Monday, March 24, 2014

The Mezuzah Box

The study in Deuteronomy had progressed to chapter 6. As I studied, I read this verse:  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:9 NASB)

In the preceding verses, Moses had explained to the people that God expected obedience. In fact, He was so serious about it that they could prolong their lives through obedience to His Word, as well as shorten their lives through disobedience. To help them remember, they were to review Scripture daily, teach their children carefully, bind copies of Scripture to their hands and foreheads, and put Scripture on their door posts. The practice of placing mezuzahs on the door posts is based on this passage. The mezuzah is actually the Scripture written on a piece of paper or parchment. What you see is the box that holds the Scripture (or mezuzah) inside. The idea is that, as you enter your home, seeing the mezuzah box should serve as a reminder of the truth and promises of God's Word, as well as your commitment to it.  

The idea of strapping a little box with verses inside to my forehead didn't seem  like something I wanted to do, and I am in and out of exam gloves too often for strapping something to my hand. Neither of those were practical for me at all. 

The idea of the mezuzah, however, captured my attention. Bear in mind that I had never seen a mezuzah or a mezuzah box, and had no idea what I was doing. As the mother of any good Georgia Tech computer science student would do, I Googled it. Most of the boxes I found were small and tasteful. They all came with an optional piece of Parchment containing Scripture (the mezuzah) handwritten in Hebrew by a scribe, but they were such small boxes that I could not imagine trying to squeeze a piece of paper inside. There were so many options and traditions/rules for the mezuzah box that I was quickly overwhelmed. Not to be outdone, I decided to buy the prettiest one. I guess I actually ordered the biggest and gaudiest one, but I'm pleading ignorance. The ones I saw in Israel are nothing at all like mine. 

After my mezuzah box arrived, I was shocked by the size and ornate decorations, so I put it in a drawer and left it for years. Not long ago, I found it again and decided to attach it to the doorpost. Once more, I had to Google the protocol. It turns out that the box goes at shoulder height and is tilted slightly in toward the room the door enters, as a sign that God and the Torah are entering. When you pass through the door with the mezuzah, you are to touch the box, then kiss the fingers that touch it as a sign of reverence and respect for God and His Word. 

I'm not going to pretend that I touch my box every time I walk in the door, but I have gradually begun to touch it more often. There is something mysteriously wonderful about the symbolism involved. That big, gaudy box is a symbol that God inhabits my home and His Word is the guiding principle here. As I touch the box and put my fingers to my lips, I am reminded of the truth of the Scripture I have tucked inside, as well as my committment to it. 

In English the mezuzah reads:

"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is 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. (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 NASB) Since I'm not Jewish, and didn't know what I was doing anyway, I decided to include my favorite verse.  It's Jeremiah 29:11 and says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope." 

Here's what my mezuzah Scripture looks like (I Googled the Hebrew). It's not at all kosher, but it blesses me, and I hope it blesses you, as well.  

שְׁמַ֖ יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖י/נוּ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽ וְ/אָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑י/ךָ בְּ/כָל־ לְבָבְ/ךָ֥ וּ/בְ/כָל־ נַפְשְׁ/ךָ֖ וּ/בְ/כָל־ מְאֹדֶֽ/ךָ׃ וְ/הָי֞וּ הַ/דְּבָרִ֣ים הָ/אֵ֗לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אָנֹכִ֧י מְצַוְּ/ךָ֛ הַ/יּ֖וֹם עַל־ לְבָבֶֽ/ךָ׃ וְ/שִׁנַּנְתָּ֣/ם לְ/בָנֶ֔י/ךָ וְ/דִבַּרְתָּ֖ בָּ֑/ם בְּ/שִׁבְתְּ/ךָ֤ בְּ/בֵיתֶ֙/ךָ֙ וּ/בְ/לֶכְתְּ/ךָ֣ בַ/דֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽ/בְ/שָׁכְבְּ/ךָ֖ וּ/בְ/קוּמֶֽ/ךָ׃ וּ/קְשַׁרְתָּ֥/ם לְ/א֖וֹת עַל־ יָדֶ֑/ךָ וְ/הָי֥וּ לְ/טֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֥ין עֵינֶֽי/ךָ׃ וּ/כְתַבְתָּ֛/ם עַל־ מְזוּזֹ֥ת בֵּיתֶ֖/ךָ וּ/בִ/שְׁעָרֶֽי/ךָ׃ ס (דברים 

וְ/הָיָ֗ה אִם־ שָׁמֹ֤עַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־ מִצְוֺתַ֔/י אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְ/כֶ֖ם הַ/יּ֑וֹם לְ/אַהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־ יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵי/כֶם֙ וּ/לְ/עָבְד֔/וֹ בְּ/כָל־ לְבַבְ/כֶ֖ם וּ/בְ/כָל־ נַפְשְׁ/כֶֽם׃ (דברים