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Weeping Beside the Mezuzah at UCLA

Weeping Beside the Mezuzah at UCLA

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One day, I arrived back to my dorm room in between classes at UCLA, to find that my mezuzah was missing from the doorframe. Though concerned, I had no time to investigate, as I was due at my next class, where we were having a guest speaker from another state, one who often taught classes on various Jewish subjects. After the class I told her my plight, whereupon she told me this story about a student from her hometown.

Recently, this college student had expressed a desire to have mezuzot on her doors. The professor kindly arranged to help her. She went to the student’s apartment, which was located in a large building where most of the residents were not Jewish. The professor helped the student affix kosher mezuzot to each of her doors, including of course her front door, which faced the common hallway of the building.

Some time later the professor again visited the student for a class gathering. But when she approached the apartment, she did not see the mezuzah. Upon entering, she noted that the mezuzah was still up, but that the girl had changed its place. Instead of being on the outside of the door, she had reattached the mezuzah on the inside, so that it was visible only from inside the apartment itself.

In answer to the professor’s private inquiry, the student explained that her Jewish girlfriends had criticized her for putting up the mezuzah in such a public place. They told her that it wasn’t very PC to push a Jewish symbol in the face of everyone who passed by, and that it wasn’t necessary. Why must she attract attention like this, and irritate her non-Jewish neighbors?

At this point I began to sputter, thinking that perhaps the professor was trying to justify my mezuzah being gone, but she merely smiled at me and continued her tale.

The student was all in a tizzy. She had learned that one must put mezuzot on the doors, but did it matter on which side they hung? She thought it must be okay to just change the position a few inches.

Although it bothered her that, in this day and age, a Jew could be intimidated into not showing her Jewishness publicly, the professor didn’t answer her directly at the time. Because she didn’t want to appear harsh or judgmental, she decided to wait for an appropriate time to discuss the issue further with the student.

As we were speaking, students for the following class began to pour into the lecture hall. So the professor graciously agreed to continue our talk outside in the campus square.

A short time later—she continued—the student excitedly told her that she had returned the mezuzah to its former place on the outside of the door.

It seems that a package had come for her in the mail, but she wasn’t home at the time it was delivered. The mailman left her a note, explaining that he had left the delivery in an upstairs apartment, since he knew the occupant was a trustworthy person.

Going up the stairs to retrieve her package, she realized that this was the apartment of an elderly man whom she occasionally passed in the hallway. The old man opened the door and, recognizing her, asked her to come in so he could give her the package. After she took it, thanked him for his trouble and was about to leave, the man said to her, “Shalom.”

“Oh, you’re also Jewish,” she said, for she had always thought that he wasn’t. Immediately the old man’s demeanor changed. His eyes clouded over with bitterness and anger. He started mumbling to himself, “Yes, a Jew . . . a curse . . . a plague on my life . . . I am a Jew, an unfortunate Jew . . .” Slowly he became more coherent and told the girl the story of his life.

Like so many others, he had lost his entire family during the Holocaust. His wife and children were suffocated in the Nazi gas chambers. He was the only one to survive. Since then his life had been bleak, a numbing succession of days and years of loneliness and pain. Ever since the war he had tried to avoid anything Jewish, even to the point of not revealing his true identity to others.

The girl stood in the doorway wondering what to say. Nothing seemed appropriate. Suddenly, in a gentler voice, the old man asked, “Why, dear girl, did you remove the mezuzah from your door?”

As if he were talking only to himself, the old man said that when the mezuzah was still hanging on her door, he used to sneak downstairs when the corridor was empty. He would stand in the corner near her door and kiss the mezuzah and weep. He said that his heart would find solace and some of his pain would be lifted away.

And that, explained the student to the professor, was why she returned the mezuzah to its rightful place.

As I had listened to this drama of the mezuzah of another girl from another place unfold, the day had passed into twilight. The professor fell silent as she waited for me to contemplate her story. The night wind began to stir, but I was reluctant to leave her to return to my forlorn room. I couldn’t help but exclaim, “That’s beautiful, no, beyond beautiful; but what about me?”

As she waved and turned to walk away, she laughed. You must trust in Divine Providence too.

I pondered that for a moment, and after checking my wallet for my credit card, I decided to take matters into my own hands and go buy a new mezuzah. As I was about to drive off, a student who lives in my dorm approached me. I hardly knew her.

“Did you get my note?” she asked. “I passed by your room this morning and noticed your mezuzah hanging loose, so I decided to keep it safe for you.”

Originally published in ChaiLife Magazine; excerpted and edited by Yrachmiel Tilles
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Eric San Antonio November 21, 2014

What a wonderful story, so inspiring Reply

Leila Texas March 25, 2013

What a special story. Thanks for sharing it. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma March 10, 2011

I am not sure if anonymous was commenting to me, but I do believe that art, this creative act, done with love, is also about G_d, so I disagree. There are so many beautiful works of art that are Jewish, such as menorahs, tzedakah boxes, calligraphy, paintings...the list is endless.

I want to support these wonderful artists and their work, and this too, is part of what we term tzedaka. If we don't they don't feel valued, and what they are doing is beautiful and should be honored. It's about love.

Of course the meaning of the mezzuzah, the personal meaning, that connect, is what is the reason for this, and any mezuzah that appeals to its owner, rich or poor, is equal.

Heart and soul is a difficult thing for anyone to judge, and I do not judge people based on what they own, or even, if they have a mezzuzah, because for me, it's what's inside, that humanity, that pulse, those acts of love that count, and not externals.

Klaf and the French word Clef, meaning KEY are close. Love is key. Reply

Anonymous Fort Lauderdale, FL March 10, 2011

Let's remember that it's what's inside that counts (the klaf) and while the biet (cover) enhances the mitzvah, it is basically protection for the klaf. In some places, a niche was dug out of the mezuzah (door post/frame) and the klaf inserted and sealed over. Not fancy, but effective (for the climate). We should keep the mezuzah and klaf in mind when we foolishly judge people - are we judging the biet (externals) or the klaf (the heart and soul) of the person? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma March 10, 2011

Yesterday I opened a drawer and saw before me a mezzuzah, one of many that I have, and one that was not affixed. When I arrived here, I went to Kolbo, a wonderful store for Judaica and looked and saw beautiful mezzuzahs, but the right one did not "call to me", but one did, on line, and that one I purchased. It is Israeli too and I loved it, right away. So I "knew".

I read all that is written here, and I think it's all clear, about the right thing in terms of hanging and sanctifying a mezzuzah.

For me, it's a bit how it is being me, and I love, with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might, and for me, this is the commandment, and how I affix this mezzuzah is entirely about how affix myself to the Divine, and so in so doing, it is a bond, but a really personal bond. I do it, as everything, for LOVE.

I will never forget the phone call, just before I put up this mezzuzah and it is a story about cancer, and a dearly beloved man, who is still alive, a story that is amazing. Reply

Mr. Sholem Epstein March 9, 2011

Two years ago I moved into a new apartment in a city where I had never before lived and where I was a total stranger. I hung my mezuzah on my door leading into my apartment from the common hallway. I could not help but wonder if my non Jewish neighbors might have a negative reaction.

A couple of days later I was stopped in the street by a total stranger. He told me he lived on the same floor where I lived. The gentleman went to say that he was not a Jew but thank me for putting up the mezuzah (no he did not know the word but did know it had something to do with Judaism). He then thanked me for hanging it saying that for some reason seeing it made him feel good.

I'm not sure what the moral of this is but every time I think about it I "feel good" Reply

terrie bend, OR USA March 8, 2011

`I am not a Jew but a christian but have a heart to learn of the Jewish traditions in the Torah and how it relates to everyday life. This was such a touching story! It is amazing how a little piece of metal with some paper with G-D's words on it has such heart felt meaning! Pointing to our Almighty G-D, this reminds me to always have the doorposts of my OWN heart baring the Words of Eternity! I know the holocaust and the murders of so many families, have doused hearts' passion for a G-D that would allow such atrocities and devotion and trust in Him would be at risk to be 'betrayed' again, but there are many people who would like to know of the hope in you and your people in these varied traditions. They seem to me, to have such deep meaning even for me, a seeker and lover of the same Abba as you! Seeing such outward signs of faith is needed in this 'politically correct' age especially when it comes to religion. I would like the opportunity to ask of such thing of such a one some day. Reply

Yohanon Hollywood, FL March 8, 2011

My wife & I, on our return from Israel years ago, lived in a "less than desirable" neighborhood. We had klaf/parchment on all the doors. One day we noticed the klaf on the front door was missing. My wife, in casual conversation, mentioned this to our landlady, not a Jew and, I suspect, ignorant of Jewish ways. Within a week we had a new mezuzah - it wasn't kosher klaf but the woman tried to make good. We kept the case and bought new klaf. Reply

Chanah Breckenridge, USA March 8, 2011

When I moved into this house over ten yers ago, I put mezuzot on the outside doors, on the doors of the attached garage, and on every door in the house (except the bathroom). Recently I had my mezuzot checked and to my dismay learned that six of them were not genuine parchment. So I got new ones, and also used a couple of new (larger) cases.

I really love the way the mezuzot are now arranged in my home, and it is good to know for sure that every one of them is now kosher. Whenever I enter any room it is an opportunity to say "I love you" to GD by touching my fingers to the doorpost and to my lips. Reply

Gitel Chana new haven, CT March 6, 2011

In my last year of college, I shared a house with four other friends. I also was becoming observant that year. I put up mezuzas on the front and back doors and on my room. When I moved, I was told I shouldn't take them down as one of my housemates was Jewish and had no plans to replace them. I reluctantly left them behind - reluctant, not only because of the expense, but I was afraid they'd be thrown out when the girls moved out. I always wondered what happened to them, but feel a bit more secure that they were well taken care of by somebody after reading your article. Reply

Stephanie De Ayala January 2, 2010

This is a very moving story. Thanks for sharing it. Reply

Rachel South, Texas July 29, 2009

This is the first week of doing business in our new location. I think there's like 5 Jews in our town. I have hesitated to put up a mezuzah on our front door because of business relationships with lovely people, who some happen to be anti-semitic. I have a special mezuzah given to me by my Hebrew teacher on my Bat Mitzvah (at age 50!) and decided to put it on MY office door...and was even thinking of putting it INSIDE my office door, so as not to disturb my Christain employees.
I was reading the Chabad page for this week's Parshah which reminds us of the Big Ten, the Shema, tefillin and mezuzot. I clicked on the word 'mezuzot', thinking it would link me to the prayer (it's been a few years since I needed to post one of these, and I want to do it properly). Instead, I find this story. WOW. I am inspired. My special mezuzah is going in it's correct location on my office door. We'll buy a new one for the front door. Reply

Daniel Tzfat, Israel October 29, 2007

When I lived in Florida we were preparing for one of those terrible named storms. All my neighbors were boarding up their homes. I sat our on my front lawn doing nothing. They all came over to me and asked if I needed help to board up my home and I said my home is protected by the greatest power in the universe and I had nothing to worry about. After the storm as my neighbors were assessing their damage they noticed my home was untouched. They were amazed. They asked how I did that that. I explained the mitzvah of the mezuzah and how it protects the house. I lived in that house for 20 years from 1985 till 2005 and never had a scratch on it. Reply

Joshua Texas August 31, 2007

I can relate. When I moved into my own appartment, I was proud to buy my own Mezuzah. But when it came time to hang it up, I was suddenly nervious. I hung it up any ways, because I knew it was right. I am glad i did!!!!!! Reply

Gail August 12, 2007

I just had put up my myzuzah when I read this story. I have been reluctant to put it up, as I am concerned it might target me for mischief makers in the neighborhood. This story moved me greatly. Thanks. Reply

John Easler Copperas Cove, Tx January 29, 2007

Beautiful example of a visible Mitzvah and showing ones Jewish Heritage....A Light for ohers to see..... Reply

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