Home Security

House burglaries are a common form of theft, and the installation of home security systems is big business. There are many options. Some bar their windows, others install cameras and alarms. But when all is said and done, the most important piece of home security is the one guaranteed by G‑d: the mezuzah—a small scroll that the Torah commands us to place on all the doorposts of our homes.

The idea of displaying our connection to G‑d on our doorposts has ancient roots. Just before their exodus from Egypt, G‑d instructed our ancestors to slaughter a lamb and paint its blood on the doorposts of their homes. This would mark the house as Jewish, and G‑d would pass over the home when He struck the Egyptian firstborn. The mitzvah on the doorpost protected the Jews from the plague.1

The same applies to the mezuzah. Our sages taught that when a Jew affixes a mezuzah to the doorpost, G‑d protects the home from all harm.2 In fact, on the back of the scroll are three Hebrew letters: shin, dalet and yud, which spell one of G‑d’s ineffable names. Tradition, however, teaches that they are also an acronym for the words shomer daltot Yisrael, “guardian of Jewish doors.”3

This protection is not merely a reward for fulfilling the commandment; it is part and parcel of the commandment—the mezuzah literally protects the home.4 For example, if the doorway is deep, the scroll is placed on the outer section of the doorpost to include the entire home in the mezuzah’s blanket of protection.5

Truly a powerful mitzvah. But the mezuzah contains a much deeper message than mere protection.6

The Domicile of I

The doorpost represents a gateway into “the domicile of I.” All day long, I am preoccupied with others. On the street, I am conscientious of others. In the store, I am obliged to pay others; at work, I am required to serve others . . .

When I finally arrive home at the end of a long day, I can’t wait to enter the domicile of I. Here, I have no master but me. I don’t worry about my boss, my neighbors, my friends or my clients. Here I am my own person; I do what I like. My doorpost is the gateway to my inner world. The world where the “I” is capitalized, where my dominion is exclusive.

But here I must also pause for a moment to consider what I am. When I peer into the depths of my soul, I can’t help but ask why I keep it up. What is my purpose? I work for money, I shop for food, I eat to live, but what do I live for? What gives me the strength to carry on? What keeps me going?

This and That

The sages taught that the mezuzah, by its very name, answers that question. The word mezuzah contains the two Hebrew words zu and zeh. Both zu and zeh mean “this,” but zu is feminine, while zeh is masculine.7

The Jewish people’s relationship with G‑d is often likened to that of a bride and groom. Accordingly, when the Torah speaks of us, it employs the feminine term zu, as in the verse, am zu yatzarti li, “I formed this nation for Myself.” When the Torah speaks of G‑d it employs the masculine zeh, as in the phrase, zeh [K]eili, “This is my G‑d.”8

When we pause at the doorway to notice the mezuzah, we reflect on the words inscribed upon it. The first verse is the Shema: “Hear O Israel, G‑d is our L‑rd, G‑d is one.”9 It is the mission statement of the Jew, and on a broader scale, of humanity. G‑d is our lord. He is not an abstract being parked in the heavens. He is here with us down below. He is beside me, and with me.10

All day long, I have relished the moment of coming home and being myself. Now that I am here, I stop and reflect that I am never truly alone. G‑d is always with me. He created me, gives me the strength to carry on, and is my reason for living.

I am alive so I can fulfill His commandments. I have time for myself so I can study the Torah. I have extra money so I can support the poor. I have a home so I can raise my children, the next generation of G‑d’s servants. Of course, I enjoy the fruits of my labor along the way. I built a home, established a family, developed a circle of friends, grew my career, and do all kinds of things that I enjoy. But I never forget the reason behind it all. I never forget that my ultimate purpose is to stand with G‑d.11

In fact, the mezuzah teaches me that I am not a separate entity from G‑d, a person who serves Him. G‑d and I, this and that, merge completely in the formation of the word mezuzah. We are a single entity; G‑d created and sustains me so that I can serve Him. We are a circle that closes on itself in perfect symmetry. A single unit. A mezuzah.12

The Door

The mezuzah is affixed to the doorpost. The word for door in Hebrew is delet. In Hebrew, an incredibly sophisticated language, every word is intimately linked with others. Delet is related to the word dal, which can mean either “impoverished” or “uplifted.”

The doorway is the point of interface between our home and the world, and between ourselves and G‑d. Its name, delet, is linked with dalut, poverty. Before we realize our ever-present connection to G‑d, we are spiritually poor. But once we are connected, we ascend to new heights.

When I approach my home, the domicile of I, and think only of myself, I am deprived of the richness and infinite depth of a spiritual life. I become an impoverished soul. Fittingly, it is upon this delet that I affix a mezuzah, allowing G‑d to lift me up.13