Did you ever consider the fact that you can identify a Jewish home even before stepping inside the door or even knowing the name of the person who lives there? Since we received the Torah on Mount Sinai, Jews have been placing a mezuzah parchment, often surrounded by a case, on their door posts.
Original Source of the Mezuzah
The original source for placing a mezuzah on our doors is in the fifth book of the Torah. In Deuteronomy 6:9, as well as 11:20, the Jewish people are commanded, “…you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.”
But what exactly is the “them” that the Torah is commanding us to affix to our doorposts? Our Rabbis teach us that we should affix a parchment upon which the first two paragraphs of the shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) are written.
Practical Applications of Mezuzahs
Jewish law states that mezuzahs must be placed on every door in a home or business owned by a Jew. The mezuzah parchment should be placed on the right side of the door, from the point of view of the one entering the building or room. The mezuzah should be affixed to the lower part of the upper third of the doorway, and it should ideally be placed at a 45º angle, tilted towards the inside of the room. If this is impossible due to the thinness of the doorframe, place the mezuzah at 90º and continue rotating the mezuzah counter-clockwise as much as the door frame will allow.
Mezuzahs may be affixed to their respective doorways through any means, but one should ensure that it is firmly attached. The mezuzahs should be put up immediately upon moving in to a newly purchased home. However, if the home is rented, one is given a 30 day time frame to put up their mezuzah. It is for this reason that a Jew is not obligated to affix a mezuzah to the doorpost of a hotel room.
What is the Blessing for Hanging a Mezuzah?
One should hold the mezuzah against the doorpost in its correct place and recite the blessing before permanently attaching it. The blessing in Hebrew is: “Baruch ata Adonai, Elohanu, melech ha’olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu, lik’boa mezuzah.” This is translated as, “Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the Universe, Who Sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to affix a mezuzah."
Mezuzahs: A Beautiful Idea
Ever wonder why the mezuzah is placed on an angle? Is it because Jews can’t hang things correctly? Actually, the reason is based on a disagreement amongst two great rabbis. One rabbi says that the mezuzah should be affixed completely horizontally while another rabbi understands the Talmud to mean that the mezuzah should be affixed at a 90º angle. In order to accommodate both opinions, Jewish law decided to comprise and place mezuzahs at 45º angles. If we make the effort to think about the mezuzah as we walk through the door and enter a new situation, we will be reminded of the importance of compromise. Armed with this new mental framework, we will see the amount of conflict radically reduced within our lives as we watch the power of compromise masterfully defuse potentially heated situation.
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