Mezuzah


The Mezuzah is the distinctive mark of the Jewish home. On the doorpost of every Jewish home, you will find a small cylindrical or rectangular case. Inside that case is a Mezuzah, this is a small roll of parchment on which is written, in Hebrew, the Shema and the two biblical pasages concerning the love for G-d and his precepts  (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). On the back of the parchment is written the word for Almighty, in Hebrew, Shin, dalet, yod. The parchment is then rolled into a scroll, wrapped in paper or plastic and inserted into the case, and affixed to the doorpost. 


The meaning of this Mitzvah.

The Mezuzah is not an Amulet to ward off evil, Maimonides says those who think so are ignorent and fail to understand the real purpose of the Mezuzah. The phenomenon of ascribing magical qualities to objects is not unknown even today.  There is the famous case of an alcoholic who had his mezuzah checked and instead of lema'an tizkeru (in order to remember) it said "lema'an tishkeru" (in order to get drunk)! 
see http://shamash.org/tanach/tanach/commentary/j-seminar/volume5/v5n30

Immediately preceding the Shema is a repeat of the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments in modified form.  The Mezuzah serving as a reminder of the Commandments not to worship idols, to maintain the Sabbath not making sevants work on the Sabbath, honour parents, not to steal, not to commit adultery, bear false witness against your neighbour, covert anything that is your neighbours.

The mitzvah of Mezuzah is to continually remind us of the concept of the Oneness of G-d. The very first verse written on the Mezuzah is  "Hear oh Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One." When we pass a doorpost, we touch the Mezuzah and remember that G-d is One: a Oneness that is without parts, partners, copies, or any divisions, perfect and unique, a Oneness that is not one of many, nor one of a species. It also reminds us of our duties to maintain a Jewish home and not to bring anything into the home that may defile the spirituality present there.
 
 

Fixing the Mezuzah

Any Jew, man or woman, who lives in a house, flat or apartment is required to place Mezuzos on the doorposts of his or her home. It is the obligation of the person living there, not the landlord or house owner to fix the Mezuzah in place.

The mezuzos should be fitted on the doorposts when you first move in, or within thirty days of doing so. If you are only staying there for  29 days or less you are not required to have Mezuzos.

Jewish Law defines a door as having a ceiling and two doorposts. To be a doorway, it must have a lintel. A lintel gives the opening the look of a doorway. A Mezuzah is not needed for a gate or opening that has no ceiling, but just has two vertical posts. A gate (that has a lintel) that reaches a metre or more higher than the ground must have a Mezuzah.

Every room needs a Mezuzah except for the bathrooms. Every room or closet that is about 4 metres square or more needs a Mezuzah, the doorway to a small room or hallway that leads to a larger room or leads to a staircase, a bedroom or a utility room all need a Mezuzah. Every door needs a Mezuzah, unless the door has been boarded up or sealed shut so that it is impossible to use the door as it is. Simply locking the door and never going through is not enough. A door that is not boarded up still needs a Mezuzah, even if it is locked and never used.

The corner of a hallway usually counts as a doorpost. 

Do not attempt to roll the Mezuzah yourself. It to you should have been rolled before you purchased it.

The case must be firmly affixed to the doorpost, such that will not easily fall off. Mezuzah cases usually have nail holes. If the Mezuzah case is to be fixed to a metal doorpost a strong weatherproof double-sided tape can be used. Fixing with scotch tape or similar should NEVER be used, it is not strong enough and making the blessing with such a fixing would be very questionable. Therefore, it is best to use nails. 

The Mezuzah scroll should be inserted into the case the right way up.  The Shin on the rear of the scroll will assist in identifying the correct orientation.  The Mezuzah case should be fixed to the right of the doorpost as you enter the room.

The Mezuzah should be placed at the bottom part of the top third of the doorpost. So  if, for example, your doorway is 3 meters high you would place the Mezuzah just less than a metre from the top. You do not need to measure the doorpost, simply look at it, and place it more or less at the correct spot. The placement does not need to be precise.

The Mezuzah should be placed within the doorframe, underneath the lintel. With doors that swing both ways, it is usually impossible to place a Mezuzah inside the doorframe, as that would impede the door from swinging the other way. In such cases, place the Mezuzah on the outside of the doorframe, as close as possible to the doorway. Ideally, however, the Mezuzah should be placed within the doorframe, not on the outside of the doorframe, and not on the inside of the room. The Mezuzah should be placed as close as possible to the outside of the doorframe within the frame (wherever possible) so that it is the first thing you meet when you come home.  If the  door is exposed to rain, use a waterproof Mezuzah case. This should help protect the Mezuzah inside the case.

The custom is to place the Mezuzah at an angle of about 45 degrees to the left, with the top facing into the room. The slanting position is a result of a difference of opinion between Rashi and his grandson Rabbi Jacon ben Meir (Rabbenu Tam). According to Rashi the Mezuzah should be attached vertically, but according to Rabbenu Tam it should be mounted horizontally.  As a compromise it has become customery to mount it on a slant. The Mezuzah scrolls should be checked regularly, about every three or so years.

Never paint over a Mezuzah case. It could ruin the scroll inside, and then you will have no Mezuzah.

If the case is to be nailed, hammer the nails partway in, if using tape hold it an inch or so away from the doorpost, and then recite the blessing:

Boruch At-ah A-don-ai El-o-hay-noo Mel-ech ha-olam, asher kid-sha-noo be-mitz-votav vitzi-vanoo lik-bo-a Me-zoo-zah.

(Blessed are You Lord our G-d, Who has made us holy through His Commandments and commanded us to affix a Mezuzah.)

Finish off the nailing by hammering the nails all the way in, or bring the case and the tape together to complete the fixing.

Only one blessing is made for all the mezuzos in the house, usually at the front door. After reciting the blessing, do not speak any words at all after reciting the blessing until all mezuzos are fixed throughout the house.

 

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