What is a Mezuzah? A mezuzah is a scroll (a klaf in Hebrew) inscribed with two biblical passages. It is enclosed in a mezuzah case which is affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes as a reminder of God’s commandments and as a symbol of protection.

The practice of affixing mezuzahs to doorposts is mentioned in the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. In Deuteronomy 6:9, God commands the Israelites to “write them [the words of the law] upon the doorposts of thy house, and upon thy gates.”

The magic of the mezuzah is that Jews of all denominations have a connection to it.

  A mezuzah case by the Israeli artist Carmel Shabi (1939 – 2002) with an incised Hebrew letter ‘shin’, Sterling silver 1994

Is a Mezuzah written by hand or printed? The mezuzah scroll is written by a religious Jewish scribe (sofer) using a quill pen and ink made from gall nuts. The parchment is made from the skin of a kosher animal, such as a lamb or goat. The mezuzah cannot have any mistakes, defects or wear and should be checked regularly.

 

 

A mezuzah scroll handwritten in Hebrew by a religious Jewish scribe (the scroll is certified to be kosher by a Rabbinic authority)

What is the text of the Mezuzah? The two biblical passages that are inscribed in Hebrew on the mezuzah scroll are the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) and the Vehaya (Deuteronomy 11:13-21). The Shema is a declaration of faith in one God, and the Vehaya is a description of the blessings that God will bestow on those who obey His commandments.

Where is a Mezuzah case placed? The mezuzah is placed on the right doorpost of a Jewish home and in many Jewish homes, mezuzahs are placed on every doorpost in the home with a few exceptions. 

 

  What is a Mezuzah case made of? Historically, mezuzah cases were simple and made of wood or an inexpensive metal such as tin. Only wealthy Jews could afford mezuzahs made of precious metals. Today, mezuzah cases are made of many materials including sterling silver, brass, bronze, copper, pewter, glass, wood and ceramic.

A 19th century wooden Eastern European wooden mezuzah from the Gross Family Collection. For more examples of 19th Century mezuzahs, visit https://cja.huji.ac.il/gross/search.php?submited=submited&free_text=mezuzah

 

How are Mezuzah Cases made? Mezuzah cases were initially made by hand of wood or tin but today many are made in factories. On mezuzahcollector.com we will introduce you to artists who design and make their mezuzah cases by hand. Imagine artists who come up with an idea for a mezuzah and then make it in their workshop by hand, one at a time. In many cases, the designs are unique but in some cases, the designs are very popular (such as Laura Cowan’s Apollo mezuzah).

Why do some people kiss a Mezuzah? The custom of touching and kissing a mezuzah when entering a room is a centuries old tradition that is practiced by many Jews today (touch the mezuzah and kiss the fingers that touched the mezuzah). Some people hold their young children and have them kiss a mezuzah before they go to bed at night. This is a simple way of showing one’s connection to God and the Jewish faith and asking God for a blessing and protection.

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