Mezuzah: (Lit. “doorpost”):
A small parchment scroll upon which the Hebrew words of the Shema are
handwritten by a scribe. Mezuzah scrolls
are rolled up and affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes, designating the
home as Jewish and reminding those who live there of their connection to G‑d
and their heritage.
Mezuzahs in cases for sale
What Constitutes a Kosher
The decorative case containing the mezuzah
scroll is just that: a mere container. What’s important is the scroll, upon
which the first two sections of the Shema are handwritten, beginning with the
eternal words “Hear o Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One.”
These selections both contain G‑d’s instruction to affix the mezuzah: “You shall write them on the doorposts of
your house and on your gates.”
These words are handwritten by an
expert scribe who is trained in the many laws involved in writing a mezuzah, including the requirement that
it be written with special intention and that the words be written in order.
Every single letter in the mezuzah must be properly formed. A
single crack in the parchment or any omission can invalidate the entire scroll.
A printed mezuzah is invalid. For
this reason it is vital that it be purchased from a reputable scribe or
On the reverse side of the scroll, the scribe writes one of G‑d’s names:
Sha-dai. The three letters of this name form an acronym for the Hebrew words that
mean “Guardian of the doorways of Israel.” Since this name of G‑d begins with
the letter shin, mezuzah cases are often decorated with that letter.
More on how a mezuzah is written here.
The parchment mezuzah scroll.
Where Do Mezuzahs Hang?
You should hang a mezuzah on
just about every doorway that belongs to you. Notable exceptions are doors
leading to bathrooms and small closets.
The mezuzah should be hung on
the right side of the door, on the top third of the doorway. The mezuzah should be right-side up, and
slanted so that the top of the mezuzah faces
inwards towards the room.
one-page guide on mezuzah placement here.
Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff of Houston, in the background, helps Brian Levinson affix his new mezuzah. (Photo Jillian Levinson)
What Does the Mezuzah Mean?
Judaism is not confined to synagogues. We strive for spirituality even
within the comfort and familiarity of our own homes. The mezuzah on the doorpost reminds those who walk through that G‑dly
life and Torah accompany them wherever they go.
Our sages teach that a mezuzah has
the unique property of protecting the inhabitants of the home where it is hung—whether
the inhabitants are inside or outside that home. The mezuzah can be compared to a “helmet,” a veneer that protects us against
the dangers that surround us in our lives.
teaches that while most kings sit on the inside while
their guards protect them from without, G‑d stations His protection (as
manifested in the mezuzah) on the
outside, protecting His beloved people.
G‑d promises that anyone who carefully observes the mitzvah of
mezuzah will lead a longer, richer
life, as will their descendants, as Deuteronomy states, “So that you will
prolong your days and the days of your children.”
Read more about the
protective power of mezuzah here.
When passing through a doorway where a mezuzah has been affixed, we glance at it and touch it. Some people
then kiss their fingertips. This serves as a reminder throughout the day that
G‑d is always with us, inside or outside our homes.
Read about why
we kiss the mezuzah here.
Check the Mezuzah!
It is customary to have mezuzahs checked
twice every seven years, or even every year, prior to the High Holidays. Even
if the mezuzah was purchased from a
reputable source and previously found to be perfectly kosher, there is always
room for human error, and new cracks and other problems can appear with time.
Of course, this checking must be done by an expert scribe.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory,
would often urge people who encountered health challenges or other difficulties
to have their mezuzahs (and tefillin) checked to make sure that
every scroll was in good shape and properly placed on the doorpost.
If you need help getting a new mezuzah
or having your existing ones checked, closest Chabad
rabbi will be happy to assist you.