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.