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sharing our family programs with you

02/16/2013 05:34:57 PM


Recently, while the adults were downstairs at The Shul of New York’s joyous Shabbat service, the children celebrated Shabbat upstairs by learning about and creating their own mezuzot (plural for mezuzah).  The older kids in the group wrote their own original scrolls: ie “I love God because it gives me love”.  The younger children spelled out the Hebrew letters Shin Mem Ayin to spell the word “Shema” the Hebrew name of one of the prayers of the mezuzah, which means “Listen”.  When asked what the mezuzah was going to remind them of we heard:  “That it’s a Jewish home”, “That we are all one family”, “To be quiet”.  At first I was puzzled, when an almost 4 year old said that the mezuzah was going to remind him to be quiet.  Perhaps, because in order to listen, we need to be quiet first.

We chose to teach the children about the mezuzah because that week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, deals with the Hebrews entering the land of Israel, and the curses and otherwise horrific things that would happen if they did not follow God’s commandments.  Rather than focus on the reprimands, we decided to emphasize what it means to enter a new place, with the mezuzah being the Jewish symbol of entry.

On the right doorpost of almost every Jewish home you will find a small rectangular box positioned on a slight angle, called a mezuzah.  One interesting facet about the mezuzah has to do with it’s orientation - it was a matter of debate exactly how the mezuzah should be placed, whether horizontally or vertically.  Ultimately, it was chosen to hang the mezuzah diagonally as a compromise between the 2 positions.  Today, the exact way the compromise was reached is lost, but what an interesting result.   The customs of the quintessential symbol of a Jewish home are the result of a compromise.  

Many people think the mezuzah is the actual box on the doorpost. Actually, the mezuzah is the piece of parchment inside the box. On this parchment are two chapters from the Torah written in Hebrew by hand. The parchment is rolled into a scroll, wrapped in paper or plastic, inserted into the box, and affixed to the doorpost.   Included in these chapters is Deuteronomy 6:4, the Shema prayer, reaffirming that God is one, that we are all one.

Rabbi Burt says “I like to think of the Shema as affirming, of course, the One-ness of God. As we affirm the One-ness of God, we affirm the One-ness of the whole human family. God is the one Creator of all of the one humanity. And as we affirm the One-ness of God, we are affirming the One-ness and inter-connectedness of all Life. God, the One Source of Life, is the Source of the One-ness of all beings and all Being.”

Traditional Jews have a mezuzah on their doorpost because the Torah commands them to affix one on each doorpost of their homes.  As a Spiritual Jew, I see the mezuzah as a reminder to connect with the Source and to live a more spiritually attuned life, welcoming the opportunity to compromise when needed.  These are important life lessons, so we took the opportunity to make them accessible to kids by inviting them to make their own mezuzah, and suggest to see the mezuzah as a reminder of our sole soul purpose- to remember who we are, and to always remember the Godliness of everything and everyone in the Universe.

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Thu, July 16 2020 24 Tammuz 5780