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In this week's Parsha, we read about the mitzva of teaching our children Torah; the mitzva of Tefillin; and the mitzva of Mezuza.

"And these words [the Torah], which I command you this day, shall be in your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children... And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand and... between your eyes. And you shall write them upon the posts of your house and your gates." (Va'etchanan 6:4-9)

On the doorposts of every Jewish home, you will find a little rectangular case. Inside that case is a Mezuza. It's there because the Torah commands us to affix a Mezuza on each doorpost in our homes.

What is a Mezuza?

In brief, the Mezuza consists of two passages of the Torah written (in Hebrew, of course) on one klaf (piece of parchment). The two passages are, "Shema Yisroel" and "Vehaya" (Devarim, [Deuteronomy] 6:4-9 and 11:13-21).

The parchment is then rolled into a scroll, wrapped in paper or plastic, usually inserted into a hard-plastic or metal case, and affixed on a slant to the upper part of the right hand door-post in a Jewish home. A Mezuza must be placed on each door-post of the house (except the bathrooms).

The writing of the Mezuza must be done by a Sofer (Scribe) in the same manner and script as a Torah. It is important to remember that the Mezuza is not the casing, but the written parchment. It is ironic that some people will buy an expensive case, but overlook the fact that the actual Mezuza is not kosher.

The essence of the mitzva of Mezuza is the concept of the Oneness of G-d. The very first verse written on the Mezuza is the Shema: "Shema Yisroel Hashem Elokaynu Hashem Echad - (Hear Yisroel, - Hashem is our G-d, - Hashem is the One and Only)"

It is customary, upon entering or leaving a residence, to touch the Mezuza. This reverence acknowledges our belief in the "Shema Yisroel" the Jewish declaration of faith, which expresses the unity of G-d, the duty of loving and serving Him with our whole being, and our obligation to observe the Mitzvot in and out of the home.

Q. What is the meaning of the word Mezuza?

A. "Mezuza" means "door post" for the Mezuza is placed on the doorpost. In olden days, an awl or other tool was used to gouge out a trough in the doorpost of the entryway to one's house. The scroll was inserted into the gouged-out space and plastered over. Today, it is customary to encase the Mezuza scroll in a decorative case.

In addition, the Hebrew word "Mezuzot," found in this Parsha, is written: mem, zayen, zayen, vav, tav. If we rearrange the letters we can spell the two words, "zaz mavet" which means "pushing away death."

Thus, a kosher Mezuza acts as protection even to the extent of saving from death! In Tehillim (Psalms) Dovid Hamelech (King David) says, "Hashem shall protect your exit and your entry from now and forever." Our Sages say that this applies to the Mezuza. It acts as a shield and protects people, not only when they are inside the home but also when they go out.

In time, the letters on a Mezuza may fade or crack, which renders the Mezuza not kosher. Thus, it must be checked at least twice in seven years.

Q. Why is the letter "Shin" written on the outside of the Mezuza cover?

A. "Shin" stands for the word "Shad-eye" which is one of Hashem's names. The word "Shad-eye" is spelled; shin, daled, yud. These three letter serves as an acronym for the words, "Shomer Daltei Yisrael" - "Hashem watches over the doors of Israel."

For more info about Mezuza, click here.

The Talmud says that a proper Mezuza offers protection of the home and tells the following wonderful story:

A special friendship existed between King Antoninus and Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi (known as Rebbi). Once King Antoninus sent Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi a precious stone as a gift. In return Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi sent him a Mezuza.

Antoninus was puzzled: "I sent you such an expensive gift and you send me a piece of parchment?"

To which Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi replied, "Your gift I will always have to guard to make sure that no one will steal it. But my gift to you, the Mezuza, will watch over you and protect you at all times!"

Keeping the Commandments of the Torah always brings blessings, and the Talmud says that keeping the Commandment of Mezuza brings long life and is a protection for the home.

The following true story speaks fo itself.

A (Mezuza) Case in Point
by Moshe Schapiro

Yated 8/24/00
Reprinted with Permission

Dr. Yaakov Orlean runs the blood bank in Bnei Brak's Maayanei Hayeshua Hospital. He is originally from the United States, and until not too long ago, he lived and worked in California.

One day he paid a visit to a well-known sofer stam (scribe) in Bnei Brak and ordered three exquisite Mezuza parchments. In fact, the source of this story is the Sofer Stam, who told it to Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein.

Dr. Orlean mentioned that he had some business to take care of in the United States and that he would be giving the Mezuzot as gifts to three former colleagues from California.

A few days later Dr. Orlean came to pick up the three Mezuzot. He carefully inserted each into a tastefully designed Mezuza cover and packed all three in his suitcase.

The first thing he did upon his arrival was drive over to his former colleagues homes and catch up on old times. They all lived on the same street, so it was very convenient for him to visit each of them. All three were thrilled to see him again, but their reactions upon receiving his gift were totally different.

The first doctor, Jack, was horrified when he finished unwrapping the gift paper and realized what it was he was holding in his hands.

"Why, thank you very much," Jack said, recovering somewhat from the initial shock. "A Mezuza! How unique. Yes, well, I will keep it right here in my desk drawer. Who knows? It may come in handy as a paperweight."

Dr. Orlean was not pleased.

"A paperweight?" He asked in astonishment. "Jack, for crying out loud, this is a Mezuza! You're supposed to attach it to a doorpost. You know as in, front door?"

" On my front door?" Jack asked with equal astonishment. "You've got to be kidding. Everyone will know I'm Jewish! No, no, that's out of the question. But thank you so much anyway. It's such a nice gift."

Dr. Orlean said goodbye and then strolled halfway down the block to colleague number two - Steven.

His reaction to the special gift from Israel was less severe.

"Oh, how nice, a Mezuza," Steven said after unwrapping the gift. "Just what I always wanted!" And he proceeded to slip it into his desk drawer.

"You know," Dr. Orlean, said in his tactful way, "the purpose of a Mezuza is to hang it on a doorframe. Actually, come to think of it, the bronze casing goes very well with the color scheme of your front entrance."

Steven didn't look thrilled. He agreed to post the Mezuza on a room in his house, but said he couldn't quite imagine posting it on the front door.

Dr. Orlean, after failing twice, made a third attempt and visited his friend a few houses down the street.

The third doctor, Michael, unwrapped his gift and was very excited to find the Mezuza and its beautiful case. He kissed the Mezuza, caressed the case and reveled in the fact that his gift came from the Jewish homeland.

Then, without being told to post it, Michael stood up, asked for the Bracha (blessing) and affixed the Mezuza on his front door.

Dr. Orlean was very proud, and considering his previous experiences, more than a little surprised at the doctor's reaction. But not wanting to undo the good deed that had been done, he decided not to press the issue.

Upon his return home to Eretz Yisroel, Dr. Orlean heard about a terrible earthquake that had hit California just days after he left. Numerous homes had sustained damage, and some had been demolished.

Dr. Orlean couldn't help but wonder what had happened to his three friends. When he found out their fate, he was astonished by the news.

Massive winds had ravaged Jack's house, leaving it completely destroyed. Nothing remained standing except the foundation.

Steven's house suffered immense damage, save for one room - the one where the Mezuza hung.

And Michael's house, situated along the same street as Dr. Orlean's other two colleague's homes, stood fully intact.

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