Friday, February 11, 2011


I've been shopping for a Mezuzah. For those who may now know what a Mezuzah is - it's something that those of the Jewish faith place diagonally and adjacent to the doorpost of a Jewish home. The Hebrew word mezuzah actually means doorpost, but over time it has evolved to mean the item and what it contains. What makes it important is the concept that the doorpost is the dividing line between the swirl of the outside world and the sanctity and safe haven of the home. Contained in the mezuzah is a tightly rolled piece of parchment made from the skin of a ritually clean animal on which are hand-written, traditionally in twenty-two lines, words from Deuteronomy, the fifth of the Five Books of Moses. Specifically, they are chapter 6, verses 4 through 9 and chapter 11, verses 13-21 --the Shema Yisrael:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
You shall love the Lord thy God with all your heart,
with all your soul and with all your resources.
Let these matters that I command you today be upon your heart;
teach them thoroughly to your children,
and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house,
and when thou walkest by the way,
and when thou liest down,
and when thou risest up.
Bind them as a sign upon your arm
and let them be tifillin between your eyes.
And write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
And it will come to pass that if you continually hearken
to my commandments that I command you today,
to love the Lord your God,
and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul
-then I will provide rain for your land in its proper time,
the early and late rains,
that you may gather in your grain,
your wine, and your oil.
I will provide grass in your field for your cattle
and you will eat and be satisfied.
Beware lest your heart be seduced and you
turn astray and the Lord's wrath be kindled against you,
and He shut up the heaven, and there be no rain,
and that the land yield not her fruit,
and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.
Place these words of mine upon your heart and upon your soul;
bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be tiffillin between your eyes.
Teach them to your children,
speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house,
and when thou risest up.
And write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
In order to prolong your days and the days of your children
upon the ground that the Lord has sworn unto your fathers to give them,
and the days of the heavens upon the earth.

Very little about this important object has been left to chance. Including how it is hung. You might ask, just what is it that makes a mezuzah so important, and why is it hung on the doorpost, and if it is so important, why isn't it hung vertically?

The parchment, or klaf, is rolled from end to beginning, so that the first word, Shema is on top. On the back of the parchment is the Hebrew word Shaddai, one of the mystical names for the Almighty. Shaddai is also an acronym in Hebrew for Shomer Daltot Yistael, Guardian of the Gates of Israel. The mezuzah case should have an opening through which the word Shaddai is visible. If the casing is made without a window then some feel the word Shaddai or the Hebrew letter Shin must appear on the face of the mezuzah. The parchment must be checked twice every seven years. A mezuzah must be attached on the upper third of the right-hand side of the doorway as one enters, no less than one hand-breath from the top. A blessing precedes the hanging. A building not used as a permanent residence, such as a sukkah, does not need a mezuzah.

With all that, the mezuzah is more than an item. Maimonides, a great sage who lived during the twelfth century, wrote, "Whenever one enters or leaves a home with the mezuzah on the doorpost, he will be confronted with the declaration of God's unity....and will be aroused from.....his foolish absorption in temporal vanities. He will realize that nothing endures to all eternity save knowledge of the Ruler of the Universe."

So that explains why the mezuzah is important and why it is hung on the doorpost. Yet Mezuzot (the plural for mezuzah) are not restricted to the exterior doorways. Observant Jews affix them to every doorway of every room in the house except the bathroom.

Which brings us back to the question: why aren't Mezuzot hung vertically? One of the most famous French rabbis of the twelfth century was Rabbi Solomon Ben Isaac, who is also known as Rashi. His grandson, Rabenu Tam, felt that Mezuzot should be affixed horizontally for the sake of tradition, because the scrolls in their cases were originally pushed horizontally into crevices between the stones around doorways of homes. Rashi argued the Mezuzot should be affixed vertically, in such a way that the top pointed toward the Almighty. They eventually compromised, and agreed that the mezuzah should be hung on the diagonal with its top inclined toward the inside. The decision, allowing peace to rein in a Jewish home in the twelfth century France, is part of the message of the mezuzah.

All that being said....I have decided that our home needs a mezuzah. Now, I'm obviously not of the Jewish faith (--I've been grafted in!) however, I think it would be pretty awesome to have God's Word symbolically placed at the doorpost of our home. I'm not thinking that we need one at each and every doorpost...but I am shopping for one to place at our front door.

I have found two that I really like:

Nice, huh? Well, this one won't be hanging next to our doorpost. It costs over $1200.00 Moving right about this one?

This one is really cool in that it says on the front (in Hebrew), "I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine." ....which is the same verse inscribed in a ring that I wore while seeking the Lord and asking Him to teach me how to be His bride. So - this mezuzah would be way cool. Not happenin' - still way out of my price range.

Maybe I'll end up making my own. I am, after all, an artist. I could do this.
I've also discovered that to purchase the Shema Yisrael prayer on a certified kosher scroll would be an additional $34.00 cost. Kosher? Don't know that it's critical in this non-Jewish household to be concerned about that. I'm thinkin'....I know calligraphy - I'll write it out myself on a piece of parchment paper.

All that being said...I'm going to clear a working space in my all too cluttered studio....I'll let you know if I ever get this project completed...(don't hold your breath.)

Note: some of the above plaguerized from here:


Pat said...

What a great informative post!
My Mezuzah needs to be re-positioned, it's too straight!
I received my Mezuzah from my Mother, and I believed she received it from a Messianic Ministry she supported. She also had a beautiful one she received from my niece, which I think is still on her/Sara's house.

Felisol said...

Dear Deb,
How very informative and interesting.
I did google around some years ago, because I found a mini Mezuzah after my dad. My uncle had been in Israel and brought home a car-Mezusah for him.
My dad did not know what to do with it, but now it's here in our home.
It is definitely not a genuine one, but a tourist item.
I like it anyway.
I'm looking forward to seeing your version.
I agree with you that for a non-Jew the words are the most important.
I also respect the Jews for keeping their traditions scacred. That's how they have survived as a people.
As a daughter raised in the Pentecost Church, I strongly believe that the Jewish people are God's chosen.

I think you'll honor God with your calligraphy and home made box.

That is a work coming from the heart.
From Felisol

Sara said...

Indeed, we have a Mezuzah! I'll have to take a picture.

Crown of Beauty said...

I love the idea of hanging a Mezuzah on the doorpost of my home.

Thank you for explaining what it is. My spirit drank it all in.

I feel a special connection to you after reading your lovely posts on the sisterhood blog. So special. God has truly set you apart dear Deb. You are a messenger of hope, an agent of redemption.

Sending love wishes your way today.

And, if you ever get to make your own Mezuzah, why not do some additional ones for sale to us, and put in some historical facts as well as how to properly hang it. I am sure many would want to purchase such a valuable work of art from you!