1. The Word Mezuzah Literally Means “Doorpost”

In Biblical Hebrew, the word mezuzah means doorpost.1 The verse instructing us to write a mezuzah reads, “You shall write [these words] upon the mezuzot—doorposts—of your house and upon your gates.”2 Talmudic literature applied the term to the scroll affixed to the doorpost, which is how we still refer to it.

2. It’s Handwritten on Parchment

A mezuzah must be written on the parchment of a kosher animal. The parchment must have been prepared explicitly for use as a sacred object. The words must be handwritten by an expert scribe well-versed in the intricacies of the script and its laws. Even the ink and quill are custom made to meet the necessary requirements.

Read: The Scribal Art

A high-quality mezuzah (credit: Rabbi Yosef Y. Rabin, Craft Sofer)
A high-quality mezuzah (credit: Rabbi Yosef Y. Rabin, Craft Sofer)

3. It Contains the Shema

Each mezuzah scroll contains the first two portions of the Shema, beginning with the verse, “Hear o Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One.”3 Both of these selections contain G‑d’s instruction to affix the mezuzah: “You shall write [these words] upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.”4

Read: The Shema: The Daily Declaration of Faith

4. It Has Sha-dai Written on the Reverse

On the reverse side of the scroll, the scribe writes one of G‑d’s names: Sha-dai. The three letters of this name form an acronym for the Hebrew words Shomer daltot Yisrael, “Guardian of the doorways of Israel.” If you’ve noticed that mezuzah cases are often decorated with the letter shin, it’s because this name of G‑d begins with shin.

5. It Gave Us a Secret Code

Three additional words are written on the reverse side of the scroll: כוזו במוכסז כוזו. This seemingly incomprehensible sentence comprises the three names of G‑d that appear in the verse of Shema—Hashem Elokeinu Hashem—by replacing each letter with the following letter of the Hebrew alphabet (e.g., yud is replaced with chaf, hei is replaced with vav, and so on). These three words are written on the reverse side of the parchment, in the very same spot where the corresponding names of G‑d are written inside the scroll.

This type of spelling, nicknamed “mezuzah script,” was often used by Jews in Soviet Russia to write letters containing “incriminating” information.

Watch: Sensitivity in Code

6. The Case Can Be Made Out of Anything

A mezuzah case is used to protect the parchment, but is not halachically required. As such, the case may be made out of just about anything, although more common materials include metal, wood, ceramic, or plastic.

Styles and designs have evolved, and you can now find everything ranging from simple plastic tubes to decorative cases made of exotic materials, featuring popular Jewish themes. While beautifying a mitzvah is a positive thing, investing in the quality of the scroll is the priority.

Read: The Mezuzah Scroll and Case

Mezuzahs in cases for sale
Mezuzahs in cases for sale

7. A Mezuzah Can Be Costly

Kosher mezuzah scrolls can cost from well below $100 to as much as $200. The difference in price depends on size, quality, and type of script.

Since even a small error can render a mezuzah unfit, it is vital that it is purchased from a reputable scribe or retailer. It may be worthwhile to spend more money on a higher quality scroll fashioned with greater care and precision.

Get a mezuzah scroll and case from our online store.

8. The Mezuzah Is Placed on the Right Side

The mezuzah is affixed to the right-hand side of the doorpost as you enter the room. For the front door, the right as you enter is always considered the right side. Inside the house, however, the right side is determined by which way the door opens. Whichever room the door opens into is considered the primary room, and the mezuzah is placed on the side that is on the right when entering that room.

The proper place for the mezuzah is at the bottom of the top third of the doorway. In other words, measure the height of the doorway and divide by three; then align the bottom of the mezuzah with the point two-thirds of the way up the doorpost.

If you are unsure, it is advisable to have a rabbi visit your home to determine the correct location for the mezuzah.

Read: Mezuzah Placement

9. It Is Hung Slanted

In Ashkenazic tradition, the mezuzah is placed at a slight angle, with the top of the mezuzah pointing toward the inside of the room and the bottom pointing toward the outside. In Sephardic communities, however, the mezuzah is affixed vertically.

Read: Why Is the Mezuzah Slanted?

10. There’s a Blessing for It

Before affixing a mezuzah (or, if many are being placed, before affixing the first one), a special blessing is recited:

Bah-rookh ah-tah ah-doh-noi eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lekh hah-oh-lahm ah-sher ki-deh-shah-noo beh-mitz-voh-tahv veh-tzee-vah-noo lik-boh-ah meh-zoo-zah.

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who has made us holy with His commandments and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.

Read: The Mezuzah Prayer

11. Not Every Room Needs a Mezuzah

To properly fulfill the mitzvah, every room in your home or office—with some exceptions—should have its own mezuzah. Rooms smaller than 6.3 feet by 6.3 feet (e.g., a closet), bathrooms, or rooms lacking a doorway with two doorposts and a lintel do not need a mezuzah.

Read: Which Rooms Require a Mezuzah?

12. The World’s Largest Mezuzah Is Over a Meter Long

In 2010, officials affixed the world’s largest kosher mezuzah (to be installed in a doorway) in the interior entranceway of Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport. The completed parchment and case together measure more than a meter in length. There have since been other, larger mezuzahs installed in other places.

Read: World’s Largest Mezuzah Greets Ben Gurion Travelers

Installing the giant mezuzah near the Kotel (Photo: The Western Wall Heritage Foundation)
Installing the giant mezuzah near the Kotel (Photo: The Western Wall Heritage Foundation)

13. It Needs to Be Checked Twice Every Seven Years

Mezuzahs should be checked by a certified scribe twice every seven years to see if they have been affected by adverse weather conditions, or by folding (which can cause cracks in the letters), or if any other defects have occurred. Some check their mezuzot every year, during the Hebrew month of Elul.

Read: Caring for Your Mezuzah

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, often urged people who encountered health challenges or other difficulties to have their mezuzot (and tefillin) checked, to ensure that every scroll was in good shape and properly placed on the doorpost.

Watch: “Check Your Mezuzahs”

 Rabbi Faitel Lewin busy at work. (Photo: Eliyahu Parypa for Chabad.org)
Rabbi Faitel Lewin busy at work. (Photo: Eliyahu Parypa for Chabad.org)

14. It Bestows Divine Protection

While all mitzvot are performed to fulfill G‑d’s command, affixing a mezuzah to the doorway of your house has the added benefit of initiating Divine protection on the home and its inhabitants. Per the Talmud: “A king of flesh and blood sits inside [his palace], and his servants guard him from the outside. With G‑d, by contrast, His servants sit inside [their homes], and He guards them from the outside.”5

Read: Home Security, When Hadrian’s Guards Succumbed to the Mezuzah

15. People Kiss the Mezuzah

The tradition in many Jewish homes is to place one’s hand on the mezuzah when passing through the doorway, and there are those who then kiss the hand that touched it. Some have the additional practice of raising their young children to kiss the mezuzah before going to bed, instilling within them an affection for G‑d and His commandments.

Read: Why Kiss the Mezuzah?

16. Its Laws Are in Tractate Menachot

Surprisingly, there is no tractate in the Talmud devoted to the laws of the mezuzah. Instead, the laws of mezuzah—along with the laws of tzitzit and tefillin—can be found in Tractate Menachot, the section that discusses the flour offerings brought in the Holy Temple. Why there? Tzitzit contain two independent units (the white strings and the blue string of techelet), tefillin comprise two independent parts (the head tefillin and the hand tefillin), mezuzah contains two selections from Scripture, and the meal offering also has independent elements of wine, oil, and flour.

Read: The Mystery of the Long-Lost Blue Thread

Displaying a mezuzah on your home serves as a declaration and reminder of our faith, as well as a symbol of G‑d’s watchful care. For more information, visit our mezuzah mini-site, or contact your closest Chabad rabbi for assistance in getting new mezuzahs or having your existing ones checked.