How a Mezuzah is Written

The commandment of mezuzah requires that two portions from the Pentateuch, the chapters of Shema and Vehayah, be written on a parchment according to rigorous rules and be affixed to the right doorpost of every doorway or gate in the house. Four thousand, six hundred and forty-nine laws govern every aspect of writing a mezuzah.

The mezuzah is written on a parchment made from the skin of a kosher animal. This does not mean that the animal has to be slaughtered according to the laws of shechitah (ritual slaughter). It means only that the skin must be from an animal of the kosher species, such as a cow, sheep, or goat. The source for this law is in the Scriptural verse:

…in order that the law of the L-rd may be in thy mouth. (Exodus XIII, 9).

The Sages explain this verse to mean that the Law may only be written on the skin of a kosher animal whose flesh is permitted to be placed in one’s mouth.

The mezuzah is inscribed by hand, as it is written, “You shall write them...” on a parchment made especially for this purpose. A printed mezuzah or one written on paper is not kosher. There are a number of purely legal objections to printing as well as mystical ones. Jewish law considers the printing process a form of engraving rather then writing and Talmudic law invalidates the scrolls of Torah, tefillin and mezuzoth that are engraved. Furthermore, tefillin and mezuzoth must be written in the exact order in which the respective texts and each letter thereof appear in Torah. It is impossible to insure this in the printing process. On the mystical side, it is intuitively obvious that a printed mezuzah is devoid of the holiness and a spiritual power imbued in it by the human hand. R. Bacharach1 thus writes:

“...The sanctity of a Sefer Torah (scroll of Torah) derives from its having been written by a human being in whom there is the spirit of G‑d and a portion of the Divine from on high. Through the intentions of such a man and his forming of the letters, these acquire sanctity. Every Israelite can be presumed to be of this status for they are attached by their souls to the L‑rd our G‑d. It is as a result of this that the sanctity is drawn down to the Sefer Torah, tefillin, mezuzoth...”

Unfortunately, 80-90% of all mezuzoth on the market are so called “smeared” mezuzoth. They are written on parchment coated with glossy white paint to make the writing easier and faster. The majority of authorities do not consider such a mezuzah kosher to begin with, but even if it were kosher when written, once it is folded to be put in a case, the coating usually cracks, destroying some of the letters, which renders the mezuzah unfit (non-kosher). The low price of such mezuzoth makes them attractive to unwary customers who mistakenly believe they are fulfilling the mitzvah of mezuzah at a bargain price. To avoid this trap, one needs to examine the parchment carefully. If it has a very smooth white shiny surface, the parchment is coated. Real parchment has a non-uniform, grayish surface with natural markings. A very low price for a mezuzah also gives away its low quality, which in all likelihood makes it unfit. It is very difficult to write a mezuzah on a small parchment. Therefore, almost all small mezuzoth (2”x2”) are smeared. One should try to buy only large mezuzoth (at least 4”x4”), which are less likely to be coated.

Before being written upon, the parchment must be scored. A Sofer (scribe) has to make 22 lines on which the text will be written. These lines are made with a sharp object. The letters do not stand on these lines, but hang from them. These invisible lines have a profound mystical significance, representing the channels and conduits of Divine benevolence.2 By looking carefully at the mezuzah parchment, one can discern these almost invisible lines. Without them, the mezuzah is not kosher. A printed mezuzah, which, of course, is not kosher, does not have these lines indented in the parchment.

A mezuzah must be written by a qualified Sofer with special black ink and in quadrilateral (Ashuri) script, the same used to write Torah scrolls.

Many sofrim (scribes) write the mezuzah (as they do the Torah scroll and tefillin) with a reed. The Sages of the Talmud explained that the reed reminds us to be always

“Yielding like a reed and not unbending like a cedar.”

A mezuzah has to be written lishmah, for its own sake (i.e., expressly for the sake of the holiness of the mezuzah). (Maimonides, unlike the majority of sages, ruled that such expressed intention is not a necessary condition.) Just before writing, the Sofer makes a declaration that he is doing it for the sake of the holiness of the mezuzah. Similar declarations are made before inscribing each Name of G‑d. G‑d-fearing sofrim, especially in Chassidic communities, have a custom to immerse in the mikvah (ritual bath) before writing a mezuzah, and some before writing each Name of G‑d. This is done to remove spiritual uncleanness and to write the mezuzah in purity and holiness. The sofer’s erudition in the pertinent laws is decisive in producing kosher mezuzoth. Nonetheless, his character, behavior, thoughts, in general and while writing the mezuzah in particular, affect the spiritual quality of the mezuzah and its protective power. Therefore, it is highly advisable to purchase mezuzoth from known sofrim with excellent reputations, or from a rabbi who knows a reputable sofer personally and can vouch for him.

For a mezuzah to be kosher, every one of its 713 letters must be written correctly and with white space surrounding it on all four sides. Letters touching each other invalidate the mezuzah. It is explained in the Kabbalah that the white space surrounding the letters in the scroll of Torah or mezuzah has even higher significance than the text itself. As one sofer put it: “We do not write letters; we create spaces.”

A mezuzah must be written exactly in the order the text appears in the Torah. Since it is impossible to check once a mezuzah is ready, one must rely totally on the Sofer in this regard. This emphasizes how important it is to get mezuzoth from a Sofer with a reliable reputation.3

The concluding words, “above the earth,” must begin the last line; they should not be written at the end of the line. The Taz4 explains the reason for this rule as follows:

The preceding line in the mezuzah thus concludes with the word heavens: as the days of the heavens above the earth. By placing the words above the earth at the beginning of the next line, the words heavens and earth are separated from each other as much as possible. This arrangement intimates that “your days may be multiplied; and the days of your children...” (Deuteronomy XI, 21) to an extent equal in magnitude to the distance between the heavens and earth.

The text of a mezuzah must be absolutely identical to the one in the Torah. One word or even one letter missing, misspelled or written incorrectly renders a mezuzah non-kosher. Mass inspections of mezuzoth in the United States and Canada according to Vaad Mishmeres StaM (a highly respected licensing and regulatory agency for sofrim) revealed that 90% of mezuzoth are not kosher. After purchasing a mezuzah, it is highly advisable to have it checked by a qualified sofer. It is often very difficult for a human eye to notice a missed word or letter in a very familiar text. Computers, therefore, come in very handy. Special optical character recognition (OCR) software allows us to recognize handwritten text and to check it by computer. Indeed, many Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzoth are checked today on computer. The minimal cost of such inspection5 makes it very worthwhile.

When the letters in the mezuzah are written properly, some of them have tagin, special crowns or “tittles” (grace lines above the letter which look like a small letter Zayin). Said Rava,

“Seven letters (Gimel, Zayin, Teth, Nun, Ayin, Tzadik, and Shin as well as final Nun and Tzadik) in the mezuzah require three strokes each.”

These crowns have deep mystical significance. Their importance is underscored by the Talmudic narrative relating that Moses, when he ascended to Heaven, found G‑d engaged in affixing these crowns to the letters of the Torah. We find that the ancient tradition regarding tagin was transmitted from generation to generation: Joshua, who according to tradition authored Sefer HaTagin, first engraved the crowns on the twelve stones which he set upon crossing Jordan River.

“Menachem6 transmitted it to Rabbi Nechunia ben HaKanah7, Rabbi Nechunia ben HaKanah transmitted it to Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh8, Rabbi Elazar ben Arakh transmitted it to Rabbi Yehoshua9, Rabbi Yehoshua transmitted it to Rabbi Akivah.”

The Talmud states that Rabbi Akivah was able to derive many Halachoth, laws, and other teachings from the tagin-crowns. Although according to Maimonides and Shulchan Arukh the absence of tagin does not invalidate the scroll, many authorities (particularly Ashkenazic rabbis) rule differently and invalidate a scroll that lacks tagin. Cheap, small mezuzoth usually lack these tagin-crowns, which casts serious doubt on their validity.

It is hard to overestimate the importance of a kosher and well-written mezuzah. This is not the place to economize. It is much better to buy the highest quality mezuzoth available and save later on doctor bills and medications! It is also difficult to understand the logic of those who do not hesitate to spend money on expensive mezuzah cases but skimp on the mezuzoth themselves, buying mezuzoth of doubtful validity. The beautiful art of the mezuzah cases notwithstanding, let us remember: it is the mezuzah and not the case that is the mitzvah and which brings the blessings and Divine protection. Thus, it is said,

“A person should not regard lightly the commandment to affix a mezuzah, nor should he be negligent about fulfilling this precept even at great monetary expense.” 10

It is praiseworthy to beautify a mitzvah, i.e., to perform it in the optimal, most beautiful way. The more beautiful the calligraphy of the text of a mezuzah, the more expensive it most probably will be (and the stronger its protective qualities). It takes 2.5 - 3.5 hours of highly concentrated work for an experienced Sofer to write a good mezuzah. 11 The retail prices on mezuzoth have always been kept to a bare minimum. We find cryptically in the Talmud,

“Said Rabbi Joshua ben Levi: ‘The Men of the Great Assembly observed twenty-four fasts so that those who write [Torah] Scrolls, tefillin and mezuzoth should not become wealthy, for if they became wealthy they would not write.’”

Affixing the Mezuzah

After the mezuzah is purchased and inspected, it is carefully rolled from left to right into a scroll. It is done in such a way that when unrolled, the first words appearing on the parchment are “Shema Yisrael” (Hear O Israel). The text of the mezuzah must be on the inside on the scroll. If the text is exposed outward, the mezuzah is invalid until it is re-rolled.

Then the parchment is wrapped in waxed paper or plastic to protect it from moisture and placed in a case.

One must be very careful to place the mezuzah-scroll right side up in the case, so that when the case is affixed to the doorpost, the mezuzah will be upright and not, G‑d forbid, upside-down.

Mezuzoth are rolled in such a way that the holy name Shad-dai is at least partially revealed and is facing the front of the case (opposite the doorpost).

If the case is made out of glass or transparent plastic, it is best to wrap the mezuzah scroll with waxed paper or opaque plastic, so that it will not be exposed to those immodestly dressed or to other indecencies. Our Sages teach us,

“...It is fitting to act respectfully towards the mezuzah on account of the sanctity of G‑d’s name inscribed therein. The antique mezuzoth often have an orifice through which the name Shad-dai is seen. R. Moses of Coucy wrote: ‘If the mezuzah is intended for a room occupied by small children, I cover the opening of the mezuzah with a little wax.’ A person, for example, should not pour out filthy12 water in front of mezuzah.”

Needless to say, no mezuzah is affixed at the entrance to bathrooms and toilets. Furthermore, the Law prohibits affixing a mezuzah not only to an actual bathroom but even to a brand new room as long as the owner of the house mentally designated this room for future use as a bathroom or the like.

For the same reason, it is improper to place a kitchen garbage can in close proximity to a mezuzah. When one takes out the garbage, care must be taken not to hold the garbage bag on the same side where the mezuzah is affixed, rather it should be held in the hand further away from the mezuzah. This is applicable even if the mezuzah is placed in the enclosed case and the parchment is not exposed at all. Some authorities hold that transparent cases or ones with an opening should not be used at all on a doorpost which may be crossed by people holding impure objects such as water from ritual washing of the hands (“netilath yadaim”), soiled diapers or garbage. One must bear in mind that a mezuzah is a holy object and must be treated with the proper respect.

A mezuzah is affixed to the right doorpost entering the room. A person is likely to put his right foot forward first, therefore encountering the right doorpost first. This is one reason that the mezuzah is always attached to the right side. Chasidic philosophy explains this in connection with the dictum that the Shekhinah is on the right, as it is written,

“His right hand embraces me.” (Song of Songs II, 6)

The mezuzah on the right is referred to as the right gate, the Gate of G‑d, as it is written,

“This is the Gate of G‑d” (Psalms CXVIII, 20).

It is often very difficult (if not impossible), however, to determine which is the right side. Therefore, some communities accept that the person always follows the door. Thus, if one has to push the door inside the room, the mezuzah is affixed on the right side as one enters the room. On the other hand, if one pulls the door, the mezuzah is affixed on the right side as one leaves this room. This is the custom of the Chabad-Lubavitch community. The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes regarding this in a letter,

“A mezuzah should be affixed on the right, as one faces the room into which the door swings (lit., ‘As one sees the hinge’). This applies even to the sole doorway to a balcony. This rule does not apply to the front door.”

The only exception to the rule is the main entrance, where we always place the mezuzah on the right as we enter the house or apartment regardless of the way the door opens. When there is no door in the doorway we place a mezuzah on the right side as we leave the less important room and enter the more important one (going from a kitchen to a living room, for example).13

Said Rava, “The mezuzah must be placed within the handbreadth [of the width of the doorpost] nearest to the outside. One will thus immediately encounter a mitzvah [upon return to one’s home].” Rav Chanina of Sura said, “It will thus protect [the entire house].”

A mezuzah should be placed in the lower part of the upper third of the height of the doorpost, or at shoulder level if the doorpost is too high. The Talmudic Sage Shmuel said,

“The mezuzah must be affixed at the beginning of the upper third of the doorpost.”

(For an esoteric meaning of this law see note 283.)

The mezuzah is placed slanted midway between vertical and horizontal, with the top of mezuzah tipped counterclockwise when facing the mezuzah (so that the mezuzah points to the room being entered when the mezuzah is on the right). According to Rashi, the mezuzah should be placed vertically, but according to Rabbeinu Tam, horizontally. Most Sefardic communities follow R. Yosef Karo’s ruling and affix the mezuzah vertically, according to Rashi’s opinion. In Ashkenazic communities, however, the accepted way is a compromise between the two opinions.

The root of the disagreement between Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam is in the translation of the Hebrew word “nagar”. The Talmud states that the mezuzah, which is affixed in such a way that it resembles a “nagar”, is invalid. Literally, nagar means a bolt or a door latch. Rashi interprets this word to mean a side-bolt, from which it follows that because a mezuzah affixed horizontally resembles a side-bolt it is invalid. Accordingly, Rashi rules that the mezuzah may not be affixed horizontally, but rather it should be affixed vertically, so that a person passing by may read the text. Some Sefardim, in accordance with this opinion, do not roll the mezuzah parchment but actually affix it flat on the doorpost so that it can be read by anyone passing through the doorway.

Rabbeinu Tam disagrees with Rashi, interpreting the word nagar to mean a vertical bolt. According to him, because a mezuzah affixed vertically resembles a hinge-bolt, it is consequently invalid. He writes further that to affix the mezuzah vertically would be disrespectful, similar to burying a person vertically. Rather, a mezuzah should be placed horizontally just as the Tablets were placed horizontally in the Holy Ark.

Shulchan Arukh and Gra rule according to Rashi, while the Rema sides with Rabbeinu Tam. Rema reports the position put forth in Tur and Maharil that those who are particular in Mitzvot (ha-medakdekim) satisfy both opinions by placing the mezuzah at a slant. This has become the universal custom among Ashkenazic Jews.

One may wonder: if the opinion of Rashi was to affix the mezuzah vertically, and that of Rabbeinu Tam was to do so horizontally, placing the mezuzah at a slant, neither vertically nor horizontally, is contrary to both opinions! However, the opinion of Rashi was that the mezuzah affixed horizontally is invalid. Similarly, the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam was that the vertically affixed mezuzah is invalid. Since a diagonal position is neither vertical nor horizontal, neither Sage would disqualify the mezuzah affixed in such a way.

This compromise is not coincidental. The Kabbalah teaches that there are three general categories: thesis, antithesis and synthesis. The first two are limited by definition, as opposites negate one another. (In our case, that which is vertical cannot be at the same time horizontal). However, the third, middle way is infinite, as it includes both opposites and is not limited by either one. We noted before (see p. 71) that the mezuzah elicits a revelation of G‑dliness of an infinite nature – the infinite Encompassing Light that leaves no room for the forces of evil. It may be suggested that the compromise diagonal position of the mezuzah is in accordance with the infinite light that radiates through it.

In ancient times, the mezuzah was placed in a cavity chiseled out in a stone doorpost. According to the Law, it is best to affix a mezuzah with nails, or when impossible, with glue.

According to Maimonides, a door requires a mezuzah if:

the doorway leads to a room which is at least 4x4 cubits14;

the doorway has two doorposts, one on each side (not required by Law);

the doorway has a lintel or a protrusion from the ceiling attached to the doorposts;

the doorway leads to a room with a ceiling (not required by Law);

the doorway has a door (not required by Law);

the doorway opening is at least 40 inches high and 16 inches wide;

the doorway leads to a regular (not sacred) room;

the doorway leads to a human (not animal) dwelling;

the doorway leads to a clean, dignified room (not a bathroom);

the doorway leads to a permanent dwelling (not a tent or makeshift dwelling).

Thus, for example, synagogues and Succoth are exempt from the obligation of having mezuzoth. The reason is quite simple: the sacred purpose of a religious edifice is expected to impress awe and awareness of the Divine Presence upon the visitor. The Beth HaMikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem, had only one mezuzah, attached to the Nikanor Gate because behind it was the counselors’ cell, where they judged and dwelled.

A visitor in a hotel is not required to affix mezuzoth unless he or she intents to stay there more than 30 days. However the Talmud records that the Court of the Jewish King Monobaz would affix the mezuzoth as a “remembrance” while staying in a hostel, though they were not required to do so by law. Such was the practice of the fifth Rebbe of Lubavitch, Rabbi Shalom Dovber (Rashab).

The above-listed ten conditions of Maimonides are mentioned here for reference only and should not be used as a guide for deciding which door requires a mezuzah. There are other opinions and as a practical matter we do not always rule according to Maimonides, but rather follow the law as it is ruled in Shulchan Arukh and delineated in the later authorities that took all of the various opinions into consideration.

As a practical matter:

a mezuzah should be affixed to a room each side of which measures at least 4 cubits (approximately seven feet);

if one of the walls is less than seven feet (and wider than one-and-a-half-feet) but the area has at least 36 sq. feet, the room requires a mezuzah which should be affixed without a blessing;

a walk-in closet which has the above minimum dimensions requires a mezuzah without a blessing;

a walk-in safe requires a mezuzah; however, a walk-in refrigerator does not;

a garage requires a mezuzah without a blessing;

It is a widespread misconception that only the front door requires a mezuzah. If a house has many entries, there is an obligation to affix a mezuzah to each one of them, even if they are not used. Furthermore, every room in the house (which is not a bathroom) including walk-in-closets and porches, requires a mezuzah. Only those rooms that satisfy the criteria listed above require that a blessing be said when affixing a mezuzah. The Scriptural expression “upon your gates” obligates us to affix mezuzoth not only to entrances to a house and the rooms therein, but also to the gates of the city, arches and such.

One may not affix a mezuzah on Shabbath or Festivals.

In the Diaspora, one incurs an obligation to affix mezuzoth 30 days after moving into a dwelling. Galuth (Diaspora, exile) is an intrinsically temporary place for a Jew and any dwelling therein is considered temporary for the first 30 days. In Israel, the Jewish homeland, conversely, one incurs the obligation of mezuzah immediately.

However, the custom of the Chabad-Lubavitch community is to affix the mezuzoth immediately upon moving into a new house or apartment even in the Diaspora. Although it is nowhere explicitly connected, this resonates with a dictum proclaimed by the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the Tzemach Tzedek, “Make the land of Israel here!” (i.e., bring the holiness into the place in which you live.) The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes regarding this practice in a letter,

“You are no doubt aware of our custom to affix the mezuzoth immediately upon moving into the house, needless to say without a blessing. Thirty days later, however, one of them is removed for examination, and this of course may be replaced by a better mezuzah. One now recites the blessing as he affixes the new mezuzah, having in mind those already in position on the other doorposts.”

When a Jew does not own but rents a house or apartment, he or she is still obligated to affix the mezuzoth to all qualified doorposts since the mitzvah of mezuzah is incumbent upon the dweller and is, therefore, the tenant’s obligation.

When moving out, one does not remove mezuzoth unless it is very likely that Gentiles who are not obligated to have mezuzoth will move into the house. Rabbi Judah HaChasid warns,

“A person should not remove the mezuzoth when he moves to a different dwelling, since removing mezuzoth entails grave danger.”

It is nevertheless customary for a new owner to affix his own mezuzoth upon moving in, and to return the old ones to the previous owner.

It is a universal custom among the Jewish people to touch the mezuzah whenever passing it and to kiss the fingers that touched it.

“Every time you come in and go out, kiss the mezuzah so that you may remember G‑d.”

Some people just lovingly and reverently touch the mezuzah. At the very least, one should glance at the mezuzah every time passes it to “remind oneself that he is treading upon consecrated territory”.

Shulchan Arukh, the Code of Jewish Law, suggests,

“Before going to bed, go over to the mezuzah, put your fingers on it and say, ‘G‑d protects me and watches over me; G‑d is the shade at my right hand; G‑d will guard my going out and my coming in, now and forever.’ Then say seven times, ‘Know Him in all your ways, and He will straighten your paths before you.’”


“It is a practice received from the holy master Rabbi Aaron of Chernobyl that before sleep you should go over to the mezuzah and meditate on how it is a token of G‑d’s protection for the house. Put your hand on the mezuzah and think of how G‑d is true owner of the house and we are all His guests, and how G‑d will guard all those in the household. It is an important obligation to do this every night. And say this: “Bar Kapparah said, ‘What is the smallest portion of the Torah from which all its basic principles can be derived?’ It is ‘Know Him in all your ways, and He will straighten your paths before you’”… and say this verse seven times.”

The mezuzah has always been a sign of Jewish pride and symbol of honor (akin to a Jewish Coat of Arms). Traditionally, thus, the mezuzah is removed from the house of an excommunicated Jew. A mezuzah must be accorded the honor due to it. Nachmanides was of the opinion that one is required to fast if a mezuzah falls down, just as is done in the case of tefillin. Although this is not the law, it illustrates a point. The old or passul (non-kosher) mezuzoth may not be discarded. They must be buried as is done with Torah scrolls.

The above is a short and simplified synopsis of the laws of mezuzah. These laws in fact are many and complicated. In all questionable situations a knowledgeable Rav should be consulted.

Checking the Mezuzah

According to the law, a mezuzah must be inspected twice every seven years. Even if the mezuzah is found to be perfectly kosher, according to the great kabbalist the Arizal, in a time of trouble it is beneficial simply to read the text of the mezuzah aloud with a tune according to the musical notes of the Torah.

One may ask why, once a mezuzah is checked and found kosher, we need to check it again periodically. Besides the obvious material reasons – that a mistake may not have been noticed before, or that with time ink can crack and letters can break rendering a mezuzah non-kosher – there are reasons rooted in the esoteric. Some say, for example, that a mezuzah can change with time, not from the effect of the elements but through the influence of the people who live in the house, their behavior and the atmosphere they create in their home. There are some among Sefardic Jews who claim that they can read a mezuzah like the palm of a hand, telling much about the people of the house. Some rabbinical authorities, however, do not approve of this practice.

We influence the mezuzah and the mezuzah influences us. To keep this relationship happy we must check the mezuzoth and check ourselves. It has therefore become a universal custom among Jews to inspect their mezuzoth during the month of Elul, the last month of the year before the Day of Judgment, Rosh Hashanah. This is a time of teshuvah, repentance, of introspection, of self-inspection, and, thus, the time to check the mezuzoth.

The mezuzah protects a Jew not only from physical danger but from spiritual danger as well. Rabbi Eliezer said,

“One who puts tefillin on his arm and head, tzitzith on his garment and mezuzahs on the doorposts, is protected from sin.”

Maimonides explains that such a man is surrounded and protected by guardian angels, as it is written:

“The Angels of the L-rd surround the G‑d-fearing person and protect him.” (Psalms 34:8).

Furthermore, not only does the mezuzah protect the inhabitants of the house in this world but also in the World to Come, as it is stated,

“Therefore the sons of the true faith should be stamped throughout with the signs [mezuzah, tefillin, tzitzith, etc.] of their Master to scare away all the sides of the ‘evil species’, that they may be protected in this world and in the next.”

And more:

“Under the Throne of the Holy King there are supernal chambers; and in that place of the throne there is fastened a mezuzah to deliver men from the executioners of justice who are ready to assail them in the other world.”

By putting up mezuzoth at the gates and doorposts of our house, we declare our trust in Divine protection; this pure trust is itself a source of protection, as the Prophet declares,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in G‑d, and G‑d shall be trustworthy to him.” (Jeremiah XVII, 7).


It is customary to kiss the mezuzah, especially when leaving or entering the house, by touching it with the hand and then kissing the fingers that touched the mezuzah. Some have the custom of simply touching the mezuzah without kissing the fingers.15 The Shulchan Arukh mentions the custom to touch the mezuzah and to pray for Divine protection.16

While there is no formal prayer associated with the mezuzah (short of the benediction uttered only once, when affixing it) various communities adopted as custom various short prayers recited at the mezuzah.

We have mentioned earlier the custom of Turkish Jews to recite a prayer for health and success at the mezuzah when leaving the house (see p. 36).

Many Jewish Sages and Tzadikim17 recommended certain prayers to be recited by the mezuzah. Thus Yitzhak Buxbaum reports the following prayers:

“In the morning when you leave your house, put your hand on the mezuzah and say, ‘Master of the World, have mercy on me and save me from the evil inclination and all its helpers! Amen.’”

An early eighteenth century Polish work of Musar (ethics), “Kav HaYashar,”18 recommends

“Say three times ‘G‑d shall guard my going out and my coming in, for life and for peace from now and forevermore.’ Then say ‘Know Him in all your ways’[(Proverbs III, 6)]”

When the Rebbe of Alesk, Rabbi Hanokh Henikh Dov, was going out the door, he used to

“kiss the mezuzah and say the verse Shema Yisrael [Deuteronomy VI, 4] and ‘Salvation is of the Lord, etc.’ [Psalm III, 9], ‘Lord of Hosts, etc.’ [Psalm LXXXIV, 13], ‘Lord, save!’ [Psalm XX, 10], ‘Please, O Lord, please save! O Lord, bring success!’ [Psalm CXVIII, 25] and another prayer.”

Or Tzadikim suggests,

“When you leave your house in the morning, kiss the mezuzah… and say the verse ‘The name of G‑d is a tower of strength; the righteous runneth into it, and he is lifted up [above all harm].’ [Proverbs XVIII, 10]”

The Case

Seguloth Israel writes:

“Mezuzah is a segulah (remedy) for arikhath yamim (longevity), as it is said in Vehayah... However, one must be cautious of the words of the Baal Shem Tov that one should not enclose a mezuzah in a metal case. It is not fitting for metal, which shortens man’s life19 to cover a mezuzah, which prolongs one’s life. I also saw in Pithkhei Teshuvah the custom of the Gra20 was not to wrap a mezuzah in parchment21 and the like in order not to make a separation between the scroll and the doorpost.”22

The author of Seguloth Israel explains this custom based on the discussion in the Talmud of the meaning of the phrase “upon thy doorpost”, in the original Hebrew, al mezuzoth. The question is asked whether the word “Al” implies literally on the doorpost or next to one. Even Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, who generally did not hold that a mezuzah must literally be affixed to the doorpost, agreed, however, that it is best when it is indeed attached to the very doorpost as the literal meaning of the biblical verse would have it.

It seems clear that the masters of Kabbalah did not encourage the use of mezuzah cases made from metal or leather.

The Blessing

Immediately before affixing a new mezuzah, the following blessing is said:

In Ashkenazic dialect:

Borukh Ato Ado‑noi Elo‑heinu Melekh Haolom Asher Kideshonu Bemitzvosov Vetzivonu Likbo’ah Mezuzoh.

In Sefardic dialect:

Barukh Ata Ado‑nai Elo‑heinu Melekh Haolam Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Likbo’ah Mezuzah.

Blessed are You G‑d, our L-rd, Master of the Universe, Who sanctified us with mitzvoth and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.

Wherever the obligation of mezuzah is questionable, one should be affixed without a blessing.

When affixing several mezuzoth at one time, one blessing covers them all.