A lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path

Psalms 119:105

The Inner Self – the Dwelling place for G‑d

The mezuzah always points inward to the innermost room of the house. Let us also look inward and meditate on the deeper meanings of mezuzah.

We read in the Torah that G‑d commanded Moshe to tell the people of Israel,

“And let them make Me a Temple (Sanctuary) that I may dwell within them.”(Exodus XXV, 8)

Shelah points out that the seeming grammatical incongruity (the verse should have said “I will dwell in it” - in the Temple) hints to a very profound message. We build the Sanctuary for G‑d not only of wood and stone but also, even primarily, in our hearts, in our souls. Then G‑d dwells within each one of us.

The main Hall of the Temple was the Hekhal, which, as mentioned before, has the numerical value of 65, the same as the word mezuzah. The innermost chamber in the Temple was the Kodesh HaKadoshim, the Holy of Holies. The innermost chamber of the soul is the G‑dly spark, “a part of G‑d from above indeed”, which dwells within us. This level of the Jewish soul is called Yechidah (Singular soul). It is referred to in Yiddish as the Pintele Yid. On this level, the soul is always united (another meaning of the word yechidah) with its Creator. It is the true inner self of the Jew.

The mezuzah points not only to the innermost room in the house, but also to the innermost chamber of our soul – to the G‑dly spark within us, to our innermost self. It is, thus, a call for introspection, an invitation to an in-bound journey. We are not always in touch with our G‑dly spark, with our true self. When we touch, merely even look at, the mezuzah, it grounds us in the Higher Truth, in G‑dly Reality. The mezuzah connects us to our true self, to our Divine Source, which is the wellspring of life, protection and blessings.

The mezuzah reminds us that we must make both our homes and our hearts into miniature sanctuaries of G‑d, a dwelling place for the Divine. Some good-hearted people put up a “welcome” sign on the front door of their homes. The mezuzah is a “welcome” sign for G‑d; it is an invitation for the Divine Presence to enter, to dwell with us and within us. As Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk put it,

G‑d dwells wherever man lets Him in.

Time, Space and Soul

One may ask: Why do we have to affix the mezuzah to the gates of the house? Would it not be sufficient to keep it somewhere inside? Let us look for the answer in one of the laws of Shabbath.1

The gates of the house separate Reshuth HaYachid2 (lit. domain of one, or private area) and Reshuth HaRabim (lit. domain of the many, or public area). On Shabbath it is forbidden to carry an object from one Reshuth (domain) to another. In Kabbalah it is explained that Reshuth HaYachid (domain of one) alludes to the Holy One, Blessed Be He, the Singular Master of the Universe. Reshuth HaRabim (domain of many) represents the realm of Evil as the multiplicity of the physical world disguises and hides the underlying unity of the Creation (see discussion on p. 47). During the first six days of the week, we deal with this world, purifying and refining it, thereby revealing its inner unity and Divine origin. On Shabbath we abstain from creative activities and observe the innate holiness of the day. The very word “holiness” in Hebrew, kodesh, literally means separated. Therefore we observe the holiness of Shabbath by honoring the lines of separation and not carrying an object from one domain to another.

It is explained in Sefer Yetzirah that the entire Creation exists on three planes or in three dimensions: time, space and soul. The primary task of a Jew is to reveal the hidden holiness in each of these dimensions. G‑d made it easier for us, so to speak, by starting off the process. He sanctified Shabbath, a point of holiness in time. He sanctified the Holy Land of Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount as areas of ever-increasing holiness in space. He gave us the holy spark, “a part of G‑d from above indeed”, holiness on the level of soul. Now, utilizing all of the above we must sanctify the rest of the creation by revealing its hidden unity and oneness.

The mezuzah combines the holiness of all three domains. The mezuzah is affixed on a doorpost, which is the threshold of the house. A threshold is transient in nature, as it marks the passage from one domain to another. Thus the mezuzah symbolizes motion; in fact, the root of the word mezuzah – “zuz”– means to move. Motion is the essence of time. The word shanah, “year” comes from the word shinui – change, just as the word shniya – “second”. All these words denote change or motion. Hence, the mezuzah symbolizes holiness in time.

On the other hand, the law requires that a mezuzah be affixed only to a permanent structure and in such a manner that the mezuzah is permanently fixed and immobile. The essence of space, as opposed to time, is stillness, immobility. The mezuzah is hence connected to the concept of space. Furthermore, many of the laws of mezuzah deal with its position in space – on which openings it is required, on which side of the doorpost, at which height to affix it, etc. Thus mezuzah brings holiness to the concept of space.

And, of course, the mezuzah, which protects and saves the souls of the Jewish people, is ultimately connected to the concept of soul. Thus, it is written in the mezuzah: “Thou shall love thy G‑d with ...all thy soul.” The mezuzah, then, unifies and sanctifies all three domains of time, space and soul. This idea is ultimately expressed in the last verse of the mezuzah itself:

“...that your [soul] days [time] may be multiplied, and the days [time] of your children [soul], upon the land [space] which the L-rd swore onto your fathers [soul] to give them, as the days [time] of the heavens [space] about the earth.”

G‑d also gave His chosen people signs of this very special relationship. Shabbath is a sign in time. Mezuzah is a sign in space. The sign of the Holy Covenant, Brith Milah (circumcision), is a sign on the level of soul. The connection between mezuzah and circumcision is evident in the phrase that we pronounce during the circumcision,

“In thy blood, live.” (Ezekiel XVI, 6)

This phrase, referring to the blood of circumcision, appears in the Torah in the passage where the word mezuzah is first mentioned, in the context of the commandment to mark Jewish homes with blood of the Passover sacrifice at the time of Exodus. More so, the Zohar states that

“The blood was of two kinds, that of circumcision and that of the Passover lamb...”

Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the Zohar compares the place of circumcision with the “door of the body”. As it is written:

“...He [Abraham] sat [ill of circumcision] at the door of the tent....” (Genesis XVIII, 1)

Thus it is said,

“Happy is the portion of IsraelF, for then the Jewish people know that they are the sons of the Holy King, for all bear His stamp. They are marked on their bodies with the holy sign [of Brith Milahcircumcision]; their garments bear the sign of a mitzvah[of tzitzith-fringes]; their heads are stamped with the compartments of tefillinwith the name of their Master; their hands are stamped with the straps of holiness [straps of hand tefillin]...and in their houses they bear the stamp of the mezuzah at their doorway. Thus in all ways they are marked as the sons of the Most High King.”

The Talmud states that the Chanukah menorah should be placed in a doorway opposite to a mezuzah.This is in fulfillment of the verse:

“How beautiful and how pleasant art thou.” (Song of Songs 7:7)

This is to mean

“How beautiful art thou with the mezuzah and how pleasant art thou with the Chanukah menorah.”

We have touched upon the connections between the two before (see p. 28; see also Likutei Moharan), but here it comes to teach us another lesson. In Chassidic philosophy, oil symbolizes the Jewish nation. Just as oil does not mix with other liquids, so the Jews do not mix with other nations. Samuel Heilman reports a discourse given by the Belzer Rav3 (apparently based on the Shelah) on this very topic:

“Oil does not mix with any other liquid. No matter how much one tries to blend the oil with these other liquids, it always remains separate.The oil, he went on to explain, represents the Jewish people who, no matter how hard some may try to mix them with others, will always remain separate, like the oil...The light... separates us from darkness. As the light symbolically separates the sacred from the profane the Jews from the other nations so too the mezuzah on our doors separates us and protects us. Both have stood from the beginning as signs distinguishing between Jews and others. Chanukah lights and the mezuzah both symbolize separation, and thus protect the Jewish people from corrupting foreign influences “that threaten to make us disappear.” Both are... “a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Psalms 119:105). ”

Now all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. In the dimension of time, a Jew is not allowed to carry an object from one domain to another, thereby violating the holiness (read: lines of separation) of the day. On the level of soul, a Jew is forbidden to defile the Sign of the Holy Covenant and to intermarry with a Gentile, thereby crossing the line of separation between the nation chosen to be holy (read: separate) and the rest of humanity, between “One nation unto Gd” and many nations, as it is written,

“I am the Lrd your Gd, who have set you apart from the peoples” (Leviticus XX, 24).

In the dimension of space, the mezuzah stands to separate (read: sanctify) the domain of one from the domain of many, and one should not violate this demarcation by bringing foreign ideas, customs and values into a Jewish home.

In the benediction accompanying the performance of most commandments we say: “...Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvothav...” “Who sanctified (or separated) us with His mitzvoth...” Every mitzvah thus serves to separate the Jewish people and sanctify them. Mezuzah is in this regard the quintessence of mitzvoth. Just as Shabbath is a sanctuary in time and a Jewish soul is a sanctuary on the plane of Soul, the mezuzah marks off a Jewish home as a sanctuary in the dimension of space. By making ones house a true sanctuary of Gdliness, a true domain of One, a dwelling place of the Holy One, Blessed be He, a Jew not only fulfills his or her mission in life, but further, helps to realize the primary purpose of Creation, as Kabbalah and Chassidism teach, that Gd created the Universe to have a dwelling place in the lowest of worlds.

Mezuzah not only stands at the border of the domain of One and the domain of many, but it always points inward, towards the domain of One. Perhaps, this comes to teach us that while Gd created this multiplicitous world in a direction from One to many, our purpose is to elevate this physical world to spirituality and holiness, to bring it back, as it were, to the Creator. This is a reverse process of bringing back many to One, which before long will reveal the permeating unity of the world that will manifest itself in the harmony of the Messianic era. It is to this era that the arrow of mezuzah points.

On the level of space, the mezuzah points toward the domain of One, the singular Master of the Universe; on the level of soul, the mezuzah points to the Gdly spark, the singular soul (Yechidah), and on the level of time, the mezuzah points to the Era of Mashiach, who is also called Yechidahwhen the unity of Gd will be revealed, may it happen immediately.