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What is a Mezuzah?

Question: "What is a Mezuzah?"

A Mezuzah is a small piece of parchment containing Scripture that is kept in a small case or tube attached to the doorpost of a Jewish home. The word Mezuzah, which literally means “doorpost,” can also refer to the glass, wood, or metal case in which the parchment is stored. Observant Jews consider the Mezuzah to be a holy object and honor it as such.

On one side of the Mezuzah are written specified Hebrew verses from the Torah: Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and 11:13–21. These verses comprise the Jewish prayer called Shema Yisroel, which begins with the words “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Deuteronomy 6:9 contains the basis for the practice of hanging the Mezuzah: “Write [these commands] on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” The writing on a kosher Mezuzah is always done by a sofer, a trained Jewish scribe, using a special quill and indelible black ink.

On the other side of the Mezuzah is written one of the Hebrew names for God, Shaddai. This name, in this context, also serves as an acrostic for a Hebrew phrase meaning “Guardian of the doorways of Israel.” When the Mezuzah is rolled up, left to right, and placed in the Mezuzah case, the scroll is positioned so that God’s name Shaddai can be read through an opening in the case. Some Ashkenazi Jews will also write a phrase containing the name Adonai in coded form on the back of the Mezuzah.

The Mezuzah is more than a decoration; it’s a declaration that the residents of a home are Jewish and a constant reminder to those who live there of their faith. The Mezuzah is also seen as a symbol of God’s protective blessing and watchful guardianship over the house and its residents.

The Mezuzah is affixed to the right side of the doorpost (as one enters the home or room). A special recited blessing accompanies the placement of the first Mezuzah in a home. Many Jews will touch their fingers to their lips when they enter or exit a door and then touch the Mezuzah, thus “kissing” the Mezuzah and the Word of God it contains.

Although hanging a Mezuzah is a Jewish custom, some Christians display the Mezuzah on their doorpost and use it as a testimony of their love for God’s Word and as a conversation starter to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Biblically, there is nothing wrong with hanging a Mezuzah in one’s home. Posting a Mezuzah can serve to remind a Christian family to love God, teach the Scriptures to their children, and praise the Messiah Jesus for His atoning blood.

Whether or not we display a Mezuzah, we should never look upon it as a good luck charm, a pathway to holiness, a demon repellant, or a source of power in itself. Much more important than screwing Scripture to the doorpost is internalizing God’s Word, as Moses taught, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts” (Deuteronomy 6:6). Having Scripture in a Mezuzah case, on a wall plaque, or in a tattoo does no good if we are not living by its precepts.

Recommended Resource: Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson

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