Just when you may have thought science could do no more to bash traditional Judaism comes this warning from Israeli medical researchers…
…reported by the JTA:
Devout Jews should think twice about kissing hospital mezuzot.
According to an Israeli study released this month by Assaf Harofeh Hospital, mezuzot in medical wards frequently carry germs and bacteria that can lead to illnesses such as urinary tract infections, intestinal upsets and skin rashes.
The conclusions were reached after studying 70 mezuzot from different parts of the hospital. Though the communicability of the illnesses is far greater among patients, whose immune system may be compromised, doctors said healthy hospital staff and visitors also should take precautions.
Many religiously oriented Jews touch mezuzot when passing and then kiss their fingers as a sign of reverence for the biblical inscription carried within.
Will haredim hold mass rallies in defense of mezuza-kissing? Will Chabadniks cite letters or talks from their late rebbe 'proving' that mezuzot provide protection and cannot harm? Will at least one nonagenarian haredi gadol make a very public show of kissing a hospital mezuza?
Will the more rational elements among aour religious brothers take to carrying small cans of Lysol spray or bottles of Purell to slave on mezuzot before kissing them?
Or, will Jews note that the custom of kissing mezuzot is relatively recent and, therefore, forgo kissing hospital mezuzot?
Recent? As in post-biblical? As in post-talmudic? As in, shudder, modern?
The Shulkan Arukh mentions the custom of touching the mezuza and reciting a biblical verse. It seems the earliest references to kissing the mezuza (i.e., kissing the fingers of the hand that just touched the mezuza) are found in 18th century Sefardic halakhic works like the Birkei Yosef, which was written by Haim Yosef David Azulai, who was also a kabbalist-mystic.
What happened between the Shulkan Arukh (mid to late 1500s) and the Birkei Yosef (mid to late 1700s)?
Is kissing the mezuza a Sabbatean custom?
I don't know. But, if it is, the site of haredim fighting to defend it will be uniquely delicious.