Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What the heck is a "mezuzah?"

Pop Quiz!

A mezuzah is....

A) an Italian sportscar made in the 80's

B) a Jewish doorpost box holding Scripture

C) a silly instrument made famous in Dr. Seuss books

D) an African headpiece worn in tribal rituals

The correct answer would be....

B! A Jewish doorpost box holding Scripture

Now why exactly am I writing about a mezuzah of all things? Well partly because it all started out with a favorite passage of Scripture, and also because I gave one to Brent as his first Father's Day gift.

Starting with the aforementioned Scripture passage, taken from Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Not only does it remind us of the First Commandment, but this passage also reveals God's daily design for passing down our faith through generations. Learning about God is not something that only happens on Sundays or in a church building. It is to be a daily occurence that pervades everything we do and say while at home or away. If we are leaving the responsibility of teaching children about God up to the church alone, we are failing as godly parents.

And here is where the mezuzah begins to come into play... the word mezuzah in Hebrew translates to "doorposts." The latter part of the passage mentions "binding them on your hands...writing them on the doorposts and gates of your home." While some may read that symbolically, others have interpreted it literally; hence the physical mezuzah was born.

Mezuzahs come in all colors and all materials. The above picture looks the closest to the one I bought. It's around four inches tall and about an inch across. Often times the Hebrew letter shin (sheen) will be inscribed on the outside. From what I've read, that may be interpreted as Shaddai, meaning "God Almighty." But here's the cool part about's not the box itself that is ultimately special, but what hides on the inside!

On the inside of every mezuzah is a mini scroll with Scripture written in Hebrew aptly named the Shema (shih-mah'). Shema in Hebrew means "hear." If you look back at the Scripture above, it begins with "Hear, O Israel..." The Shema contains the same Deuteronomy passage from above (6:4-9), along with Deuteronomy 11:13-21. Later versions have added Numbers 15:37-41 as well. Mezuzahs are affixed to the doorposts of homes; depending on your practices, they may be placed on one doorpost or every doorpost in your home.

It was interesting to google mezuzah and read lots of requirements that have been established by rabbis. This includes the placement and angle of the mezuzah, along with having it inspected by a rabbi twice within seven years for any damage, to even kissing it as you walk past. Being that my husband and I are not Jewish, the mezuzah to us is a tangible and symbolic way of gently reminding us to keep God first in our lives and to pass our faith down to our children intentionally. We are thankful that we are no longer bound to the law, since Christ has fulfilled it and is our salvation! (Please read Galatians 3:10-29 for a clear explanation of this).

When I presented the small gift-wrapped box to Brent for Father's Day, I had already warned him, "I don't think you'll know what it is when you see it." Talk about curiosity! It's not every day you could say something to that effect. He said upon first seeing it, he thought it was a whistle :) Good guess, but notsomuch. He truly enjoyed hearing all about the meaning and significance behind it. It was definitely a special and timeless Father's Day gift, and we look forward to teaching little Caleb about it in the future. More importantly, we desire for Caleb to learn about a wonderful Heavenly Father who loves him infinitely more than we ever could.

1 comment:

mezuzah said...

Mezuzah is very important mizvah!