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What is the Mezuzah?

October 7, 2021 | by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

The mezuzah is hung on the doorpost as a subtle reminder about our values every time we enter and exit our homes.

We walk in and out of our homes on a regular basis. We may even have a mezuzah hanging, but we forget it's there. There are so many activities in our lives we do without ever thinking about them.

The word mezuzah literally means doorpost but we use it to refer to what hangs on it. The mezuzah, meaning the handwritten scroll, is supposed to remind us: on the threshold of our homes and the threshold of critical places in our life, the values we're meant to bring in and the inspiration we’re meant to carry out with us. What's inside the mezuzah?

The mezuzah, on its parchment, is written the holy words of the Shema, which is like the National Anthem, or the primary declaration of Jewish belief, to remind us of the unity of God's existence and of our responsibility to answer to a higher authority, whether it's walking into our home and the way we interact with the people in it, what entertainment we engage in, the values we live by, or whether it's on our way out to work, to the gym, to the supermarket, to engage socially, we answer to a higher authority.

This entire world is an expression of God's existence. We work for him. He doesn't work for us. The mezuzah contains the word v'ahavta, love. Love is supposed to inform and animate our entire being, to be positive and upbeat to be filled with love. Love is not an adjective. Love is not an emotion. Love is a verb.

Love is how we treat God and others, in our home and outside of it. When we pass that mezuzah, it reminds us of our responsibility to shower others with that love.

Love is how we treat God, love is how we treat others, in our home and outside of it. And when we pass that mezuzah, it reminds us of our responsibility to practice, to share, and to shower others with that love, with that devotion, that loyalty by being givers and not takers.

When the mezuzah scroll is wound up, on the outside is written one of God's names, Shaddai. It comes from the Kabalistic expression, “God looked at His world and He said ‘dai. He said enough. He was satisfied with creation.

We outside our homes are ambitious. We have drive, of course we want to achieve and accumulate more. But when we walk in our home and we see that name of God, we remember dai, to be satisfied with our lot, to count our blessings, to be happy with what we have.

Some people think that the mezuzah brings good fortune or good luck, but the truth is the mezuzah brings a positive energy when we live by the values that are contained within it. It does ward off evil spirits, the spirit of arrogance and ego, the spirit of envy and anxiety. When we understand and submit to that higher power. When we pledge to live with love, then we bring a positive energy into our home, our workspace, or anywhere the mezuzah hangs.

Our rabbis debate whether the mezuzah should be placed vertically or horizontally. In the Ashkenazi tradition, we do a compromise, we hang it on a slant. It doesn't satisfy either opinion, but it does remind us: when you enter that home, when you enter that workspace with your colleagues, enter with the spirit of compromise. It's not our way or the highway. It's not all about us. We have to be willing to compromise if we're going to connect with others.

It's very important to only buy the mezuzah from a reliable source. Put it in a beautiful case. And we hang it in the bottom of the top third of the right side of the doorway on the way into our home. We say a blessing before we hang up the mezuzah, with a hope and a prayer, not only as we dedicate the mezuzah and dedicate our home, but we dedicate ourselves to one another and to the values and inspiration inside that mezuzah.

So next time you walk through a door, pause and remember what's behind the mezuzah. Make sure to touch that mezuzah and it's important to make sure the mezuzah touches you.

Click here to read Mezuzah: The Inside Story

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