Question: You affix new mezuzos in a house, but forget to make a brachah on the mezuzos. May you make a brachah on the mezuzos weeks later when you remember?
Short Answer: The Rishonim, Acharonim, and contemporary poskim are split on this issue. To avoid this dilemma, it is probably best to remove the mezuzos, make the brachah, and then re-affix them.
I. Brachah First, Then Mitzvah
In general, a brachah on a mitzvah should be recited before the mitzvah is performed (“oveir la’asiyasan”). The Rambam (Brachos 11:5-6) discusses a person who forgets to make a brachah before starting to perform a mitzvah, and distinguishes between two types of mitzvos. For the first type of mitzvah, where the act is continuing, such as wearing tzitzis or t’filin, or sitting in a sukkah, the person can make the brachah as long as he is still performing the mitzvah (i.e., still wearing the tzitzis, etc.). For the second type of mitzvah, where the act has already passed, such as sh’chitah, the person cannot make the brachah after performing the mitzvah act.
The sefer K’vius Mezuzah K’Hilchasah (Miluim 19) explains (based on a Tosafos, Sukkah 39a) that the Rambam allows a later brachah for tzitzis, t’filin, and sukkah because a later brachah is still considered “oveir la’asiyasan” due to the fact that these mitzvos are still ongoing at the time of the brachah. In other words, each second is a new ma’aseh mitzvah. [But see K’vius Mezuzah K’Hilchasah (ibid) for other explanations of the Rambam as well].
The question thus centers around whether the mitzvah of mezuzah is more comparable to tzitzis, t’filin, and sukkah, where the mitzvah continues even after the initial act, and thus a brachah can be made at any point when the mitzvah is ongoing, OR whether mezuzah is more comparable to sh’chitah, where the mitzvah is completed after the initial act and thus no brachah can be made after that point?
Indeed, the sefer Birur Halachah (Vol. 6, p. 478) and the sefer Maadanei Asher (Siman 43) both note that the Rishonim disagree on this issue. The son of the Rambam (in HaMaspik L’Ovdei Hashem) explicitly states that mezuzah and ner Chanukah are more comparable to sh’chitah and thus no brachah can be made after the initial act. The Sefer HaPardes, on the other hand, writes that ner Chanukah (and presumably, mezuzah as well) are more comparable to tzitzis, t’filin, and sukkah, and thus a brachah can still be made during the ongoing mitzvah.
II. Make the Brachah
Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Mahadurah Tinyana 13), in a discussion about ner Chanukah, takes for granted that a brachah can be made on a mezuzah even weeks after being affixed, since removing the mezuzah would cause the inhabitant to be missing the mitzvah from that point onward. The Chokrei Leiv (3:128) also writes that mezuzah is like sitting in the sukkah, as the mezuzah must remain on the doorpost in the same way that a person must remain sitting in his sukkah. Similarly, the sefer Ashdos HaPisgah (cited in sefer Shomei’a U’Mashmia, Siman 39) ruled that a brachah can be made on a mezuzah even weeks after being affixed, since the mitzvah is ongoing.
The sefer VaYaan Shmuel (19:17) elaborates that a brachah can be made on a mezuzah even weeks after being affixed, since there is no mitzvah to put up a mezuzah in a house that already has a mezuzah, but rather the whole mitzvah is for the house to have a mezuzah.
III. No Brachah
The Birkei Yosef (commenting on the Magen Avraham, Siman 19) writes that the mitzvah of mezuzah is performed at the time when it is affixed, and this is thus the only time when the brachah can be made. [Notably, Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Mahadurah Kama, Siman 9) acknowledges this Birkei Yosef. The sefer Maadanei Asher (ibid) suggests that perhaps Rabbi Akiva Eiger agrees with the Birkei Yosef, and just hadn’t seen the Birkei Yosef at the time he wrote the t’shuvah referenced earlier]. Similarly, Maadanei Asher cites numerous other Acharonim that hold that the entire mitzvah of mezuzah is finished after it is affixed.
Notably, the sefer K’vius Mezuzah K’Hilchasah (ibid) cites Rav Shlomo Kluger who rules that tzitzis is fundamentally different from mezuzah. By tzitzis, the person is constantly participating in and performing the mitzvah, even after the initial act of wearing, as it is on his body. Mezuzah, on the other hand, is on the doorpost, and thus even if the mitzvah is continuing, no brachah can be made after the initial act, as the person no longer has any connection to the mitzvah.
IV. Possible Explanation
This author would like to suggest that perhaps this machlokes is based on the machlokes between Rashi and Rambam as to the reasoning behind mezuzah, as set forth in an article a few weeks ago. According to Rashi, the whole point of mezuzah is to protect the inhabitants from dangerous mazikin. Because the mezuzah is constantly protecting the inhabitants, even after being initially affixed, one can make the b’rachah even weeks later. According to the Rambam, however, the point of mezuzah is to highlight and acknowledge the Oneness of Hashem. Perhaps this acknowledgment is mainly performed at the time of affixing the mezuzah, and thus only at that point can the brachah be made.
V. Practical Halachah
The Igros Moshe (Yoreh Dei’ah 1:179), as well as Rav Elyashiv zt”l (Kovetz T’shuvos 1:116), rule that a brachah can be made on a mezuzah even weeks after being affixed. Preferably, however, the person should remove the mezuzos and re-affix them before making the brachah. The Avnei Yishfe (6:95) rules similarly.
The sefer Maadanei Asher, on the other hand, cites Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, Rav Y.Y. Fischer zt”l, and Rav Wosner zt”l who were all machmir and ruled that no brachah can be made on a mezuzah after it is already affixed. However, they agree that if the person removed the mezuzos and re-affixed them that a brachah can be made. [But see Maadanei Asher that some, including the Shach, rule that even if the mezuzos are removed and re-affixed, no brachah should be made.]
Next Week’s Topic: Must you make a new brachah when re-affixing a mezuzah that was taken down and checked by a sofer?
Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Assistant to the Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email EphraimGlatt@gmail.com.