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Mezuzah (literally means a "doorpost" in Hebrew, plural: mezuzot) refers to
one of the 613 commandments in Judaism, which requires that a small parchment
(klaf) inscribed with two sections from the Torah's Book of Deuteronomy (6:4-9
and 11:13-21) be affixed to each doorpost and gate in a Jewish home, synagogue,
Thus the word mezuzah can refer to any of the following:
Halakha (Jewish law) prescribes in detail the affixing of mezuzot on doorposts.
Since almost every Jewish home has a mezuzah on its front doorpost, it has
historically been a way of recognizing a Jewish home.
- Simply a doorpost of a permanent door, gate, or arch.
- The special parchment with the required Hebrew inscriptions.
- The small case or box that typically covers the parchment. (The parchment can
be affixed directly to the door, though usually a case is used in order to
protect it. It is important to be aware, though, that a case without a valid
mezuzah scroll inside cannot be used to fulfill this mitzvah.) The case
generally features the Hebrew letter shin inscribed on its upper exterior.
Artistic mezuzah cases are often given as gifts for weddings and other special
The wording on the mezuzah's parchment is taken from the Shema Yisrael ("Hear O
Israel") prayer, similar to the parchments inside Tefillin (phylacteries).
Affixing the mezuzah
According to Halakha, the mezuzah should be placed on the right side of the door
(from the point of view of one entering the building or room), on the lower part
of the upper third of the doorpost (or, for high doorways, around shoulder height),
within approximately 3 inches of the doorway opening. A minority opinion is that
the mezuzah should be affixed on the side opposite of the hinge. In either case,
Halakha requires that mezuzot be affixed within 30 days of the Jewish resident or
residents moving into the home. The case should be permanently affixed with nails,
screws, glue, or strong double-sided tape. Great caution should be exerted not to
puncture, rip, or crack the parchment or the wording on it, since this would
invalidate the mezuzah entirely.
Where the doorway is wide enough, Ashkenazi Jews tilt the case so that the top
slants toward the room the door opens into. (This is done to accommodate the variant
opinions of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam as to whether it should be placed horizontally
or vertically.) Other Jews always place the case vertically.
The procedure is to hold the mezuzah against the spot upon which it will be affixed,
then recite a blessing:
Barukh atah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha'olam, asher qid'shanu b'mitz'votav vitziuanu
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His
mitzvot, and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.
Any Jew is permitted to perform this blessing, regardless of whether or not he or
she is of the age of majority so long as he or she is old enough to understand the
significance of this mitzvah.
After the blessing is made, the mezuzah is attached. When affixing many mezuzot,
the blessing is made only before affixing the first mezuzah, while having in mind
that that first blessing applies to the affixing of all the other mezuzot.
Observant Jews affix mezuzot on all the doors of their homes, with the exception
of bathrooms, very small rooms (e.g., closets) and temporary structures (e.g. sukkot).
The garage door is not exempt from having a mezuzah. Gates for outdoor fences require
a mezuzah, if there is an overhead lintel. If there is no overhead lintel, a mezuzah
is not required.
The city gates of Jerusalem have huge mezuzot that were affixed after the Old City
came under Israeli control after the Six-Day War in 1967.