What's in a Name?
Three Hebrew letters peek out from the back of a mezuzah scroll, casting a spiritual aura on the room. שד-י (Shin, Dalet, Yud). Sha-dai, pronounced in common speech as Shakai to avoid “overfamiliarity”, is one of the Divine Names found in several verses of the Torah. Because nothing may be added to the prescribed verses written on the front side, it is inscribed on the back of the parchment. The Zohar teaches that the placement of the Name on the back symbolizes that
This Divine Name symbolizes the power of the mezuzah to embrace a Jewish home with
Using this Name,
“And Avram was ninety-nine years old, and
Others interpret this “sufficiency” in another way. They say that the Name symbolizes that we should be satisfied with the material possessions within our homes.
In contrast, the great Torah commentator Ramban asserts that this Name derives from a Hebrew word meaning “conquest.” He explains that
Interestingly, we also form these same three letters when wrapping ourselves in tefillin. The letter shin is pinched into the leather of the head tefillin and wrapped on the back of our hand. The dalet is wound around our palm and knotted into our head straps at the nape of the neck. The knot touching the arm tefillin is a yud.
It is preferable to purchase transparent mezuzah covers, or at least ones that have a small plastic or glass “window” through which the Name is visible. This window is important, as it protects the Name from being erased over time by touching.
However, opaque covers are required in rooms where people are unclothed or near where diapers are changed. Opaque covers also offer better protection for outdoor mezuzot exposed to direct sunlight. The letter Shin is inscribed on opaque covers to hint that the full Name is hidden within.
Considering all of these themes, it is no wonder that the letters also allude to the assurance: “Shomer Dirat Yisrael” — The Guardian of the Dwelling of Israel.
- Sources: Zohar, Va’etchanan 266, cited in Beit Yosef 288:14; Sefer HaChareidim 66:127; Rema Y.D. 288:15; Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 286:5; Prishah Y.D. 288:16, citing Kol Bo