From Brendan Stern: Vaetchanan – Transformative Compromise*

“Inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and your gates” (Devarim 6:9).

Chazal (Menachot 33a) state that if the mezuzah is placed in the form of a “carpenter” it is invalid. Rashi explains that placing the mezuzah horizontally invalidates the mitzvah, whereas Rabbeinu Tam holds that placing it vertically disqualifies the mitzvah. The prevalent Ashkenazi custom based on the Rema (YD 289:6) is to compromise between these two opinions and hang the mezuzah diagonally.

How do we understand this compromise approach given the fact that placing the mezuzah diagonally seems to satisfy neither opinion? Normally when there is a halachic debate about a particular topic we make a choice one way or the other as to how to act! Furthermore, if we are affixing the mezuzah in this fashion out of doubt, how can we make a bracha on fulfilling the mitzvah given the principle that if one is in a doubt he should not make a bracha (OC 210:2)?

The Maharam MiRottenburg (2:161) says that any house that has a mezuzah affixed properly will be protected from dangerous forces. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that since the mitzvah of mezuzah protects and brings peace to the house, we specifically choose to follow a compromise approach in fulfilment of the mitzvah to emphasise that the greatest way one can protect his household is through compromise and making peace! Placing the mezuzah in a diagonal position is thus not a concession due to doubt as to which view to follow but rather an ab initio approach representative of the most opportune way for the house to transform into a home!

The halacha is accentuating the message that the foundation of the Jewish home is to be built on flexibility and the willingness to create space for and acceptance of the other!

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