Write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your [public] gates.

-- Devarim 6:9

Classic Questions

What is the importance of mezuzah? (v. 9)

Rambam: Every person is obligated to be extremely cautious about mezuzah since it is a universally binding obligation. Then, every time that a person enters or leaves, he will encounter the Unity of G‑d, the holy Name of G‑d... Our Sages said that any person who wears tefilin on his head and arm, has tzitzis on his garment, and has a mezuzah on his door is assured that he will not sin..." (End of Laws of Mezuzah).

The Rebbe's Teachings

The Mezuzah (v. 9)

How are we to understand the following:

  1. Why does Rambam write here, "every person is obligated to be extremely cautious about mezuzah," and not, "...cautious about the mitzvah of mezuzah"? Indeed, at the end of his Laws of Tzitzis, Rambam is particular to write, "A person should always be careful with the mitzvah of tzitzis."

  2. The promise that "any person who wears tefilin on his head and arm, has tzitzis on his garment, and a mezuzah on his door is assured that he will not sin," was taken by Rambam directly from the Talmud in Tractate Menachos (43b). However, the Talmud quotes an additional verse to prove this point: "A threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12). Why did Rambam omit this verse?

  3. In Rambam's Halachic Code, the Mishneh Torah, the Laws of Tefilin precede the Laws of Mezuzah, and the Laws of Tzitzis follow later. Since the above assurance is the combined effect of all three mitzvos, why did Rambam not cite it after completing all three sets of laws, at the end of the Laws of Tzitzis (or, at the first opportunity—the Laws of Tefilin)?

The Explanation

There are two quite distinct halachic obligations concerning the mezuzah. First, there is the requirement to affix a mezuzah to any appropriate doorpost on one's property.

A second, entirely different obligation that one fulfills with the mezuzah is not the consequence of an effect which the person has on the mezuzah (its affixment), but rather an effect that the mezuzah has on him. Namely, that when the person passes in or out of a door upon which a mezuzah is affixed, the person becomes aroused to think about G‑d whose holy Name is written inside.

It is this second aspect that Rambam is speaking of here at the end of Hilchos Mezuzah, as he states: "Every time that a person enters or leaves he will encounter the Unity of G‑d, the Holy Name of G‑d." Therefore, it would be incorrect to refer to this aspect of mezuzah as the "mitzvah of mezuzah," since, technically speaking, the mitzvah of mezuzah is its affixment, and here we are speaking of the effect of the mezuzah on the person. So Rambam writes that one should be "extremely cautious about mezuzah" without any reference to it being a "mitzvah" at all.

Nevertheless, he writes that "a person is obligated to be extremely cautious about mezuzah," stressing that there is indeed a halachic obligation here for a person to make himself aware of the content of the mezuzah as he enters or leaves a room, allowing himself to be affected by it (see Taz on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, beg. ch. 285).

Based on the above, we can now answer the other two questions posed earlier:

Rambam mentions the assurance against sinning (through observing the precepts of tefilin, mezuzah and tzitzis) specifically in his Laws of Mezuzah for, of these three precepts, mezuzah makes the most powerful contribution to the assurance. This is because the effect that tefilin and tzitzis have of reminding a person about G‑d (thus deterring him from sin) are secondary effects of these mitzvos, whereas in the case of mezuzah, it is the mezuzah object itself that arouses an awareness of G‑d:

In the case of tefilin, Rambam writes: "The holiness of tefilin is great, and so long as a person has tefilin on his head and his arm, he will be humble and G‑d-fearing" (Laws of Tefilin 4:25). I.e., it is not encountering the actual tefilin itself that deters a person from sin, but rather the holiness which the tefilin emanates (a secondary effect).

Likewise, in the case of tzitzis, it is not encountering the tzitzis object itself that deters a person from sin, but rather seeing the tzitzis (merely) reminds a person of the fact (by various allusions1) that "the Torah equated it to all the mitzvos" (end of Laws of Tzitzis). And this will lead a person not to sin.

However, in the case of mezuzah, it is the mezuzah itself that affects a person, and not merely the holiness it emanates or the message it projects (which are secondary qualities). And that is why Rambam chose to stress the assurance against sinning specifically in his Laws of Mezuzah.

For the same reason, Rambam also omitted the Talmud's reference to the verse, "a threefold cord is not quickly broken." For this verse stresses that the three mitzvos protect a person collectively, with each mitzvah having a similar effect, and the verse also indicates that it is the mitzvos themselves that provide the protection. So, since Rambam did not rule in favor of any of these points, he omitted the verse from the Laws of Mezuzah.

(Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 29, p. 61ff.)