I love a mezuzah. As a maker of Jewish ritual objects, I am obviously preoccupied with the phenomenon of physically manifesting ritual commandments. A mezuzah (which means ‘doorpost’ in Hebrew) is a decorative case, firmly mounted to the doorway of a Jewish household, which contains a hand-lettered scroll bearing one of Judaism’s most central passages, beginning with the Shema (‘Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One’), and ending with the directive to write [these words] upon [our] doorposts and gates. The mezuzah serves as a literal reminder, every time we leave or enter our homes, that we have a covenant with G-d to remember these words, and to teach them to our children. As importantly, a mezuzah says to all who pass or enter, ‘This is a Jewish home’. One of my favorite encounters when house hunting is always an unexpected mezuzah, or sometimes just two tiny nail holes at an unlikely angle in the doorway…a tiny omen that good vibes will be found inside.
Mezuzot (plural of mezuzah) can be found in all shapes and sizes, with and without adornment. Since the only Halakhic rule pertains to the scroll (klaf) that you’ll place inside it (a printed copy won’t suffice, you’ll need a kosher scroll, written by a qualified scribe), you can have fun with the decorative case. When seeking a mezuzah for your own home or doorway, perfection is found at the intersection of function and personality. For an outdoor entrance, perhaps something durable and timeless would suit. Marking a bedroom doorway leaves room for something more delicate or whimsical. You’ll find everything from manufactured metal boxes to handmade ceramic ornaments and every variety of personalization between (bridal glass mosaic, painted child’s name, hand-carved wood). Whatever the form, and beyond the stated purpose, a mezuzah means Jewishness. It bridges time and circumstance, uniting us with ancestors who have similarly marked their homes for more than 3,000 years, through peace and prosperity and, often, adversity. It brings me comfort to recognize that while times change, some traditions don’t. In uncertain times, I appreciate that a mezuzah can even feel a little bold. It is a symbol, to ourselves and others, that we wear our Jewish identity with pride—an assertion of belief. And who doesn’t need a joyful daily reminder to live fully, authentically and without fear, in every situation?
My own mezuzot mark each new home and carry memories coinciding with life events. One carries bridal glass shards—a vestige of our wedding chuppah—and our marriage covenant. Another reminds me of the Israeli artisan we stumbled upon at Disney World, of all places. One added for each child, as the number of bedroom doorways grew. Over the years, we’ve down-sized and up-sized, through good times and not-so-lucky times. Not every mezuzah always had a doorway to hang it. But finally finding ourselves in a home that might just be ‘the one,’ I’m hunting again, for that perfect addition…something solid and simple to remind me of my blessings…every day.