If you’re in the habit of kissing mezuzot in public places, you can ease up on the Purell.
A group of doctors at Maimonodes Medical Center have found that the practice does not increase the risk of spreading germs.
Dr. Monica Ghitan and her colleagues tested over 100 mezuzot around their hospital, and other than a few benign microbes found that the ritual objects were not unsafe for those who touch them and then kiss their hands.
While not as controversial a practice as, say, metzitzah b’peh, the practice of kissing the mezuzah has been called into qusetion before. In 2007, Rabbi Simcha Ross even ruled that kissing the mezuzah should be avoided as a possible health hazard. And an earlier Israeli study in 2009 found that the practice did, in fact, spread germs. The newer study affirms that the key difference is that at their hospitals nurses cleaning the rooms also wipe down the mezuzot.
Not everyone is surprised by the study’s results.
“They’ve been around for 4,000 years and we have yet to hear about someone getting sick,” Rabbi Nathan Friedman told the NY Daily News.
Doctors also recommend that the general rule of washing one’s hands frequently applies here as well.
“You should always wash,” Dr. Alexander Locke told the NY Daily News. “But at the end it’s all in God’s hands.”
The doctors will publish their study in the Journal of Infection Control in the next few weeks.
In other germ news, a video produced by Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem stressing the importance of hand washing and good hygiene has gone, well … viral.