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One of the Judaica items that is used by all Jews regardless of their observance level is the Mezuzah. The hanging of a Mezuzah is a positive commandment that is mentioned in the Torah and is also the simplest way to identify a house as being owned by a Jew as the Mezuzah sits prominently on the interior and exterior doorposts of a house. The Mezuzah is mentioned in the Torah in several places, but appears specifically in the Books of Exodus and Deuteronomy.
What is a Mezuzah?
The term Mezuzah actually refers to a doorpost but it now refers to the scroll that is placed inside of an ornament and hung on the upper right section of a doorpost. The scroll is a piece of parchment that has the text of the first two sections of the Shema - the Jewish Declaration of Faith – written on it. The Mezuzah cover, also known as a Mezuzah Case, holds the scroll and is affixed to a doorpost via two screws.
Mezuzah cases can be made of almost any material imaginable, from plastic and wood to sterling silver, glass and even stone. Precious metals such as gold are usually not used in the body of a Mezuzah case because of their expensive nature and weaker composition in comparison to metals such as nickel and copper, but are frequently used as accenting pieces.
Mezuzahs can be decorated with a massive range of themes, from traditional to modern. The one thing all Mezuzot share is a name of G-d that is represented by the Hebrew letters Shin, Daled and Yud and is typically abbreviated with the first letter, a Shin.
The most common traditional Judaica themes include views of Jerusalem, the Seven Species for fruit and grains that Israel is known for, Menorahs, floral patterns and Stars of David. Some less common but never the less popular designs include Kabbalistic writings. Mezuzahs may also be decorated with crystals or stones that are aligned in four rows of three stones in a replica of the Choshen, the breastplate the High Priest – or Kohen Gadol – wore when serving in the Temple. All of these designs somehow incorporate the Hebrew letter Shin, either by making it part of the design or overlaying it in some manner.
Mezuzahs can also be placed in cases that have non-traditional decorations as well. These cases are perfect for children beginning to learn about their heritage and are decorated with items that interest children such as building blocks, cars, butterflies, sports equipment and flowers, to name a few. These cases are usually brightly colored and have the same Shin, but it is usually stylized in some manner to be appropriate for a child.
Mezuzahs are usually not personalized, although they may be engraved with a name. Some couples have the glass that was broken during their wedding ceremony – the Chuppah – melted down and reshaped into a Mezuzah.
For More InformationFor more information on Mezuzahs, Judaica, or synagogue items, feel free to contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.
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Mezuzah, in Hebrew, means "doorpost". However, in today’s Modern Hebrew, as well as in other languages, it is more widely used to refer to the covered scroll parchment that Jews fix on their doorposts, as the Torah explicitly commands to do. This parchment contains a number of Biblical verses that laud God and His oneness and remind us of the miracles He performed for us, like the splitting of the sea and other events pertinent to the most famous Exodus in history. The Mezuzah scroll must be written by a professional scribe and is placed in a Mezuzah case, of which there are many, many types.
Certian religious items such as Prayer Shawls are worn in different enviornments depending on the sect of Judaism. For example, more religious Jews will wear the Tallit in the synagogue during services. Unlike Tallitot and other religious items that are used only by fully observant Jews, the Mezuzah is often used across the different movements and streams of Judaism, from reform to ultra-orthodoxy. Mezuzahs can be found in abundance in Judaica and online stores, and the only things you have to do are determining your budget and making sure the parchment is kosher. Once the former has been determined, you can start shopping around and being overwhelmed by a sea of possibilities.
Because Mezuzahs have to be affixed on all the doorposts in your home, you can buy Mezuzahs of several types to fit the "nature" of each room. At the main entrance to your house you may want, for instance, a beautiful sterling silver or ceramic Mezuzah; such Mezuzahs always make a good impression when first entering a house. For couples with children, there are modern Mezuzahs that confer a feeling of playfulness even before entering the room itself. These Mezuzahs are usually not expensive since they are made of comparatively cheap materials, such as plastic or even Fimo, which is a brand of polymer clay.
Among the popular types of Mezuzahs are the stunning glass Mezuzahs. These are often homemade and can be clear or colorful, silver or gold-studded, expensive or inexpensive; the list is long.
One of the things you need to keep in mind is the fact that the Mezuzah scroll will often count for the majority of the cost. Depending on the type and size of the parchment, prices range from twenty to over a hundred dollars. Factors affecting the price include the size of the parchment and the type of the parchment. For example, the clearer the parchment is, the more clearly the written passages can be seen. Additionally, when choosing a Mezuzah scroll, take heed of the different customs, for instance, Ashkenazi versus Sephardic Mezuzah. As always, if you are unclear on any issues of customs and legitimacy (kosher), you should consult a certified authority.