So a mezuzah sounds a little like a Hebrew folk dance, right? Maybe the Jewish equivalent of a German polka or Polish mazurka?
But you can’t hang a dance on your doorpost, and that’s where our new mezuzah resides.
By definition and practical usage, a mezuzah (Hebrew: מְזוּזָה “doorpost”; plural: מְזוּזוֹת mezuzot) is a piece of parchment, usually contained in a small wooden or metal case, that is inscribed with the words of the Shema from the Jewish Torah (known to Christians as the Pentateuch):
“Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one” is the clarion call of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the fundamental statement of Israel’s monotheistic faith. The passage continues with specific instructions.
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children.
“Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (New Living Translation)
Observant Jews take these words very seriously.
On our study tour of Israel the latter half of May, Mike and I noticed mezuzot of various types affixed to the doorframes leading into our hotel rooms – always shoulder-height and slanted towards the room.
We learned that mezuzot are so affixed to fulfill the mitzvah (biblical commandment) to inscribe the words of the Shema “on your doorposts” as Deuteronomy instructs. The inward-angle signifies that God and the Torah, symbolized by the mezuzah, are entering the room.
I love this imagery.
But Mike and I are not observant Jews but rather devoted Christ-followers. Is it kosher for us to hang a mezuzah on the most-used entrance to our home?
Most rabbis might say no, but then again Christians do not keep kosher Jewish dietary laws either.
Our mezuzah, purchased in a shop in Bethlehem from a Christian Arab proprietor, displays an ancient Christian ichthys symbol supporting a Star of David crowned by a menorah and the dove of the Spirit. We think of it as a messianic mezuzah symbolizing the fact that as believers in the Messiah, we have been grafted into the family of faith.
“But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.” (Romans 11:17)
And when we return home each evening, pausing briefly to touch the mezuzah as we enter our home?
As Mike commented this morning, “No one but God can see the tiny scroll of paper with Hebrew letters that mezuzah contains. We didn’t place it there because of some magical belief that its presence protects our home.
“For me, it’s a sign of confidence and dependence. Confidence in the One the Shema acknowledges as our God and Father. Dependence on the One He sent to purchase our redemption.”
A messianic mezuzah.
It’s a little like a divine dance on a doorpost, don’t you think?