Some may see it as protection for the home and for those who live inside – protection from both spiritual and physical harm. Others consider it a trendy piece of home decor.
Children love standing on their tippy toes (or jumping up) to kiss it. I would know because my little toddler twists around in my arms to loudly and enthusiastically kiss the mezuzah.
So why do we put up mezuzahs? A biblical commandment tells us to “…inscribe them on the doorposts (mezuzot) of your house and on your gates.” The scroll, called a klaf, contains Hebrew verses from the Shema prayer, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The scrolls are carefully written by a scribe (sofer) on parchment, then rolled and sealed tightly inside a protective case. Some people think the container itself is the the mezuzah. That is not the case (excuse the pun)!
It’s important to check mezuzah scrolls every so often for accuracy. If a single letter is smudged or cracked, the entire klaf is not kosher and should be fixed as soon as possible. It is customary to get mezuzahs checked at least twice every seven years. There have been reports of illnesses or unfortunate events that have been turned around immediately after fixing mistakes found in one’s mezuzot. There are hundreds of these “mezuzah stories.” check out one about an heirloom mezuzah once thought lost forever in the Holocaust; another about the famous biblical commentator Onkelos; and a bunch of inspiring mezuzah tales from the Jewish Outlook.
I once had the opportunity to hear a firsthand account – a deeply moving and inspirational story – involving a mezuzah. A young girl, born to a Jewish mother and evangelical Protestant father, who was raised in a fundamentalist Christian community, was gifted with a mezuzah from her mother’s brother. She placed it in the drawer of her night table which lay at the same level as her head when she would go to sleep. It slowly raised her curiosity and drew her to learn more about her heritage and where she came from. It eventually led to her leaving the church and brought her home. The girl was Tova Mordechai, who lives now with her family in Tzfat, Israel and works at the Machon Alte Seminary, a Jewish learning institute for women. She has often thought and concluded that it was the mezuzah’s protection which ultimately guided her back to her people.
Many Jewish homes contain mezuzahs on every doorway. A mezuzah should be affixed to the doorpost of each room in the home and place of business (including basement, attic, and garage). They should not be placed at the entrance to a bathroom.
When you buy a new home it’s cause for celebration. Some people like to throw a party for their friends and family when putting up mezuzahs in the new place. Have fun with it! People may bring you mezuzot as gifts, to say congratulations and to wish you mazel (fortune) and hatzlacha (success) in your home.
Now that you’ve gained an appreciation for this wonderful mitzvah, you’ll want to decide the kinds of mezuzahs you’ll want to buy. Mezuzah cases range in just about every style, color, and size you can imagine. When browsing, you’ll come across antique, Armenian, glass, wood, and more! Gary Rosenthal is a popular artist for mezuzahs, and Quest has a number of options your children will love. Michael Aram creates sleek cases for a modern twist on an ancient tradition. Whatever your style, there are mezuzot and covers designed to suit you and your home.
How to affix a mezuzah:
The mezuzah should be placed…
- On the right doorpost as one enters.
- In a slanted position with the top pointed toward inside of room.
- In the upper third of doorpost height (shoulder high).
- On the outer 3.2 inches of doorpost width.
Before attaching a kosher mezuzah to a doorpost, the following blessing should be recited:
Hebrew Transliteration: Boruch Atah A-do-nai Elo-heinu Melech Ha-olam asher kiddishanu b’mivtzvotav v’tzivanu likbo’a mezuzah.
Translation: Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.
Note: If you’re putting up more than one mezuzah at a time, only one blessing is recited. When affixing a mezuzah to an archway, no blessing is recited.