Friday, July 22, 2005

Mezuzah: The Straight and Narrow of It

I grew up in a household that had brass and olivewood mezuzot on its doorframes; some were old-looking, the likes of which you don't see too much anymore, others were more modern. But they were there and they sat at an angle, staring down at us, beckoning us to kiss them, or daring us not to.

Unfortunately, I wasn't always heeding the mezuzah's call for a kiss. But for sure upon traveling, I'd be reminded by my father, "Kiss the mezuzah when you leave the house." Those words were like a mantra, the action became a habit. Kiss the mezuzah before taking a trip; make extra sure to kiss it when you step back over your familiar and welcoming threshhold. Thank G-d that you were able to go in peace, and come home in peace, and be able to kiss the mezuzah once again. That was not said to me, but that was indeed the silent message.

When I married, I lived in an apartment for about a year and then we bought our first home. It was not considered a starter home, and thus was a considerable size with four levels. When the sale went through, one of my earliest thoughts was: "How many mezuzot will we need for this house?" It wasn't so much the mezuzah cover I was worried about, it was the klafs, the parchments, which can be costly once you have a number of mezuzot. That house, we decided, had twenty-one doorposts that would need to be covered, both literally and figuratively. The great debate came with the garage: Do we put one on, do we not? The "not" won out at that time.

It was a great pleasure over the years in that house to raise three children and train them in Yiddishkeit, holding them solidly in our arms as we positioned them close to the mezuzot so they could learn to kiss them. Each year the children grew taller and closer to the more ways than the obvious.

When we moved homes a couple years ago, we decided to "straighten out our lives" by changing our mezuzot from sitting on an angle to sitting straight and tall. After all, this is the Sefardic minhag, custom, and although my husband was raised very Ashkenazic, he is Sefardic, and as I married him, I too am Sefardic.

These days there is a mezuzah on both our garage doors; these days, my children take great pleasure in being able to reach and touch the home's mezuzot by themselves; these days I look at our many mezuzot and think, "Don't forget to kiss the mezuzah on the way in...or out...from anywhere."


Anonymous said...

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B'shalom, Ellen A.

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