Sunday, August 24, 2008

Zebras and Mezuzahs

We have lived in our house for more than a year. About once a month, Adam and I say, "Gee. We need to hang up our mezuzot. Yep. Let's get on that." know where this is going. It has been one of those things that has been hanging over our heads that we just didn't make a priority. And embarrassing things of all embarrassing Eli's bris, our beloved Rabbi noticed. And not only that, he mentioned our missing mezuzah. I mean, really, people. It does not get much worse that that. Truly it does not. And let's see. Eli was born in January. Huh. Still no mezuzah hanging on the door.

For those of you that are losing me, I'm guessing that you'd like to know what a mezuzah (plural=mezuzot) is! Basically, it is a little hollow, rectangular box that hangs on the inside of the door jamb. The box is hollow because it holds a small piece of parchment (klaf) that has a biblical reference to the mezuzah written on it. According to Anita Diamant's Living a Jewish Life, "The words come from the book of Deuteronomy: 'Write these words upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates'." What words, you ask? The Shema, which is a prayer that is said first thing in the morning and at night before going to bed. The Shema (below) is also written on the parchment. The importance of this prayer lies in the fact that it sums up the heart of Judaism in just a few short lines. For lack of better words, it is a mission statement for the Jews.

Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
Blessed be the Name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

And 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 in your heart.
And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall speak of them
when you sit at home, and when you walk along the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.
And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So, anywho, despite the fact that G-d has commanded this of me, no mezuzah/mezuzahs/mezuzot on any door of my home. Not good.
Until Friday.

Ethan comes out to see me where I was sneaking some reading time on the deck while Eli napped. He says, "You know those zebra things that go on doors? They go straight out like this. (demonstrates a 'zebra' by sticking his arm out straight in front of him). And they have one Hebrew letter on them? Do we have any of those? You know, those things?"
I think for a moment. And then I get a big, wide smile on my face. "You mean a mezuzah!?"

Ethan says, "Yeah!"

I tell him, in fact we do have several of them, but that, shamefully, none of them are hung up. And I ask him if he would like to help me hang them up and he said he would like to do that with a real hammer. Sure...well, we can work out the details as we go.

So, we set off into the garage to track down a hammer and nails. And if you know my husband and know how "organized" he is, finding his tools is an amazing feat in itself. Amazingly, I find them almost right away and Ethan and I were off, door to door (literally), happily hanging mezuzot!

Having a mezuzah on your door can serve many purposes. They are a reminder of G-d's presence and are an indication that a Jewish family lives in the house. Those are my favorite meanings. But having a mezuzah can also be a reminder for peace, a way of marking the difference between Jewish and non-Jewish space or a good luck charm. I think that each of these concepts are so very beautiful and I think that, truly, a mezuzah represents all of these ideas and works in some sort of harmonious combination to achieve this. It's strange...the "atmosphere" of the door literally changes when you hang one of these babies up. I can't describe it, yet the change is palpable.
Here are two of the finished products. And yes, they are supposed to be tilted. And yes, you are supposed to put them on every door, except bathroom and closet doors. So, we have four (only two pictured here) down...a few more to go!

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