The Mezuzah (also: Mezuza, plural: Mezuzot) is a rectangular piece of parchment enclosed in a case. The parchment contains text from the passages of the Torah that prescribe the use of the Mezuzah, in which Tefillin are also prescribed.
The Mezuzah must be fastened to the right outer doorpost of every Jewish dwelling, such as a house or apartment.
The first set of verses are the Shema Yisrael prayer:
The second set of verses tie the Jewish people to the land of Israel
DEUTERONOMY 11:17 And then the LORD's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
DEUTERONOMY 11:18 Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
DEUTERONOMY 11:19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
DEUTERONOMY 11:20 And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
DEUTERONOMY 11:21 That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.
The verses are written in twenty-two lines according to the same rules use for Teffilin The parchment is rolled up and placed in a wooden or metal case. This is fastened, diagonally, to the upper part of the right-hand door-post, so that the upper part is inward and the lower part is away from the door. The outer side of the top of the parchment is inscribed with the name of God. In some cases a glass covered opening shows this word. The mezuzah is written on the same sort of parchment as a Torah. If a single letter is missing, the mezuzah may not be used. The text is usually written in twenty-two equally spaced lines . Orthodox Jews touch the and kiss the mezuzah as they pass through the threshold. The mezuzah must be put on the outer door of every residence, and it is fastened with the prayer: "Blessed art Thou our God, King of the world, who has sanctified us by Thy commandments and hat commanded us to fasten the mezuzah." On entering and leaving the house the pious touch the mezuzah with the hand, and recite the prayer: "May God keep my going out and my coming in from now on and ever more." The mezuzah must not be touched with unclean hands. It is inspected from time to time to make sure of its correctness.
In Israel, it is customary to affix a Mezuzah immediately before inhabiting a house or apartment, while in the Diaspora this must be done within thirty days.
At one time, the Mezuzah was confounded with charms used to war off the evil spirits, as noted in the Talmud. Mysterious words were written on the insides of the Mezuzah such as names of angels and the nonsense phrase "Kozo bemuksaz Kozo." Maimonides warned that such conceptions and additions are idolatrous and incorrect, but the idea has not completely vanished.
Some photos courtesy of ajudaica
Copyright 2007 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism-Israel Center