Judaism considers family the most important and sacred nucleus of society. Newlyweds are traditionally blessed by relatives and friends to merit building a bayith ne’eman b’Yisrael (a trustworthy house in Israel). We find many places where the word house is synonymous with family. Thus domestic peace and harmony are termed shalom bayith, literally the peace of the house. It would be very strange if a mezuzah, the guardian of the house, did not protect the peace therein. Indeed, when there are problems between a husband and a wife without apparent reason, along with family counseling, it is customary to check the mezuzoth, as is the case for any other problem befalling the family. Strangely enough, however, no explicit evidence of such a benefit is explicitly found in the classical Jewish sources. Talmudic passages discussing legal or other issues, however, have much deeper meaning than appears on the surface.

We find in the Talmudic Tractate Gittin (Divorces) the following passage: “A certain man threw a Get – the divorce document – to his wife, and it fell among jars. Afterwards, a mezuzah was found there. Said R. Nachman: a mezuzah is not usually found among jars [therefore we assume that it was the mezuzah that the man had thrown and not the Get].”

The simple meaning of this story is apparent: people saw a man throwing a document scroll to his wife. He claims that the document was a Get. The wife, however, did not catch the scroll and it fell somewhere among the jars (kelim) in the kitchen. Since in Jewish law the procedure of divorce is accomplished through giving one’s wife a Get, the legal question is whether this woman is still this man’s wife or a divorcée. The room was searched and a scroll was found, not the divorce scroll but a mezuzah scroll. In this case, the Talmud rules that since it is highly unusual to find a mezuzah lying among the jars in a kitchen we can safely assume that this was the scroll that had been thrown by the husband, despite his claim that he had thrown a Get.

It may be suggested that this Talmudic narrative has a deeper meaning. It is not at all coincidental that a mezuzah scroll and not any other scroll – a blank one, for example – was found there.1 It was the mezuzah that “invalidated”, as it were, the divorce, as it is written,

“Where is your mother's bill of divorce?” (Isaiah L, 1)

Indeed, the above verse is part of one of the haftoroth of consolation read in the weeks following Tisha B’Av. Homiletically, this may be interpreted as follows. The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple was feared to be an act of divorce between G‑d and His chosen nation, a gesture of the Husband throwing a get to his wife, as in the Talmudic narrative2. However, as we search the houses (kelim) of Israel, we find mezuzoth affixed to Jewish homes. “Where is your mother’s bill of divorce?” exclaims the prophet.

If a mezuzah can annul the divorce, it can certainly help to prevent it.3

On a simple rational level it is very easy to see how a mezuzah can be conducive to a healthy family relationship. R. Alshich says that the mezuzoth affixed to the inner rooms of the house remind the inhabitants that not only in public does one have to avoid doing wrong, but even in the innermost rooms where he imagines that he is alone, he must adhere to the highest moral standards as they are set by the Laws of Torah. And Torah demands from husband and wife the utmost respect and loyalty to each other.

We also find an allusion to this concept in a Midrash, which seems to suggest that the mezuzah has the capacity to reverse the negative attitude of a wife towards her husband.

In the Mishnah and in the writings of the Kabbalah the wife is sometimes called the house. The wife is the foundation of the family (the “house”) since the most important domestic functions, such as raising children, maintaining Kashruth (Jewish dietary laws) and family purity, belong to her. A woman in a time of pregnancy is “housing” her fetus. There are analogies on a deeper level as well. Esoterically, it is among the reasons that a woman is free from the obligation of tefillin, which are also called batim (houses). As R. Aryeh Kaplan notes, she is already by her birthright that which a man strives to achieve.

Indeed, for this reason a woman is not only obligated in the mitzvah of mezuzah, but in fact, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out, this precept takes precedence for a woman over the other commandments. The Rebbe stresses that the mezuzah has a particular relevance to a woman since she is called “home” (Psalms 113:9).

From the point of view of Kabbalah and Chasidic philosophy, the very essence of the commandment of mezuzah, as it is hinted in its name, is to join the female and male elements represented by the syllables -zu- and -zah- respectively (see pp. 85 and 97).

On yet another level, the name Shad-dai displayed on the mezuzah is intimately related to Shalom Baith. The Baaley Tosafoth4 suggest that it is not good to rush a divorce, because “Rachamei Shad-dai Merubim (plentiful is G‑d’s mercy)”. It is highly unusual to refer in this context to G‑d as Shad-dai. The Kozhnitzer Magid5 explains this as follows: The Talmud says that a man has 248 limbs and organs while a woman has 252, the difference being the reproductive organs. Together a husband and wife have 500 limbs and organs. The Magid points out that the milui gematria of the name Shad-dai (i.e., numerical value when every letter is spelled out fully without the first letters) is also 5006, hence the connection.

We find similar situations in the Bible. In the beginning of the Torah portion Vayechi the Patriarch Jacob blesses his son Joseph. “And Jacob said unto Joseph: G‑d Almighty (Shad-dai) appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, and said unto me: Behold, I will make thee fruitful and multiply thee...” (Genesis XLVIII, 3). Here we notice that the name Shad-dai appears in the context of “I will make thee fruitful and multiply thee...” This verse is a paraphrase of an earlier verse addressed to the first man, Adam, and his wife: “And G‑d blessed them, and G‑d said unto them: Be fruitful and multiply...”(Genesis I, 28). And, sure enough, the gematria of the words pru urvu (Be fruitful and multiply) is 500! This explains the choice of this Divine Name in the account of Jacob’s blessing.

Furthermore in the sephirotic system of Kabbalah, the name Shad-dai corresponds to the Sefirah of Yesod (Foundation), which in turn correspond to the male procreative organ. This is further reason this particular Name was used in the blessing of “Be fruitful and multiply”. Moreover, it has particular relevance to the mezuzah since the Zohar calls the place of circumcision “the door of the body”. As we shall see later (in the sections “In Kabbalah” on p. 74, “Mezuzah in Letters and Numbers” on p. 83, and “The Road of Ascent” on p. 95), Kabbalah and Chasidism explain the esoteric function of mezuzah as a unification of male and female elements.

The mezuzah teaches an important lesson in family relationship. As was already mentioned (see p. 9) and will be discussed later in detail (see p. 121), according to Rashi a mezuzah is to be fixed in a vertical position. Rabbeinu Tam, on the other hand, is of the opposite opinion, that a mezuzah is to be placed horizontally. The prevailing custom is a compromise, and we affix the mezuzah in a diagonal position. So too husband and wife should strive to achieve compromise whenever they encounter a difference of opinion. That in and of itself is a guarantee of domestic peace and harmony.

The name Shad-dai found on the mezuzoth in the rooms of our homes helps us receive the blessing our Patriarch Jacob gave to all of his descendants, to be fruitful and multiply, to live in peace and harmony in the protective shadow of the wings of the Divine Presence7 guarding the sanctity of a Jewish family.