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The Significance of the Mezuzah in Jewish Homes

December Holidays
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The Jewish mezuzah is a piece of parchment, often contained in a decorative case, that’s inscribed with specific Hebrew verses from the Torah’s Book of Deuteronomy and affixed to the doorframe in Jewish homes, synagogues, and businesses. This is in compliance with one of the 613 laws (or mitzvahs) in Judaism and is meant as a reminder and a sign of respect for God and his commandments. Some interpret the law to say that the mezuzot should be placed on every doorway in the home (with the exception of those leading to non-rooms like bathrooms and closets). Others feel that it’s only necessary to place it at the front door. Regardless, the mezuzah continues to play an important part in Jewish tradition and remains a cherished symbol of the importance of the spiritual life in Jewish homes.

Placing the Mezuzah

Jewish law indicates specific placement protocol for the mezuzah. It should be on the right side of the doorpost when entering the home or room. It needs to be placed on the lower part of the upper third of the doorpost, around shoulder height, and permanently affixed with nails, screws, or glue. Rather than being arranged horizontally or vertically, the mezuzah should be hung at an angle, slanted toward the room the door opens into.

For the mezuzah to be kosher, the scroll must be handwritten by a certified scribe using special black ink, quill, and parchment. The scroll cannot contain any mistakes or addition to its text. Before affixing it, the mezuzah should be held against the spot where it is to be hung while a blessing is recited. Those Jews who keep Orthodox homes should also have a qualified scribe come check the mezuzot parchments for small tears or faded lettering at least twice every seven years.

The Mezuzah and the Menorah

An important part of the traditional Jewish December holidays is the menorah, which holds candles that are to be lit on each of the evenings preceding the eight days of Hanukkah. During this special time, the menorah becomes a cherished centerpiece in the Jewish home. Many Jewish families follow the custom of placing the menorah in a doorway opposite the mezuzah. This is symbolic, demonstrating the importance of the menorah in Jewish spiritual life and also representing that the two mitzvoth of mezuzah and Hanukah surround those who dwell there.

The mezuzah is intended to express a dedication to the spiritual path and a reminder of God and Jewish law. By hanging a mezuzah, Jewish families are able to stay connected to their faith by making it an important centerpiece in their home.

Find local Hanukkah Resources

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