Lesson Planning

Related Kits:
Mezuzah Case Kit

Origins and Contents of the Mezuzah
Take a bunch of hyssop...and apply some of the blood (of the passover offering) to the lintel and the two door-posts… For when the Lord goes through to smite the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, and the Lord will pass over the door and not let the Destroyer enter and smite your home.
—Exodus 12:22-23

Thus, the Israelites marked their doorposts to identify and protect their homes from the final plague to be visited upon the Egyptians on the eve of the Exodus from Egypt.
There is a story that Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi once received a priceless pearl as a gift from his friend King Arteban of Parthia. Rabbi Yehuda reciprocated with a plain mezuzah. The king was outraged and told Rabbi Yehuda, “You insult me! I sent you a magnificent gem, and you reciprocate with a worthless trifle!” Rabbi Yehuda responded, “The gift you gave me is so valuable it must be guarded, while the gift I have sent you will guard you, even when you sleep.”

Jews post mezuzot to fulfill the commandment, “You will write them (the words of the shema) on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” As in the story of Pesach and the story of Rabbi Yehuda, the mezuzah is a constant reminder of God’s protective spirit both inside and outside the home. The mezuzah also indicates to others that a home is Jewish, and it serves to remind the occupants of a home of the mitzvot they can do to honor God. Therefore, it is customary for a Jew to touch the mezuzah as she/he enters or leaves a Jewish home.

The word mezuzah, which means “doorpost,” usually refers to the parchment of klaf which is contained in a case which may be simple or ornate. On this parchment are written Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, the Shema and V’Haya.

There are many laws that must be followed in order for a mezuzah to be kosher. a specially trained scribe, or sofer writes the two paragraphs in twenty-two lines. He write it in the calligraphy of the Torah with a feather pen and special ink on kosher parchment. The letters cannot touch each other, and he cannot write it from memory, but must copy it from a written text. He writes Shadai on the back of the parchment. Shadai translates as “Almighty,” but the letters also stand for Shomer Dlatot Yisrael, “Guardian of the Doors of Israel.” The parchment is then rolled from left to right, so that when it is unrolled the first words to appear are Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel). Photocopies, found with many store-bought mezuzah cases, or homemade copies are not acceptable from the standpoint of kashrut.

There are few rules governing the mezuzah case, but it must be possible to open it so that the klaf can be periodically removed and inspected by a sofer or trained rabbi. It should be inspected upon purchase and twice every seven years for deviation, deletion, and deterioration of the letters due to cracking or fading from weather or aging.

Many cases are made with an opening through which the word Shadai can be seen. Lacking this, it is customary to have either the letter shin or the word Shadai written on the outside of the case. The mezuzah case may be very plain, however Gemarah teaches Jews to follow the passage from the Torah, “Zeh Keyli V’anveyhu—This is my God, and I will make things beautiful for Him.” Thus, a Jew should strive to have a beautiful mezuzah case, beautiful candlesticks, a beautiful seder plate, etc. The mezuzah case has long been a favorite subject of Jewish artisans for creative embellishment.

Finding a Kosher Klaf for the Mezuzah
In purchasing a kosher klaf, be sure you obtain it from a reputable dealer. Check with your rabbi, local Jewish bookstore, or a directory such as “The Jewish Yellow Pages” in the Second Jewish Catalog, under Calligraphers. Some calligraphers will be qualified to do mezuzot and some will not.

A mezuzah is hand-written by the same method as a Torah scroll (see above). And while the cost may seem high at first, not only is it a matter of kashrut, but one should remember that to produce a genuine, kosher mezuzah requires great skill, time and kavanah (purity of intent; focus,) which makes it a full-time occupation for those who dedicate themselves to the task. The price one pays for an authentic klaf allows the sofer (scribe) to earn but a modest living. Please support these dedicated scribes and promote the use of kosher mezuzot—a mechanically reproduced copy is no substitute for the real thing!

Dedication of the Home—Chanukat HaBayit
Proper Mounting of the Mezuzah
Every doorway with two doorposts and a lintel, except a bath or closet, and almost every arch of a Jewish home or business requires a mezuzah, though no blessing, or bracha, is necessary for an archway. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Choose a psalm to recite from 15:1-5, 101:1-8, 127:1-5, or 128:1-6.
2. Before affixing the mezuzah to the doorpost, recite the following blessings. One need recite the blessing only once for all mezuzot put up at once.

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu likbo’a mezuzah.

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us
with His commandments, and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam shehecheyanu v’kiymanu v’higiyanu lazman hazeh.

Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Ruler of the universe, who has kept us in life,
sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.

3. Affix the mezuzah on the right doorpost as one enters with the top, the shema, leaning into the room. It should be attached in the upper third of the doorpost, about shoulder height. It must be permanent.

Once the mezuzah is up, it must be left up, even if the occupants move, unless they know for certain that the new occupants are not Jewish.

Related Activities and Lessons

1. Use the Mezuzah Case Kit to enrich your curriculum by combining the project with the following activities:

2. Pesach/Passover—the story of the marking of the doorposts

3. The Shema – Read, memorize and/or write out the Shema and V’ahavta.

4. Hebrew Calligraphy—The Art of the Scribe

a) Examine a sefer torah.
b) Examine a mezuzah klaf.
c) Bring a Sofer to talk to the class and demonstrate.
d) Bring a calligraphy artist to talk to the class and show her/his work.
e) Do a Hebrew calligraphy project—a “blow-up” of a klaf, or other content.

5. Chanukat HaBayit

a) Mount a mezuzah on the classroom door.
b) Mount a mezuzah on a congregation member’s new home.
c) Visit Jewish residents at a nursing or retirement home and mount mezuzot on their doors.

Copyright 2005-2012, Marc Glickman, PO Box 1904, Frederick, MD 21702. Phone/Fax: 301-695-4375