A Conservative rabbi has recently ruled that kissing mezuzot should be avoided, in order to avoid the risk of contracting an infectious disease.
Rabbi Simcha Roth issued the ruling after he was approached by members of his congregation who expressed concern over the possibility that kissing a mezuzah which has been kissed by other people may constitute a health hazard.
Roth stressed that kissing mezuzot should be particularly avoided in public places and hospitals, where the risk is even greater.
The mitzvah of affixing a mezuzah to the doorpost appears in the Bible, Deuteronomy 11:20: “And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates.” The mitzvah aims at reminding the Jew of the mitzvot of the Torah upon entering his home. According to the Conservative Movement, the mezuzah also reminds the inhabitants of the house that God protects them at all times.
Rabbi Roth explained that in both cases, the mezuzah’s role is to be looked at, not touched or kissed. He said that the custom of kissing the mezuzah has developed in later years with the goal of giving the observant Jew a sense of intimacy with his God.
According to Rabbi Roth, “The only mitzvah related to the mezuzah is to affix it to the doorpost and to check it to make sure it is not damaged. The other customs, such as touching or kissing it, are merely traditions and not mitzvot from the Torah.
“Therefore, in such cases it is not only permitted, but even recommended, to avoid kissing the mezuzah.”