;
c) that the five lines above the song recited at the Red Sea begin with the words: haba'im, bayabashah, י-ה-ו-ה andb'Mitzrayim, and that the five lines below that song begin with the words: vatikach, achareha, sus, vayetz'u, and vayavo'u.
d) that the six lines above the song, Ha'azinu begin with the words: v'a'idah, acharei, haderech, b'acharit, l'hach'iso, and k'hal, and that the five lines below that song begin with the words: vayavo, l'daber, asher, hazot, asher.
All the above matters [were mentioned] only because this is the most perfect way of performing the mitzvah. If one deviated from them, [the scroll] is not disqualified.
In contrast, if one wrote the short form of a word that should be spelled using a long form, or the long form of one that should be spelled using a short form, [the scroll] is disqualified.
[The same ruling applies if, in circumstances where one word is written in the Torah scroll and a different word is read] - e.g.,yishkavenah is read instead of yishgalenah (Deuteronomy 28:30), and uvat'chorim is read instead of uva'folim (Deuteronomy 28:27) - one writes the word that is read [instead of the word that is written].
Similarly, if one wrote a passage that should be p'tuchah as s'tumah, or one that should be s'tumah as p'tuchah, or if one wrote another passage from the Torah in the form of one of the songs, or wrote one of the songs in the form of another passage, [the scroll is disqualified]. It does not have the holiness of a Torah scroll and, instead, is considered as one of the chumashim from which children are taught.
A Torah scroll that is uncorrected should not be left [unattended to] for more than thirty days. Rather, it should either be corrected or entombed.
A Torah scroll that has three errors in each column should be corrected. If it has four, it should be entombed. Should the majority of a scroll have been checked to be accurate and there are four errors in each column of the remainder of the scroll, the scroll should be corrected, provided there is at least one column of the defective portion that has fewer than four errors.
When does the above apply? When one wrote the short form of a word instead of the long form, and one will thus be forced to insert the [extra] letters between the lines. If, however, one wrote the long form of a word instead of the short form, one may correct the scroll even if there are many errors on each page. In such an instance, one removes a letter instead of inserting it.
It is permitted to write a scroll containing each of the five books of the Torah individually. These scrolls do not have the sanctity of a Torah scroll.
One should not write a scroll that contains several passages, nor should one write a scroll for a child to learn from. This is, nevertheless, permitted if one [ultimately] intends to complete an entire book of the Torah. It is permitted to write a scroll with [verses from the Torah] when one writes three words in a line spaced out disjointedly.
It is permitted to include [all the books of] the Torah, the Prophets, and the Holy Scriptures in a single scroll.
Four empty lines should be left between each book of the Torah, and three empty lines between each book of the Prophets. One should also leave three lines between each book of the twelve [minor] prophets, so that should one desire to cut, he may do so.
This is the order of the Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, the Twelve [Minor Prophets].
This is the order of the Holy Scriptures: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, Ezra, Chronicles.
All sacred texts may be written only on a ruled [surface]. [This applies] even if they are written on paper. One may write three words without ruling [the surface on which they are written]. Writing any more than that is forbidden.
A scroll that includes the Torah, the Prophets, and the Holy Scriptures does not possess the same degree of holiness as a Torah scroll. Rather, it is like a scroll containing one of the books of the Torah, because the addition [of a book in the scroll] is equivalent to having omitted one.
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G-d transforms spirituality into physicality; the Jew makes physical things spiritual
–Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov