This week’s perasha contains the commandment to place a mezuzah on our doorpost. The purpose of the mezuzah, tzitzit, tefillin are all similar: We are instructed to place the word of God on our homes and on our bodies so that we constantly remember our mission in life. Too often in the hectic lives we live we lose focus of the goal. We forget why we are trying to make money, educate our children, build synagogues and institutions. The goal is to live a worthy life with the Torah as our guide. The mezuzah is here to remind us before we leave the house, and when we return home, that God should be central to our lives.
Lately some people seem to have become confused about the concept of the mezuzah and it has come to be seen as a protective charm. Sometimes people even attribute bad things that happen, to the mezuzah being having a scribal error, since its protection was not “effective”.
This is not in line with the commandment that appears in the Torah.
Certainly it is important to ensure that the any mezuzah we buy is correctly written, and if there is any doubt whether it was indeed kosher when purchased it should be checked, but what actually protects us and our homes is our observance of God’s commands. If we look at the mezuzah, kiss it, hug it, rub it 3 times and kiss our hand for good luck, yet ignore God in our daily lives, no genie is going to emerge from the ornamental case in a puff of green smoke to grant our wishes. That is not what it is for!
What we should do when we see the mezuzah, or put on tefillin, is think about what is written inside, and use it to reassess what we have done today, or what we plan on doing upon leaving the house or the synagogue.
Where am I going? Is what I am about to do consistent with being a good Jew?
Only then will the Mezuzah exert its true power – which is act as a reminder! This is what the text says:
Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates.
Of course, people don’t mean to turn it into a magic charm; they have the best of intentions. However whenever we fulfill any mitzvah, or perform any action or thought in the name of religion, we must stop for a moment and ask ourselves why we are doing it. Where in the Torah was this commanded? What does the verse actually say? How did the early rabbis define it? Only then can we be sure that we have not lost our bearings and are still fulfilling the laws as they were intended.
When we look at the Mezuzah on our doors and remember what is inside its elegant case, then it can truly become a protective device in our lives in the way it was intended to be!