Do you have a mezuzah on the front door of your home? And if you do, what is the meaning of this ancient Jewish symbol about which we read in this week’s Torah portion?
The custom of affixing a mezuzah by the front door of our homes fulfills the biblical commandment: “You shall write them upon the doorposts of thy house and upon thy gates.” So does the mezuzah distinguish a Jewish home as it is a visible sign and the symbol to all those who enter that a sense of Jewish identity and commitment exists in that household. Furthermore, the mezuzah reminds us that our homes are holy places and that we should act accordingly – when we enter them and when we leave them to go out into the world.
While many mezuzahs are artistically designed, more important than what is on the outside is what is on the inside. There we find a small scroll of parchment on which are written two biblical passages; one that affirms the oneness of God, and the other which expresses the Divine promise “that you and your children will endure in the land that the Eternal swore to your ancestors…”
There is an interesting commentary on the mezuzah. For those who live outside of Israel, when we move into a new home, we are given a period of grace of thirty days until we have to have a mezuzah affixed to the front door. That is because we are regarded as temporary residents in a home until then. It only becomes “your home” once you have lived there for a month.
But for our sages, living in Israel is regarded as a permanent home. Therefore, once one has moved into a new home, in the midst of the chaos of all the suitcases and boxes, one has to have a mezuzah affixed on the first night in which one is sleeping there.
Yes, the mezuzah embodies some important messages. It identifies a home as a Jewish home. It seeks to remind us to bring the holiness of love into our homes. The mezuzah reminds us of the values and ideals that are Judaism, and serves as a reminder that our lives are rich and meaningful so long as we adhere to the commandments and teachings of our Jewish heritage.
Do you have a mezuzah by your front door? If not, I would welcome the opportunity of coming to your home, and with you, doing the ceremony of affixing the mezuzah. Please do not hesitate to call upon me as the offer is genuine.
For sure, home is where we learn of love and caring for each other. The home is also the primary setting where Judaism is taught and lived. Would that the mezuzah reminds us of our most worthy strivings and our connection to one another.
Rabbi David Greenberg