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What Is a Mezuzah and What Is It Used For?

Mezuzah is a Hebrew word that means doorpost. Traditionally a mezuzah is affixed at the entrance of every Jewish home. It is also affixed on every door inside the Jewish house except the bathroom. The mezuzah contains a k’laf or a scroll of parchment. On the scroll of parchment on which two biblical passages are written.

The scroll is inscribed with a Shema prayer which is very important to the Jews. The Shema prayer described the words of the god asking Jews to follow the commands sent to them and bow their hearts and heads. The Shema prayer will be written by a sofer. A sofer is a person trained to write the verses in Torah.

The parchment on which the prayer is written should be the skin of the kosher animal. The scroll is fixed into a plastic, wooden or metal casting making it quite beautiful. A mezuzah can be easily bought at any ship which contains Jewish articles.

What is the purpose of mezuzah to the doorpost of a Jewish home?

The tradition of fixing a mezuzah at the doorpost fulfils a biblical commandment. It is the mezuzah that distinguishes a Jewish home from other homes. A mezuzah is a symbol and sign to everyone who enters the house that it is a Jewish home. The mezuzah reminds everyone that a home is a holy place and one should act accordingly. 

Is it possible to fashion a mezuzah at home?

Traditionally a mezuzah requires some form of klaf or a scroll. The casting however can be designed at home and can be created by anybody. 

How to fix the mezuzah to the doorpost?

To fix the mezuzah to the doorpost of the entrance of the house one should hold a mezuzah affixing ceremony. This ceremony should include all the family residents or family members of the house. The ceremony begins with a blessing and once the blessing is recited, the mezuzah is affixed to the doorpost with the help of nails, screws or glue. 

The mezuzah is affixed on the right side of the door from which one enters. Fix the mezuzah around a third way from the top of the doorpost. Most of the Ashkenazim and Sephardic Jews attach the mezuzah tilted inwards. However, some Jews place it straight. 

What is the meaning of mezuzah?

Judaism is not restricted to synagogues. Judaism strives for spirituality in the comfort of the homes as well. The mezuzah reminds everyone who walks inside the house to live life according to the Torah. 

Mezuzah has the unique characteristic of protecting the residents of the house, whether the residents are inside or outside the house. The mezuzah can be rightly compared with the helmet which is a veneer that protects people from the dangers of life. 

Why is the mezuzah not placed straight?

There is a commandment on verse 6 and line 9 in Deuteronomy which states, "And thou shall write them upon the doorposts of thy house and on thy gates". This is the reason why the mezuzah is fixed on the door at an angle and not straight. Mezuzah marks the distinction between the outside world and the house. On the back of the mezuzah, a Hebrew word Shaddai is written. It is a mystical name for God. The case of the mezuzah should have an opening such that the world Shaddai is visible.

Rabbi Solomon Ben Issac is a famous French Rabbi. His Grandson who was in the Rabbenu team felt that mezuzah should be fixed horizontally because of the tradition. This is so because the scroll inside the case was originally placed horizontally around the doorways and between the stones.

Rabbi Solomon however argued that the mezuzah should be placed vertically and should be pointed towards the almighty. Then finally a conclusion was made that the mezuzah should be placed slightly tilted, not fully horizontal or vertical. The mezuzah is therefore hung slightly diagonally tilted inwards.

Final Word

Jewish people create their own homes- by the way they live and act and by the things they do and they don't. It can be said that the Jewish faith is a portable one, one can carry it wherever they go.

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