Mezuzah Maven

For the week ending 13 January 2018 / 26 Tevet 5778

Constant and Universal Maven

by Rabbi Ze'ev Kraines
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Perching silently and unobtrusively on our doorposts, the mezuzah is far from a passive adornment or a talisman. Rather, we are challenged to engage with its message with our minds, and even with our emotions. Our encounter with the mezuzah is meant to ignite a spark of love deep within our hearts. The Rambam, accordingly, chose to incorporate the laws of mezuzah in The Book of Love, the second book of his monumental Mishneh Torah. As he explains in his introduction: “I will include within it [the book] all the mitzvot… which were commanded to us, so that we will love G-d and constantly remember Him.

This “constant remembrance” is a defining feature of the mezuzah. Once one affixes a mezuzah to his doorway, the mitzvah, its effect, and its reward keep pumping, while he goes about his daily life, and even while he sleeps. This quality, together with the fact that the mezuzah is incumbent on all Jews, indicates to us that G-d considers this mitzvah to be essential and indispensable to our lives. Women, as well as men, are obligated in the mitzvah, as it is not time-bound.Even children must be trained in its observance.

The classic work Chovos Halevavos illustrates this concept with a fascinating observation. It notes that in the Creator’s wisdom He has provided us with resources in proportion to their necessity. Because a constant supply of oxygen is an absolute prerequisite for survival, He has surrounded us with a vast atmosphere and arranged for its replenishment. Similarly, life-sustaining water is abundantly distributed around the globe and renewed through the rain cycle. In the same way, the constancy and the universality of the mezuzah indicate that its observance is crucial for our spiritual nourishment. Sefer HaChinuch asserts that with time the mezuzah’s very presence will inevitably have an effect on our character and inner awareness.

For this reason the Sages prescribe that we should place the mezuzah at the outermost handbreadth of the doorpost so that we will encounter it immediately upon entering. As the Rambam explains: “Whenever a person enters or leaves [the house], he will encounter the unity of the name of the Holy One, Blessed Be He, and remember his love for Him.

  • Sources: Rambam, Introduction to Mishneh Torah and Hilchot Sefer Torah 5:10, 6:13; Chovos HaLevavos, Sha’ar HaBechinah; Sefer HaChinuch, Positive Mitzvah 16; Menachot 33b

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