Friday, August 08, 2014

What's in a Doorpost?

The goal of this blog is to turn Friday night into Shabbat. Please print and share.

Mezuzah scrollToday: two questions, followed by a story, followed a question, for your table.

First question: What's a mezuza?

I'm guessing that many people reading this don't know, so here's a cliffnotes answer:

A hand-written scroll of sacred parchment with verses from the Torah that talk about mindfulness of God, love, unity and karma - affixed (usually in a decorative box) on the right side of a doorway into a room.

Second question: How many mezuzas should go on a house?

Many Jewish homes have only one mezuza, on the front door. Some have one on the back door as well.

But the ancient custom, following the Torah, is on just about every doorway of the house, exterior and interior. The reason is simple: the message (mindfulness of God, love, unity, karma) is something one may want to keep in mind througout the house, not just when arriving and leaving.

Think about it: you arrive home and see the mezuza. You're reminded of those wonderful things.

Then you're inside and get busy with your chores, your family, your whatever... so easy to forget.

But if there are mezuzas throughout the home (and you get in the habit of touching them as you pass), there's a chance you may develop that mindfulness.

So here's the story:

Yesterday, I had the privilege of participating in a mezuza-affixing (affixation?) on a new home.

The home, by any measure, is beautiful. A dream house by the pristine waters of the picturesque Puget Sound.

By my original count, made a year ago, the home required 23 mezuzot. But walking through the finished home, I discovered three additional spots that were arguably "doorways".

The home owner, realizing that we were going to be short several scrolls, tried to persuade me that those were not true doorways. I explained that according to Maimonides she would be right, but that the majority of rabbinic opinions require one.

She tried valiantly: "Well, in our family, I think we go like Maimonides."

"Umm.... besides the fact that you are not impartial in this discussion, the general rule is to go by the majority," I said with a smile.

Gosh, so many rules! Why should there be so many rules?

There obviously have to be some rules, in order to have a common tradition. When there are no rules, there is no tradition.

But an interesting thing about the mezuza is that it has a subjective element to it. The mezuza goes on the right side when entering a room. What if a room has two doorways? Which way is entering? That depends on you, on how you use that room.

In other words, while the mezuza is truly the completion of the home, unlike the rest of the home which is a purely physical shell, the mezuza is the interface between the physical house and the spiritual being (you) who occupies it.

Therefore, to end the story, you maybe can imagine that putting up 23 — or in the end, 26 — mezuzas was not merely a handyman's job. It required the input of the homeowner — not only for which decorative box to put on what doorway, but in some cases, which way is entering and which way is leaving?

All this took a long time, a lot of concentrated discussion.

Hours, actually.

And the guests for the chanuka (dedication) celebration were arriving and the hostess and I were .... unavailable.

But in a way, all that visible effort became part of the party — everyone saw that by affixing mezuzas throughout, we were completing the house into a Jewish home.

So here's your third question: There are 15 verses in a mezuza. Which one is the most famous?

Shabbat Shalom

Israeli soldiers prayingPS - Here's a hint to the answer: Roy Klein's story.

PPS - This amazing story is a table talk unto itself.

PPPS - Teachers around the country are joining the Amazing Nature for Teachers program - does your child's or grandchild's school know about it?

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1 comment:

Scott Hample said...

What was the answer to the goof?