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What Is a Mezuzah?

What Is a Mezuzah?

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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).

Compiled by Dovid ZaklikowskiI, based on materials by Rabbi Aaron Wolf, Lubavitch of Center City Philadelphia, and other sources.
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Discussion (5)
June 11, 2014
Re: Affixing Mezuzah
It is the tenant's responsibility to affix the mezuzot.
Eliezer Zalmanov
for Chabad.org
June 11, 2014
Affixing Mezuzah
When an apartment is rented, whose responsibility is it to affix the mezuzot? The tenant or the landlord?
Anonymous
Israel
July 8, 2009
Thank you
I am a writer and although not Jewish, I grew with the books of Leon Uris, about the horror of the Holocaust and about having the need to live together as a community. I feel happy learning about someone's faith. Rav todot!
Anonymous
New York, USA
June 5, 2009
Thanks 4 your help.
Just got a mezuzah for our new home. I always put my mezuzahs on wrong but I didn´t know. The ilustrations shoed me the proper side of the door and the correct inclination. Your site is a great mitzva because it helps idiots like me whenever I´m in doubt. Thank an Shalom to you all!
Robert Goldberg
Porto Seguro, Brazil
May 21, 2007
Good
This web site is soooooooooooooooooooo good!!!!
Charlotte
Surry, UK
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