“And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:9)
The mezuzah is a well-recognized, visible sign of a Jewish home or place of business that contains a powerful message.
Just as our bodies are the outer shell that houses the true essence of who we are, these sometimes elaborately decorated containers protect the holiness of God’s Word.
What exactly was the spiritual significance of the mezuzah for the ancient Israelites and what is it for us still today? Let’s take a look.
What’s Inside the Mezuzah?
Inside each mezuzah is a rectangular piece of parchment called a klaf, which is made from a specially prepared skin of a Biblically clean (kosher) animal.
The klaf is scribed with Hebrew lettering from key scriptures found in the holy Word of God: Deuteronomy 6:4–9 and Deuteronomy 11:13–21.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4–7)
The tiny scroll is then rolled up with the Scripture facing inward.
Often, the container displays the Hebrew letter shin on the outside, which stands for Shaddai (a name of God often translated as Almighty).
The three Hebrew letters that make up the name Shaddai — shin (SH) dalet (D) and yud (Y) — are often interpreted as an acronym standing for Shomer Daltot Yisrael (Keeper of the Doors of Israel).
The presence of a mezuzah on the doorposts of a house is a testimony that this is the dwelling place of people who honor God and are dedicated to His service.
As Joshua boldly declared, in preparation for leading the children of Israel into the Promised Land, “As for me and my household we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
The Meaning of Mezuzah
The Hebrew word mezuzah simply means doorpost; however, the doorpost of a house can be a sign of what a particular house epitomizes.
In Biblical times, the doorpost of a house, due to its visibility to the outside world, represented the family’s values and was a place to show identity.
“Then Moshe (Moses) called for all the leaders of Israel and said, ‘Select and take lambs for your families, and slaughter the Pesach (Passover) lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop leaves and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame. Then, none of you is to go out the door of his house until morning.’” (Exodus 12:21–22)
The angel of destruction would see the blood on the doorpost and “pass over” that home, instead of destroying it.
“For Adonai (the Lord) will pass through to kill the Egyptians; but when he sees the blood on the top and on the two sides, Adonai will pass over the door and will not allow the Slaughterer to enter your houses and kill you.” (Exodus 12:23)
The blood of the lamb (Yeshua) on the doorposts of our heart saves us from the wrath of God. By placing a mezuzah on the doorpost of our home, it gives witness to God, to the world, and to the adversary that this is a home that serves the one true God.
How the Custom Is Observed
Throughout Jewish history, this custom of writing God’s Word on the doorposts of our homes and businesses has been observed in various forms.
Archaeological digs at Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found) have discovered various kinds of mezuzot (plural of mezuzah).
After the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, the rabbis outlined instructions that detailed how to observe the custom of the mezuzah: how the parchment is to be written, which verses of the Torah to include, and how to attach it to the doorpost.
This mitzvah (commandment) can be literally fulfilled by inscribing the doorposts themselves with the Word of God. However, most Jewish people today would consider this a sacrilegious act.
Over time, a custom evolved that a small container would be attached to the doorpost containing the Word of God to the right side of a door, in the upper third of the doorpost at shoulder height.
Mezuzahs Have No Magical Powers
Sadly, some Jewish people today attribute magical powers to the presence of a mezuzah on the doorpost, which is a belief denounced by rabbinic authorities including the well-known Torah commentator and sage, Maimonides.
The mezuzah was never meant to become a magical charm or amulet on the door to ward off evil spirits.
Rather than a protective amulet, the mezuzah is meant to be a reminder to love God and worship Him alone.
As Maimonides wrote in the Mishneh Torah, an influential work in Jewish religious thought:
“There is no harm in writing Shaddai on the outside; but those who write on the inside the names of angels, or holy names, or verses or other formulae, will be among those who have no share in the world to come.
For these foolish people not only prevent the fulfilment of a great commandment, which has for its object, the remembrance of God’s unity, and the love for Him and the worship of Him, but they turn the Mezuzah into an amulet used for their own selfish interest, believing in their foolish hearts that it will protect their material possessions.”
Traditional Jewish Observance
“The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (Psalm 121:8)
The practice of affixing a mezuzah to the doorpost of one’s home has remained remarkably consistent even after thousands of years of history.
The mezuzah, in fact, is to be affixed to a new home or apartment as soon as possible, usually within 30 days of someone moving in. The affixation is a dedication to God as a means of sanctifying the dwelling place with the Word of God.
The mezuzah is held to the spot where it will be affixed, and the following blessing is recited:
Barukh atah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha‘olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu likboa‘ mezuzah.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His mitzvot, and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.
Observant Jewish People touch the mezuzah with their fingers and then kiss the fingers that touched the mezuzah as they go into a dwelling or place of business and as they go out.
It’s a way of honoring the Holy Scriptures and a reminder of God’s promise to watch over our comings and our goings both now and forevermore.
Because the important part of the mezuzah is the klaf (parchment), the design of the outer cases is something of an art form. This little box can take various creative shapes, sizes, and artistic designs, ranging from a toy car for a little Jewish boy’s room to various traditional Jewish themes.
Yeshua and the Mezuzah
When Yeshua (Jesus) was asked by a rabbi which commandment he considered the most important, he replied with the passage found in a mezuzah:
“Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. [Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one].” (Mark 12:29; Deuteronomy 6:4–5)
There is no specific reference to the mezuzah in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament); however, observing this custom can have significance for every follower of Yeshua (Jesus)—Jew and non-Jew alike.
The mezuzah may serve as a reminder in a Messianic home that we are called to “walk in the light as He is in the light.” (1 John 1:7)
Peter wrote of the value of reminders:
“I am trying to arouse you to wholesome thinking by means of reminders so that you will keep in mind….” (2 Peter 3:1–2)
Just as we use various reminder aids, like placing sticky notes on our bathroom mirrors or setting an alarm on our cell phones, God also uses reminders.
God realizes that with so many things vying for our attention, we need physical reminders of Him to bring His will into our daily lives.
For this reason, God also commanded the wearing of tzitzit (fringes) on the corners of our garments (Numbers 15:38); a thread of blue woven through the fringes reminds us of heaven.
The Shabbat, Festivals, and Holy Days of the Lord are also meant to be reminders of the great and mighty things God has done for us.
The Doorpost and Gate
“You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:9)
When we understand the significance of doorways and gates in Jewish culture, the words of Yeshua (Jesus) become even more meaningful. He said, “I am the gate ….” (John 10:7–10)
The door or gate was a vital place of entry for a sheep to enter into the protection and provision of its shepherd. At night, the shepherd would even guard his flock from predators with his whole body by lying across the entryway.
Yeshua wants us to know that He is the only legitimate entry point to the everlasting protection and provision of the Father.
When entering and exiting our home, we will have a physical reminder of the high calling that we have in Yeshua the Messiah:
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light…. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:8–11)
The mezuzah is a wonderful way to make our decision to follow God public knowledge. It reminds us of the Covenant we each have with the God of Israel. This is the God whom we serve.
When we affix the mezuzah, we rededicate ourselves, our homes, and our families to the Lord.
There on the doorpost for all to see, it proudly bears witness that we are a full-fledged member of the holy set-apart community of Believers who believe in the Word of God.
Please pray for the Jewish people, that the mezuzah on the doorposts of their homes will be a meaningful reminder to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.
And please pray that it does not become just an amulet that they touch and kiss for the sake of religious tradition and looking “religious” in the eyes of others.