And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
-- Deuteronomy 6:9; 11:20
Judaism is a faith not confined to synagogues. Within the comfort and familiarity of our homes, we also strive for spirituality. A Mezuzah scroll is mounted on the doorpost, designating the home as Jewish and reminding us of our connection to G‑d and our heritage. Its presence reminds us to infuse our daily doings with holiness and good deeds.
Contrary to popular belief, a Mezuzah is not the (often decorated) outer container. The actual Hebrew word Mezuzah translates as “doorpost,” and has also come to refer to the skillfully made parchment scroll within.
The Mezuzah contains the most famous Jewish prayer, Shema – the biblical passage declaring G‑d’s unity and our devotion to Him. It is handwritten in the original Hebrew by an expert scribe, known as a sofer. Only then, is a “kosher” Mezuzah placed in a cover or case made of glass, wood, metal or any other material and, upon recitation of a blessing, affixed to the doorpost.
In addition to its role as a declaration and reminder of our faith, the Mezuzah is also a symbol of G‑d's watchful care over the house and its dwellers. While we usually place our most precious ritual items in a safe, here G‑d tells us to affix the Mezuzah out in the open, on the doorpost.
The Shema prayer appears on one side on the parchment, and one of the names of G‑d, Sha-dai, appears on the reverse side. The name is an acronym for the Hebrew words which mean “Guardian of the doorways of Israel.” A Mezuzah on the doors of a home or office protects the inhabitants – whether they are inside or outside. This protection serves as a helmet, one protective veneer against all the surrounding dangers in our lives.
When passing through a doorway where a Mezuzah has been affixed, we glance at it, touch it, and some kiss their finger tips and then touch the Mezuzah. This serves as a regular reminder throughout the day that G‑d is always with us inside or outside our homes.
Through the observance of this divine commandment we introduce a measure of spirituality and security into our homes.
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...” (11:21).