RABBI TAMARA MILLER: The word mezuzah means doorpost. So in the Book of Deuteronomy, in the sixth chapter, it does say that we should put on our doorposts, on our gates of our homes, this mezuzah.

Most often the mezuzah will have the letter Shin. It stands for one of God’s names, which is Shaddai, which has been translated as “Almighty.”

Inside is the holy text that comes from the Book of Deuteronomy. We call it the Shema, which means “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one.” And then it continues to say what we should do, which is to love your Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your spirit. The text is always the same. It has to be on parchment.

post01-mezuzahIn order for it to be authentic, it has to be written by a holy person for whom this is their holy work. And so that mezuzah, what’s written on that parchment is a way of saying God, the universe, the holy is protecting us as we go in and outside of our homes.

Chanukat Ha’Bayit means dedication. Chanukat means “a dedication” of the Bayit, “of the home.” It’s important that people do witness your new home and be part of the ceremony.

The mezuzah is placed on the right-hand side of the doorpost, about a third of the way down, and in the homes of Ashkenazic Jews, Jews from Eastern Europe, they would have it slanting inside, towards the open of the door, towards the home. The Sephardic Jews that come from North Africa, they put it straight up and down.

If you only have one mezuzah, it should be placed outside. Then you can put a mezuzah on every door in your house, outside every room. The only place you’re not supposed to put it on is the bathroom.

An object such as the mezuzah is so accessible to people. You don’t have to go into the synagogue. You just have to go into your house, which is something that you do on a daily basis. I love the fact that it’s affixed, and it’s not movable, because that’s like God is our rock—always there, always affixed to our hearts.

  • Tim Gahan

    This is great stuff. As a Catholic I rarely explore other faiths and this was wonderful to hear the way Jewish put a daily reminder into thier life. We typically use a Chrucifix to do the very same thing…I would love to see if you could put together a comprehensive report that would grid all of the different practices of many religions and show the overlap as well as the stark differences.

    Love the show.

  • freedml

    :Shaddai seems to be derived from another word meaning breast, which implies that Shaddai signifies one who nourishes, supplies, and satisfies.” Please don’t translate a word if you aren’t going to give an honest translation.

  • freedml

    ‘a third of the way down’ isn’t right either if you have an especially short or tall doorway. It should be where it can be easily touched by most people, about 5′ above the ground.

  • freedml

    two more items:

    the video shows a woman touching the mezzuzah as she leaves the house. the tradition is to touch it on the way IN to the house.

    and, Bob, “yom” rhymes with ‘home’, not ‘mom’

  • BIll L

    This piece was very interesting and informative. Most people just walk past a mezuzah without noticing it, or sometimes wondering what the significance of it is, so it was nice to see a segment on this every day small piece of Jewish life.

  • medinauta

    freedml: She stated that Shaddai, “has been translated as “’Almighty’”, she is not giving the “meaning” of the word.

  • Ashira

    Rabbi Tamara,
    This is a really nice piece. I’m sorry for the detractor, but it’s often said that light attracts the dark, and the brighter your light shines, the more moths come to die in your flame. Your light shines very bright indeed. Thank you.