What Makes My Home Jewish?

There are many ways to interpret a front door mezuzah:

» It fulfills a commandment
» It says, “Jews live here”
» It is a sort of amulet, providing protection
» It is a Jewish folk custom
» It defines the boundary of sacred Jewish space.

All of those are valid ways to view a mezuzah on the doorpost to the entry to a Jewish house.

The last item is the way I see the mezuzah by my front door. When I cross that threshold I move from the ordinary world into sacred space. Out in the ordinary world, Saturday is a day for shopping, errands, and sports. In my home, and in the synagogue, Saturday is Shabbat, a time for love and prayer, study and joy. Out in the ordinary world, December trundles onward towards Christmas and New Year’s Eve: shopping malls are crowded, and the tension is rising. Inside my home, we are recovering from Chanukah, still cleaning bits of wax or oil from unlikely places. I’m thinking about the winter course offerings at Lehrhaus Judaica.

My Jewish home is a refuge from the world. It is not entirely separate: I watch TV, listen to the news, read newspapers on the Internet, but all of those things can be turned down or even off. Home is a place of peace for me and for family and guests. It is exclusively Jewish space: whatever goes on outside, inside we’re Jewish.

There are books and art, religious objects and food, that make it obvious this is a Jewish home. But what makes it a Jewish home is attitude, and that is the message my mezuzah sends:  this is a Jewish space.

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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at http://coffeeshoprabbi.com/ and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

4 thoughts on “What Makes My Home Jewish?”

  1. Thank you for this article, Rabbi. It really hits the soul. I moved into an apartment several years ago, and our mezuzah made me feel at home, in our own little sanctuary. Unfortunately, it was stolen several months ago. I came back from a trip to the grocery store, and there was nothing left except tiny little holes in the door frame. My son bought me another one, and I was afraid it, too, would be stolen, so I asked my Rabbi if I could put it on the inside instead, and she agreed with me. Once it was gone, I realized more than ever how important it was to me. I felt wonderful and whole again when the new one was put up. Another Jewish woman lives in this building, but her mezuzah was not touched. Thanks again.

    1. How upsetting! I am glad that you and your rabbi came up with a more secure solution.

      We know from Tractate Sukkot of the Talmud that one receives no merit from a mitzvah performed using stolen goods. That mezuzah is no good to those who stole it, for whatever cold comfort that may be.

      Thank you for reading and for sharing your story.

  2. To me, a mezzuzah feels like a blessing on my house and the people within, with every entry and exit. It’s a way of adding intentionality to my home space. ‘Hey, you place and people I love, blessings and peace.’

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