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Shmot 5766

Shmot (Exodus 1:1-6:1 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   One time while I was working at Aish HaTorah in the Old City of Jerusalem, a tourist once asked me for help to find a store selling mezuzot. I took him to a shop and he picked out about 30 beautiful mezuzah cases and asked the shop keeper how much he owed. I asked the gentleman, "But what about the scrolls for inside the cases?" The man replied, "I don't need them. I am not that religious." Funny thing, there is absolutely no mitzvah to place a mezuzah case upon one's door! Affixing the scroll upon the doorpost is the mitzvah. The case is only to protect the scroll inside and to beautify the mitzvah.

Why do we put a mezuzah on the doorposts in our homes? The Almighty commands us in the Torah:

"And these words which I command you this day ... you shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:9)

The parchment containing "these words" is called a mezuzah after the place where it is to be affixed - the doorpost (which is called in Hebrew a mezuzah).

The scroll must be parchment from the skin of a kosher animal, written with special kosher ink word for word, letter for letter by a God fearing expert sofer (scribe) exactly as it is written in a Torah. ny other scroll -printed, written on paper - is invalid and if used, one does not fulfill the mitzvah of mezuzah.

The mezuzah should be placed at the beginning of the upper third of the doorpost of all rooms excepting bathrooms, toilets and small closets. The top of the mezuzah is angled in towards the room as you would enter the room, the bottom of the mezuzah is towards the outside of the room. If you have questions, ask a rabbi.

The mezuzah is not an amulet for superstitious protection. It is a commandment - and the fulfillment of a commandment brings one closer to the Almighty and provides spiritual merit. There is a custom to kiss a mezuzah upon entering or leaving a room. This is an expression of love for the mitzvah and for the Almighty; when one kisses the mezuzah, he thinks of what is written in it - that God is one, to love God, to fulfill the commandments and that God watches over us and protects us - and then one is naturally filled with love for God.

There is a 2,000 year old story about Onkeles. He asks his uncle, the Emperor Titus, for advice on succeeding in life. His uncle advises him, "Find that which is undervalued and invest in it." So, Onkeles converts to Judaism.

Titus is not pleased. He sends squads of soldiers to arrest his nephew. However, each squad gets into discussions with Onkeles and converts to Judaism. Titus sends out a final squad with direct orders not to talk with Onkeles. As they are escorting him out of his home, Onkeles reaches up and kisses the mezuzah. The soldiers are overcome with curiosity and ask him "Why did you kiss that?" Onkeles explains, "Your king sits on the inside and his soldiers are outside protecting him; We, the Jewish people, sit inside and our King protects us." The soldiers convert to Judaism. Titus stops sending squads. Onkeles goes on to become a great sage whose Aramaic translation/commentary of the Torah is found in almost every Hebrew edition of the Torah.

Here is what is written in the mezuzah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21):

"Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul and all of your possessions. And these words that I command to you this day shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them (the mitzvot) when you sit in your house and when you walk in the road and when you lie down and rise up. You shall bind them upon your arm as a sign and as ornaments between your eyes (Tefillin) and write them on the doorposts of your house (Mezuzah).

"And if you will listen to My commandments that I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all of your heart and with all of your soul, then I shall bring the rain for your land in the proper time - the spring rains and the fall rains; and you shall gather your grain, your wine and your oil. And I will give grass in the fields for your animals and you will eat and be satisfied. And guard yourselves lest your heart be seduced and you turn and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the wrath of the Almighty shall be upon you and He will hold back the heavens. There will not be rain and the ground will not give forth its produce. You will quickly be vanquished from the good land that the Lord gave to you. And you shall place these words upon your heart and upon your soul and bind them to be a sign upon your arm and as ornaments between your eyes. And teach them to your children to speak them while sitting in your house, when you walk in the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. And write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates. (If you do this) you will lengthen your days and the days of your children upon the land that the Almighty swore to your forefathers to give to them for as long as the heavens are above the earth."

The mezuzah scroll is not inexpensive. Expect to pay between $40 and $100 for a 5 inch mezuzah. Be sure that it is certified to be kosher - that it has a certificate that it has been written properly and checked for missing letters or words, etc. Mezuzot are generally available at your local Jewish bookstore or you can purchase a kosher one at (search: "mezuzah scroll" and scroll to the bottom past the mezuzah cases) or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242. And if you're not "so religious" then at least buy a kosher mezuzah (and case) for your front door!

For more on "Mezuzah" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

This week's portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people "lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land." (Anti-Semitism can thrive on any excuse; it need not be logical or real -- check out our online seminar "Why the Jews?" at . It's spectacular!)

Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to "bring My people out of Egypt." Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!"

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Dvar Torah
based on based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Tziporah, Moshe's future wife, and her 6 sisters drew water for their father's sheep. Shepherds came and drove them away. The Torah tells us that then...

"Moshe got up and saved them and watered their sheep."

Moshe saved Tziporah, who at that time was a total stranger. Later on we read in the Torah how Tziporah saves Moshe's life (Exodus 4:24-5) while he is on his way back to Egypt from Midian to bring out the Jewish people.

The Chofetz Chaim tells us that from here we learn that all the kindness that a person does for someone else is eventually repaid to him. Whenever you do a favor for someone, you benefit yourself. Definitely, the highest level of righteousness is to do a kindness for the sake of the mitzvah without thinking of personal gain. However, if you find it difficult to do a kindness for someone, you can at least draw on a pragmatic motivation.

Life is like a mirror. If you do kindness for others, they will be kinder to you. Also, if you act with kindness, eventually you will make yourself into a kinder person.

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