What is Mezuzah?

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The Bibical source of the mitzvah of mezuzah is found twice in Devarim, Deuteronomy, chapter 6, in the paragraph of Shema Yisroel (4-9) and Chapter 9, in the paragragh of Vehaya Im Shamoa (13-21). The Torah states in both paragraphs:

“And you shall write them on the entryways of your dwellings and your gates”.

The Almighty taught Moshe on Mount Sinai the oral law, which expounds on his written law, the Torah. The oral law has been transmitted through Torah scholars of each generation, much of it having been transcribed in the Mishnah, Talmud and later commentaries. In order to fulfill the mitzvah of mezuzah, oral law teaches that the two paragraphs above must be written by a traditional, G-d fearing scribe, according to strict halachic codes, with special black ink and quill on one piece of specially prepared and scored parchment. The mezuzah contains 22 lines of 713 painstakingly written letters. The standard size of a mezuzah is 6 – 15cms. It is extremely difficult to write smaller and still be kosher. Some sofrim write larger mezuzahs ranging from 18-25cms. The mezuzah is carefully checked by an expert for textual errors and incorrectly formed letters then rolled and affixed to the post on the right side of entry.

The Torah clearly states that the mezuzah must be affixed to each door and gateway of one’s home. PLURAL! Unfortunately many people mistakenly believe (or have been misled?) that the home only requires a mezuzah on the main entrance. In addition to the home, any Jewish owned business, school and institution and the synagogue may require mezuzahs on each doorway.

The mezuzah recalls the Almighty’s commandment to the Jewish people, on the verge of departure from Egypt, to smear lamb’s blood on the doorposts in order to identify their homes so that the Almighty would spare the inhabitants during the plague of the first born. The lamb represented one of the deities of the Egyptians nevertheless, the Jewish people brazenly slaughtered the lambs and smeared their blood on the entranceways of their homes in full view of their taskmasters. This public declaration proclaimed the Jewish people’s subservience to the will of the Almighty and their recognition of His supreme authority. Similarly, the two paragraphs contained within the mezuzah include these fundamentals of faith. The mezuzah, affixed to each doorway of our homes, shuls, schools and businesses serve to constantly remind us that the Almighty is the one, unique creator and governor of the world, to keep our faith in him and to express our love and subservience to him by committing to living according to his commandments and standard of morals as taught to us in the Torah and expounded upon by our sages.What is Mezuzah?

In addition, we are taught that the mezuzah provides us with protection like that of the lamb’s blood. In fact, one of the names of the Almighty, written on the backside of each mezuzah, Sha-dai, can be read as an acronym for Shomer Dalsos Yisroel, the Guardian of the doors of Israel. We must fulfill each mitzvah because we have been commanded to by the Almighty and not for the promise of material gain. However, this should provide us with a further incentive to be careful in its fulfillment and to acquire quality, kosher mezuzos.

Click here for the three traditions of handwriting.

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