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The mezuzah (or mezuza) is a symbolic object of the Jewish faith. It’s a rectangular case affixed at a tilt next to a doorway. Here’s a look at what this object signifies and why it’s considered such a significant object.
What Is a Mezuzah?
The term mezuzah means doorpost in Hebrew. It refers to a decorative case within which is placed a piece of parchment known as the klaf, inscribed with certain verses from the Torah. The klaf is hand- written by a specially trained scribe, as it’s believed that printing the word of God does not give it the exaltation and respect that it deserves. A mezuzah can be made of various objects, including wood, metal or marble. Many are beautifully created with decorative motifs.
A mezuzah is typically fixed on the door or doorpost of a house, as a fulfilment of the mitzvah (Biblical commandment) outlined in Deuteronomy 6:9 – “Write the words of God on the gates and doorposts of your house”. However, some place many mezuzot in different parts of their homes, including the kitchen and bedrooms. There exist variations in how the mezuzah is observed, depending on the Jewish community.
Why is the Mezuzah Slanted?
The mezuzah is typically affixed in a slanted fashion. It’s hardly ever hung straight. The reason behind the slant dates back to the 11th century, when a French rabbi, called Rashi, and his grandson Rabbenu Tam (also a rabbi) argued about the proper orientation of the mezuzah. Rashi believed the mezuzah should be hung vertically, pointing towards God, while Rabbenu Tau argued for a horizontal orientation, citing instances in the Bible, where important documents were kept horizontally.
This issue was eventually solved by placing the mezuzah at a tilt. This symbolizes an important compromise in Jewish law, symbolizing how multiple voices and perspectives are welcomed and taken into account in Judaism.
Symbolism of the Mezuzah
- The mezuzah represents the concept of the doorpost as the dividing line between the outside world and the sanctity of the home.
- The mezuzah is a symbol of the covenant with God and of the obligations that believers have.
- It represents the Jewish identity of those in the household.
- Some believe the mezuzah to contain magical properties and is a good luck charm that protects them from evil and harm. As such, the mezuzah symbolizes protection. Many people that the mezuzah can guard their houses, their cars and possessions. They keep a mezuzah in these places, believing it to be an amulet to defend them from evildoers.
Mezuzah in Use Today
The mezuzah remains one of the most popular objects of the Jewish faith, with most believers having one fixed to their doorpost. There are many styles of mezuzah, from simple minimalist to elaborate and creative designs. Below is a list of the editor’s top picks featuring the Mezuzah symbol.
However, because this is a religious item signifying the special covenant between God and the Jewish people, non-Jews should not put up a mezuzah in their homes.
There is a new trend with the emergence of Christian mezuzot, as a Christian take on fulfilling the commandments in the Old Testament.
As a religious symbol, the mezuzah remains one of the most significant and popular of the Jewish faith. While it’s sometimes considered to be a good luck charm or a protective amulet, at its core, it’s a symbol of the covenant between God and his people.