Mezuzzah Hanging

Video produced by JewishPathways.com, offering self-paced, online courses in Jewish thought.

Question: How and why do we put up a Mezuza on our home?
Answer: THE HOW:

Hanging a Mezuza on a Jewish home is a fulfillment of the Torah's teaching, "You shall write them [the words of the Shema Yisrael, our declaration of loyalty and identity] on the doorposts of your house and upon the gates [of your city]." The Mezuza consists of a decorative container, within which is a piece of hand-written parchment conaining the words of Shema Yisrael. Remember: It's the words on that parchment that make it a Mezuza. No matter how lovely, the container is just a container!

The Mezuza is often decorated with the Hebrew letter "Shin", after one of the names of God recorded in the the Torah -- "Shaddai", which the rabbis of the Talmud interpreted as an acronym for the phrase, Shomer Delatot Yisrael, God -- the Protector of the Doorways of Israel.

The Mezuza is placed on the right side of the doorway as you walk into the house, at eye level (about two-thirds the way up the door frame on most doors). The Mezuza should be set at an angle, with the top tilting inward—into the house.

As you hang your Mezuza, recite these blessing:

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam, Asher Kid-shanu B'mitzvotav, V'tzee-vanu, Lik-boa Mezuzah.

Blessed are You Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, Who has sanctified us by your commandments, and commanded us to afix a Mezuza upon our doorway.

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheynu Melech Ha-Olam, Sheh-hechiyanu V'key-eemanu V'hig-iyanu La'zman Ha-zeh.

Blessed are You Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, Who has given us life, health and strength, and enabled us to reach this moment.

Finally, we recite the Shema Yisrael:

Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Ehad

Hear O' Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.

You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I command you this day shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children. You shall speak them at home and away, night and day. You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall by frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them upon the doorposts of your homes and upon the gates of your city. Then you will remember and fulfill all My commandments, and be holy before your God.

THE WHY:

The Mezuza is a reminder -- that this is a Jewish home, that a Jewish home harbors a special spirit, and that we are responsible for creating and maintaining that spirit. "Where does God dwell?" the Hasidic Master taught his disciples, "Wherever we let Him in."

The first word of the Mezuza text is the first word of the Shema -- Listen! Listening is the most important element of a loving home. Listen to what is said, and to what is unsaid. Listen to the words, and the world of feelings beneath the words. Listen. Even when you're impatient, tired, distracted, preoccupied...Listen.

The first letter of "Shema" is Shin, which has the sound, "SHHHH". The very first part of listening just to be quiet -- stop talking, shouting, complaining, protesting -- leave room for an other. And more: Find an inner quiet, so that the voices and needs of those we love can find their way into our ears and our hearts. So that we can share with one another.

Many Jews believe the Mezuza provides a home with sort of superstitious protection. I don't think they're entirely wrong. It won't help you against burglary (I prefer ADP), fire, earthquake or flood. But against those threats which destroy most homes in our community -- cold callousness, hard-heartedness, bitter alienation, the withering of loving commuication, sharing and growing together. Against these threats, a well-used Mezuza provides some real insurance.

On your way into the house tonight, observe an old Jewish custom: stop in the doorway, touch the Mezuza, kiss your fingers, and then enter a home of loving listening.

MEZUZAH

  • Deuteronomy 6:9

And you will write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

·  Talmud Yoma 10b-11a: Our Rabbis taught: All the rooms in the Holy Temple were without a mezuzah with the exception of the counselors’ chamber, for therein there was a residence for the high priest....The text reads, "The doorposts of your house -- [meaning] just as house means a building appointed for a dwelling it thus excludes all other buildings not appointed for a dwelling.

·  Maimonides, Mishna Torah, Sefer Ahava, Laws of Mezuza

·  A Maimonides Reader, Isadore Twersky, ed; New York: Behrman House, 1972 pb

5:4: It is a universal custom to write the word Shaddai on the other side of the mezuzah, opposite the blank space between the two sections. As this word is written on the outside, the practice is unobjectionable. They, however, who write names of angels, holy names, a Biblical text, or inscriptions usual on seals within the mezuzah are among those who have no portion in the world to come. For these fools not on fail to fulfill the commandment but they treat an important precept that expresses the Unity of God, the love of Him, and His worship, as if it were an amulet to promote their own personal interests; for, according to their foolish minds, the mezuzah is something that will secure for them advantage in the vanities of the world.

6:13: A person should pay heed to the precept of the mezuzah; for it is an obligation perpetually binding upon all. Whenever one enters or leaves a home with the mezuzah on the doorpost, he will be confronted with the declaration of God=s unity, blessed by His holy name; and will remember the love due to God, and will be aroused from his slumbers and his foolish absorption in temporal vanities. He will realize that nothing endures to all eternity save knowledge of the Ruler of the universe. This thought will immediately restore him to his right senses and he will walk in the paths of righteousness. Our ancient teachers said: He who has tfillin on his head and arm, tzitzit on his garment, and a mezuzah on his door may be presumed not to sin, for he has many monitors -- angels -- that save him from sinning, as it is said, (Ps. 34:8) The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him and delivers them.

·  Sefat Emet (Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter of Ger) on Ki Tavo

·  The Language of Truth, trans Arthur Green; Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1998

If you listen, listen to the voice of the Lord your God... (Deut 28:1). The Midrash comments: Happy is the one whose listenings are to Me, hovering always at My doorways, door within door... (Devarim Rabba 7:2)

"Listenings" means that one should always be prepared to receive and listen closely to the words of God. The voice of that word is in every thing, since each was created by God’ utterance and has the power of divine speech hidden within it. This is the hidden light that we are told to find.

Inwardness goes on, deeper and deeper, truly beyond measure. This is the meaning of "My doorways." Never think that you have come to the truth; understand that you are always standing at the entrance. The word "doorway" (delet) is related to "poverty" [or "humility"] (dalut) This is the way you find door after door opening for you, [by always knowing how little you have achieved thus far.]

This is especially true of the Jew, whose living soul constantly hears the voice of Torah. But this too is hidden from us. This is why the verse says "listen, listen" (shamoah tish-mi-u) -- listen to that which you are already hearing.

The Midrash goes on to say: "to guard the doorpost of My entrance." Just as the mezuzah is fixed, so you too should not depart from synagogues or houses of study. This means that a persona has to be ready always only to hear the word of God. Then, when a moment of grace occurs, something opens for him. But he has to be standing always at the doorway. That is "whose listenings are to Me." All the senses have to be prepared to receive and listen closely to the word of God and nothing else.