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All About Mezuza
All About Mezuza
NOTE: This is just a very basic introduction. There are many complex laws regarding Mezuza, and a competent authority should be consulted if in doubt as to how to proceed.
In Devarim / Deuteronomy, Parshat Vaetchanan, we read about the mitzvah of Mezuza.
”….And these words [the Torah], which I command you this day, shall be in your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children... And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand and... between your eyes.
And you shall write them upon the posts of your house and your gates.” (6:9)
On the doorposts of every Jewish home, you will find a little rectangular decorative case. Inside that case is a Mezuza. It’s not a superstition or good luck charm. It’s there because the Torah commands us to affix a Mezuza on the doorposts in our homes.
A: In brief, the Mezuza consists of two passages of the Torah written (in Hebrew, of course) on one piece of parchment (klaf). The parchment must be from a kosher animal.
The two passages are: "Shema Yisroel" and "Vehaya" (Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). These verses comprise the Jewish prayer "Shema Yisroel," and begins with the phrase "Hear, O Israel, the L-rd your G-d, the L-rd is One."
(click on Mezuza for larger version)
A: The writing of the Mezuza must be done by a Sofer / Scribe (a "Sofer STAM*" who has undergone many years of meticulous training), in the same manner and script as a Torah using indelible black ink and a special quill pen. Each letter of each word has to be written in an exact way, just like in a Torah Scroll. If even the tip of a letter is missing or if the ink cracks after it dries, the whole Mezuza is invalid and useless.
It is important to remember that the Mezuza is NOT the decorative casing, but the written parchment inside. It is ironic that some people will buy an expensive case, but overlook the fact that the actual Mezuza is not kosher.
It is customary to write two inscriptions on the back of the parchment: the Hebrew word שדי (Shaddai), (“Shad-eye”) and the phrase " כוזו במוכסז כוזו ".
“ Shaddai ” is one of Hashem’s names, spelled; shin, daled, yud. These three letters serve as an acronym for “Shomer Daltei Yisrael” - "guardian of the doorways of Israel."
" כוזו במוכסז כוזו " is a Caesar cipher — a one letter shift — of the third, fourth, and fifth words of the Shema, "Adonai, Eloheinu, Adonai", "The L-rd, our G-d, the L-rd"; it is written on the back of the mezuza, opposite the corresponding words on the front. This inscription, Kabbalistic in origin, has appeared on mezuzot (Plural of mezuza) since at least the 11th century.
The parchment is then rolled into a scroll and wrapped in paper or plastic wrap to protect it from the elements. Then the parchment is usually inserted into a hard-plastic or metal decorative case, and affixed on a slant to the upper part of the right hand doorpost in a Jewish home.
Where does a mezuza get placed?
Every doorway of every room in a Jewish home needs a mezuza, even if that doorway is never used, (with only a few exceptions such as the bathrooms). A doorway is defined as an entrance way having two doorposts and a lintel (top piece) either square or arched. This rule also applies to all the doorways of every room in any building or space owned or rented by a Jew, even if the room is not used for living space, but as an office, store, factory, or for storage. Note however, that a bracha (blessing) is only made when putting up a mezuza in a home.
Doorways that require a mezuza that are sometimes overlooked include:
For more detailed placement information, click here.
Where does it not get placed? .
A: Exceptions to the mezuza room rule:
How to install?
The mezuza should be placed on the right side of the door, in the upper third of the doorpost (i.e., approximately shoulder height), within approximately 3 inches of the doorway opening. Generally, mezuzot should be affixed within 30 days of moving into a rented house or apartment. This applies to Jews living in the Diaspora (i.e. outside of Eretz Yisroel / Israel). For a purchased home or apartment in the Diaspora, or a residence in Eretz Yisroel (owned or rented), the mezuza is affixed immediately upon moving in. The case can be affixed to the doorpost with nails, screws, glue, or double-sided tape. Care should be taken to not tear or damage the parchment or the wording on it, as this will invalidate the mezuza.
Where the doorway is wide enough, Ashkenazi Jews and Spanish and Portuguese Jews tilt the mezuza so that the top slants toward the room into which the door opens.
Why is the mezuza affixed at an angle?
This is done to accommodate the variant opinions of the great Rabbis, Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam as to whether it should be placed horizontally or vertically, and also to imply that Hashem and the Torah (which the mezuza symbolizes) are entering the room. Some Sephardim and other non-Ashkenazi Jews affix the mezuza vertically.
(Note that a bracha is only made when putting up a mezuza in a home. )
The procedure is to hold the mezuza against the spot upon which it will be affixed, then recite a blessing:
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'olam
Blessed are You, Hashem our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to affix a mezuza.
Any Jew can recite the blessing provided he or she is old enough to understand the significance of the mitzvah. After the blessing, the mezuza is attached.
When affixing several mezuzot, it is sufficient to recite the blessing once, before affixing the first one.
What’s it all about?
The essence of the mitzvah of Mezuza is the concept of the Oneness of G-d. The very first verse written on the Mezuza is the Shema: “Hear oh Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One.” When we pass a doorpost, we touch the Mezuza and remember that G-d is One: a Oneness that is perfect and unique, a Oneness that is not one of many, nor one of a species. G-d is One without parts, partners, copies, or any divisions whatsoever.
Moreover, Hashem is our G-d, Whom we must love and obey, and Who protects us.
Every moment that the Mezuza is on your doorpost is another merit in your favor, even though you are not actively doing anything!
It is customary that every time one passes through a door with a mezuza on it, one kisses the mezuza. This reverence acknowledges our belief in the "Shema Yisroel" the Jewish declaration of faith, which expresses the unity of G-d, the duty of loving and serving Him with our whole being, and our obligation to observe the Mitzvot in and out of the home.
What is the meaning of the word Mezuza?
In olden days, an awl or other tool was used to gouge out a trough in the doorpost of the entryway to one's house. The scroll was inserted into the gouged-out space and plastered over. Today, it is customary to encase the Mezuza scroll in a decorative case.
In addition, the Hebrew word “Mezuzot,” found in Devarim / Deuteronomy , Parshat Vaetchanan,, is written: mem, zayen, zayen, vav, tav. If we rearrange the letters we can spell the two words, “zaz mavet” which means “pushing away death.”
In Tehillim / Psalms, (121:8), Dovid HaMelech / King David says, “Hashem shall protect your exit and you entry from now and forever.” Our sages say that this applies to the Mezuza. It acts as a shield and protects people, not only when they are inside the home but also when they go out.
A: In time, the letters on a Mezuza may fade or crack, which renders the Mezuza not kosher. Thus, it must be checked at least twice in seven years. Many people have their mezuzot checked each year, especially during the month of Elul when we prepare for the New Year.
A: In this answer, "mezuza" refers only to the parchment scroll, not the decorative case that holds it. There is no requirement at all to leave behind a mezuza *case*, under any circumstances. The only issue is with the scrolls.
Now, regarding the scrolls:
As a general rule, a mezuza should not be removed from a doorpost, leaving the room or house without a mezuza, unless it will be put back or replaced with another mezuza.
Thus, when moving to another house or apartment and the next tenant is Jewish, the mezuzot should not be removed, unless there is concern that if the mezuzot are left behind they would be discarded or defaced.
If you know that non-Jews will be living in the house, the Jewish owners should take the mezuzot with them. They do not have to wait until the house is sold.
If the new occupant has his own mezuzot and wishes to use them rather than the ones you leave on the doorpost, it is preferred that the new occupant should himself remove your mezuzot when installing his own, or that, at least, it should be he who instructs you to remove the mezuzot. This law is a very serious matter and should not be treated lightly.
If the new occupant wants the mezuzot, you are obligated to leave all of the mezuzot in their place. If your mezuzot are of a high quality, expensive, or of sentimental value, you may replace them with less expensive ones before you leave, providing that they are 100% kosher. The mezuza cases may certainly be exchanged for inexpensive mezuza cases.
You may also request that the new occupant pay you for the mezuzot, in which case they are obligated to compensate you for the mezuzot at fair market value.
If one is in the midst of moving and temporarily owns two homes and is actually living in both homes, or storing items in both homes, then one is obligated to have mezuzot in both homes.
While the important part of the mezuza is the "klaf," or parchment, and not the case itself, designing and producing mezuza cases has become an art form over the ages. Mezuza cases are produced from an endless variety of materials, from silver and precious metals, to wood, stone, ceramics and pewter. In fact, the beauty of many of these cases has led some to forget that the important part of the mezuza is the parchment. Some dealers of mezuza cases will provide or offer for sale a copy of the text that has been photocopied onto paper; this is NOT a valid mezuza, which must be handwritten onto a piece of parchment by a qualified Sofer / scribe.
For more information about mezuzot or to purchase valid scrolls for a mezuza online, visit the S.T.A.M. website.
THE BEST GIFT
The Talmud (Yerushalmi, Peah 1:1) states that a proper Mezuza offers protection of the home and tells the following wonderful story:
A special friendship existed between King Antoninus and Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi (known as Rebbi). Once King Antoninus sent Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi a precious stone as a gift.
A (Mezuza) Case in Point
by Moshe Schapiro
Yated 8/24/00 Reprinted with Permission
Dr. Yaakov Orlean runs the blood bank in Bnei Brak's Maayanei Hayeshua Hospital. He is originally from the United States, and until not too long ago, he lived and worked in California.
One day he paid a visit to a well-known Sofer Stam in Bnei Brak and ordered three exquisite Mezuza parchments. In fact, the source of this story is the Sofer Stam, who told it to Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein.
Dr. Orlean mentioned that he had some business to take care of in the United States and that he would be giving the Mezuzot as gifts to three former colleagues from California.
A few days later Dr. Orlean came to pick up the three Mezuzot. He carefully inserted each into a tastefully designed Mezuza cover and packed all three in his suitcase.
The first thing he did upon his arrival was drive over to his former colleagues homes and catch up on old times. They all lived on the same street, so it was very convenient for him to visit each of them. All three were thrilled to see him again, but their reactions upon receiving his gift were totally different.
The first doctor, Jack, was horrified when he finished unwrapping the gift paper and realized what it was he was holding in his hands.
Why, thank you very much, Jack said, recovering somewhat from the initial shock. A Mezuza! How unique. Yes, well, I will keep it right here in my desk drawer. Who knows? It may come in handy as a paperweight.
Dr. Orlean was not pleased.
A paperweight? He asked in astonishment. Jack, for crying out loud, this is a Mezuza! You're supposed to attach it to a doorpost. You know as in, front door?
On my front door? Jack asked with equal astonishment. You've got to be kidding. Everyone will know I'm Jewish! No, no, that's out of the question. But thank you so much anyway. It's such a nice gift.
Dr. Orlean said goodbye and then strolled halfway down the block to colleague number two - Steven.
His reaction to the special gift from Israel was less severe.
Oh, how nice, a Mezuza, Steven said after unwrapping the gift. Just what I always wanted! And he proceeded to slip it into his desk drawer.
You know, Dr. Orlean, said in his tactful way, the purpose of a Mezuza is to hang it on a doorframe. Actually, come to think of it, the bronze casing goes very well with the color scheme of your front entrance.
Steven didn't look thrilled. He agreed to post the Mezuza on a room in his house, but said he couldn't quite imagine posting it on the front door.
Dr. Orlean, after failing twice, made a third attempt and visited his friend a few houses down the street.
The third doctor, Michael, unwrapped his gift and was very excited to find the Mezuza and its beautiful case. He kissed the Mezuza, caressed the case and reveled in the fact that his gift came from the Jewish homeland.
Then, without being told to post it, Michael stood up, asked for the Bracha and affixed the Mezuza on his front door.
Dr. Orlean was very proud, and considering his previous experiences, more than a little surprised at the doctor's reaction. But not wanting to undo the good deed that had been done, he decided not to press the issue.
Upon his return home to Eretz Yisroel, Dr. Orlean heard about a terrible earthquake that had hit California just days after he left. Numerous homes had sustained damage, and some had been demolished.
Dr. Orlean couldn't help but wonder what had happened to his three friends. When he found out their fate, he was astonished by the news.
Massive winds had ravaged Jacks house, leaving it completely destroyed. Nothing remained standing except the foundation.
Stevens house suffered immense damage, save for one room - the one where the Mezuza hung.
And Michaels house, situated along the same street as Dr. Orleans other two colleague's homes, stood fully intact.
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