Mezuza for a Balcony

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by R. Daniel Mann

Question: Summary after follow-up questions: The apartment we are moving into has an open balcony (mirpeset), accessed only by our living room, whose main functions are “taking in” the air, sun, and view, and presumably for kids to play. (It is not for a sukka because most of it is covered by a neighbor’s mirpeset.) Its dimensions are 4.3 meters X 1.2 meters. Does it require a mezuza and if so, on which side?

Answer: The first question, whether the mirpeset requires a mezuza in its own right, has two parts. The gemara (Yoma 11b) derives that only “houses made for living” require a mezuza. There are different indications as to whether what Chazal called mirpeset requires (see ibid. and Menachot 33b), and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 286:7) rules that it depends if there is an entrance from a house to the mirpeset. However, that is not talking about a balcony. Most poskim posit that our mirpesot require mezuzot (see Chovat Hadar 2:5) because stepping out for air etc. is a normal way of using one’s house. Although a house needs a roof to require a mezuza (Shulchan Aruch ibid. 14), it is normal for a balcony to not have a (full) roof, and lack of one does not necessarily exempt (see Sha’arei Hamezuza 2:(11)). According to some opinions, and possibly depending on certain parameters, one would affix the mezuza to a mirpeset without a beracha (see ibid. (12)).

The balcony’s size is an important factor. The minimum size for a house is 4 amot (around 2 meters or a little more) by 4 amot, regarding several halachot including mezuza (Sukka 3a). The Rosh (ibid. 16) posits that both its length and width must be 4 amot. Most early sources understand the Rambam (ibid. 2) as saying that it suffices that the room’s area be 16 sq. amot, even if one of its dimensions is less than 4 amot, and the Shach (286:23) treats the matter as a doubt. According to these rules, it is a doubt whether your mirpeset (around 20 sq. amot, but not 4 amot wide) is big enough to require a mezuza. The Pitchei Teshuva (YD 286:11) cites an opinion that a room whose size is viable for its living purposes requires a mezuza even if it is “undersized.” While this is a respected opinion (see Minchat Yitzchak I:8), it is unclear to what extent we accept it (see Chovat Hadar 4:(16)).

The indications are, then, that it is a doubt whether your balcony deserves, from “its sake,” a mezuza, and in which case, affixing it on the right going out without a beracha on it could make sense. However, even according to the possibility that the mirpeset does not have its own mezuza obligation, its connection to the living room may affect matters.

We put the mezuza on the right side going into a house, but when going from room A to room B within it, we must decide which room we are considered entering from which, to determine which side is “the right.” The major factors are: 1) which room is used more significantly; 2) into which room does the door open; 3) most importantly, when one can only enter room B by means of room A, we view it that we are going into the “dead end” (Taz, YD 289:4; Pitchei Shearim 289:67). Your mirpeset is such a dead end, ostensibly indicating to affix the mezuza on the right side going out to the balcony. (A minority opinion holds that since the mirpeset is subservient to the house, one always puts it in the direction of entering the main house (Chazon Ish, YD 168:5).)

However, if the mirpeset does not deserve a mezuza, it may enable the following possibility. Just like an entrance from a non-mezuza-entity into a house requires a mezuza, so does a non-mezuza-entity mirpeset need one going into the house. Then, you would need a mezuza going into the house, on the right side (see R. Akiva Eiger to YD 186:13).

In summation, there are many indications in different directions. We would be tempted to suggest a mezuza on each side, but we must not do that (see our column, Kedoshim 5774). We recommend affixing it on the right coming into the living room, doing so along with a mezuza for a definitely required location, so one can “share” the berachot.

לעילוי נשמת יואל אפרים בן אברהם עוזיאל זלצמן ז”ל

About Daniel Mann

This column is produced on behalf of Eretz Hemdah by Rabbi Daniel Mann. Rabbi Mann is a Dayan for Eretz Hemdah and a staff member of Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel in Israel. He is a senior member of the Eretz Hemdah responder staff, editor of Hemdat Yamim and the author of Living the Halachic Process, volumes 1 and 2 and A Glimpse of Greatness.

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