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Why a Mezuzah is Not a Mezuzah

Why a Mezuzah is Not a Mezuzah


There is a mezuzah on the entry to the White House. There's a mezuzah leading into every room in the Kremlin. Your avowed atheist neighbor has one that all the neighborhood can see!

I'll explain. The word "mezuzah" means doorpost. In the Book of Deuteronomy we read: "And you shall write them on the doorposts (mezuzot) of your homes and your gates."1 So, if we're to be linguistic nit-pickers, the scroll is affixed to the mezuzah; it is not the mezuzah itself.

Okay, so beyond my trite witticism (my mother thinks I'm clever), what do we learn from the vernacular use of an architectural term to refer to a ritual object?

Chassidism emphasizes that G‑d has a plan—a passionate, inexplicable, irreplaceable desire that this world, warts and all, be transformed into a welcoming home for Him. That's why He created it. All of creation exists only to exhibit G‑d. Humans tend to see it in reverse; we think of ourselves and our world as primary and then look to see where and if G‑d fits into the picture. The reverse is true; G‑d is, and we are here to prove it.

Like hidden treasure, divinity is just below the surfaceLike hidden treasure, divinity is just below the surface, waiting for us to expose it through a mitzvah. Every time we use a physical resource for something G‑dly, we illustrate its true character: a tool for us to discover the holy spark buried within.

It's a pretty clever idea (I hope G‑d doesn't mind my compliment). Divinity, while exciting, often seems too spiritual for nine-to-five people like us to grasp. When presented with it, we just gawk in awe. Materiality, on the other hand, we get. So G‑d embeds Himself in physical objects, and when we use them according to His instructions, we find Him. Like a metaphor, it makes the abstract tangible.

So maybe we have it right. Maybe the genuine meaning of mezuzah is the mitzvah scroll, and the doorpost is only called a mezuzah to emphasize that its existence is realized, not by holding the door in place, but by enabling a mitzvah. If not for the scrolls, there would be no reason for plain old doorposts.

And so it goes with all things; there are two perspectives: 1) I am, so when I earn money, I buy what I need, and then, if there is any left over, I'll give to charity. Or, 2) G‑d is, and He has embedded Himself in cash as a way for me to discover Him. When I earn money, I first give one-tenth to charity and then use the remaining, now uplifted money for my own needs.

Don't view the mezuzah as an appendage to your house, see your house as a mezuzah holder. Don't just read this article, call your local Chabad center and get yourself, or someone you know, a mezuzah for their mezuzah.

Rabbi Baruch Epstein is a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to Illinois, and serves as the rabbi of Congregation Bais Menachem. He and his wife, Chaya, are the proud parents of three daughters.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
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Avrohom Kaufman Monsey August 7, 2017

Beautifully written and explained! Reply

David Chester Petach Tikva, Israel August 3, 2017

I don't find many gates have mezuzot attached. How serious can we be if we only follow half the commandment? Reply

Anonymous August 8, 2017
in response to David Chester:

Maybe the gates are our mouths. Reply

Hyla Martin Houston TX August 2, 2017

Wonderful clarification of the meaning of "mezuzah"! Thank you. Reply

Florence Sebag August 2, 2017

Thank you so much for the reminder, I have to get someone a mezuzah for their mezuzah. Shalom. Reply

Eman August 1, 2017

limited means forgive me u seem to criticize those who spend their money for what they need first and then give to charity, if i know that the money will barely make it to pay my rent and my food and therefore there is no way i can give to charity,may be if miraculously something was left over then i will , am i being a bad person here ?? Reply

Anonymous Greece August 5, 2017
in response to Eman:

By faith Hashem provides all our needs so we give to charity first in the knowledge of His love for us. Otherwise how can we ever fully know Him? Reply

Emma August 6, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

where you are on a low income a minimum wage you will know what i mean Reply

Emma August 6, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

the great early sage Rav Saadiah Gaon wrote, "A person must give precedence to his own support before that of others, and he is not obligated to give charity until he has enough to support himself, as it is written, "Let your [needy] brother live with you" – your life precedes the life of your brother. (2) Reply

Judith Greece August 7, 2017
in response to Emma:

I didn't know that was in Talmud. Thank you for that. My family is on a very low income and we lost all our savings to a crook but we still give however little and teach this to our children. Even buying a bag of pasta to put into the charity box at the supermarket. Judith Reply

Emma August 8, 2017
in response to Judith:

Thank you, I got it from a very informative article on aish called The Jewish Ethicist : Charity from the poor Reply

Elaine Nguyen Harrisn, GA July 30, 2017

B"H! Love! Very well put. I will indeed share. Thank you and may Hashem continue to use your "witticism" for teaching and transforming this world for Him. Reply

Deborah Porter UK via August 17, 2016

Mezuzah! Fantastic, thank you!!! Reply

Robin McDonald Bar Nunn July 29, 2015

this article changed my whole thought life I see that I have been looking at things from the wrong direction Reply

TC Toronto July 29, 2015

BH, So spot on! The way you put the two perspectives regarding money- yes!!! If you're not understanding this point kind people, ask for clarification because is basically the Jewish outlook on how to live righteously in this physical world. Reply

Heriberto July 29, 2015

Profound In awe! This simple, yet profound, act of obedience turns my whole house (my life) into a sacred space?
I can see it.. Thank you. Reply

Ina Reznicek new york city, NY USA August 1, 2012

why a mezuzah is not a mezuzah Seeing one's house as a mezuzah holder ! Of course !
Thank you for this marvelous insight.


Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar via July 6, 2012

Re: Why a Mezuzah is not a Mezuzah Here is where it is important to distinguish between G-d and G-dliness. You are right: Critical to Judaism is that G-d has no form, physical or spiritual.

So what is the meaning here? That Mezuza is pure G-dliness.
Certain items in our world are transparent, windows that connect us to G-d.

An article on this topic of G-dliness:

One last important point: We can not choose what items are holy. Only that which is outlined in the Torah...chosen on G-d's terms, not ours...that is the holy item in Judaism.

Let me know if this helps. Reply

G-dhasnomother July 4, 2012

Why a Mezuzah is NOT a Mezuzah... Quote: "So G‑d embeds Himself in physical objects, and when we use them according to His instructions, we find Him. Like a metaphor, it makes the abstract tangible."

This is dangerous talk! That means I can carve an idol and according to this statement 'G-d will 'embed' Himself in it?' This thought is as pagan as it comes, dressed up as spirituality!

Quote: "Don't view the mezuzah as an appendage to your house, see your house as a mezuzah holder. "

How about having Him remove your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of FLESH on which He writes His Laws? Using a Mezuzah to 'protect' your house is putting faith in a little holder containing a scroll which HIDES the Word of G-d, like a pagan Talisman or 'lucky charm'...when His Word should be written on the tables of your heart, and SHINE through to bless the world and accompany you WHEREVER you go!

Put your faith not in things, but in the Living Creator G-d of the Universe and His Living Word! Reply

Sandra Andersen Playa del Carmen, Mexico August 12, 2011

Thank you Great article! Thank you, Rabbi Baruch Reply

ARI cancun, mexico August 10, 2011

WOW All I can say is wow! Reply

baruch epstein chicago, il August 10, 2011

avrael ben avraham in other words we are placing a kley with a kosher klaf inside it, on our mezuzah?

Correct! Reply

avrael ben avraham hilton head island, sc,usa August 10, 2011

re mezuzoth shalom r'epstein:
hope you had an easy fast.
understanding of course that mezuzah means'' door post'', is the vessel that we place the sofer-stam scribed parchment, ''klaf'', called a ''kley''?

in other words we are placing a kley with a kosher klaf inside it, on our mezuzah?

thanks, avrael Reply

Anonymous NEW HAVEN, Connecticut August 7, 2011

Imbedded in bread This reminded me of reading that one of the meanings of "Man does not live by bread alone...but by the word of G-d" meant that when we say a brocha on the bread we extract the sparks of G-dliness from within and THAT is what actually sustains us. This article beautifully expanded that concept to all of existence. Reply

Baruch's Mother cedarhurst, NY November 3, 2010

thank you to B Dale, Fla In my life, Rabbi Baruch is the tree! THank you for your kind words. Reply

Burton Dale West Palm Beach, Florida November 3, 2010

MOTHER MITZVAH And who is to say that the prayers of a mother are not even yet another mezzuzah mitzvah from Hashem?

Baruch Epstein, your mother strikes me as a clever and righteous woman to state such a thing. The apple does not fall far from it's tree. Reply

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