Mezuzah Buying Guide, What is a Mezuzah
What is a Mezuzah?
A Mezuzah is a beautiful and special Jewish object used to mark the doorposts of Jewish homes. Originating in the Torah, Mezuzahs consist of two parts - the Mezuzah case and the Mezuzah parchment called a klaf. The klaf contained inside the case is inscribed with specific Hebrew verses: sections of the Shema prayer beginning with the famous words, Shema Yisrael. While there are many strict and complex laws surrounding the preparation of the Mezuzah scroll, the cases that protect them don't require any particular specifications. In general, Mezuzah cases are often decorative and can be made of a multitude of materials ranging from simple plastic cases to ornate masterpieces made from sterling silver, stone, wood, glass, and more.
Mezuzahs have two purposes: They serve to remind those entering and leaving of the covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people, and they identify one's dwelling as a Jewish household. Mezuzah parchments are written by highly trained and qualified scribes called Sofers who carefully pens each individual letter to perfection. Once the klaf is complete, the parchment is rolled up and placed inside the Mezuzah case, though the case is not sealed permanently as it is recommended that parchments be checked for damage or defects at least once or twice every seven years. The Mezuzah case is affixed to the top third of a doorway on the right, right side up, with the top of the Mezuzah tilting towards the inside of the room. It is customary to keep Mezuzot affixed to every doorway except for bathrooms and small closets.
What is a Kosher Mezuzah?
In order for a Mezuzah to be considered kosher, it must contain a kosher mezuzah scroll. A kosher scroll is one that has been meticulously handwritten by a Sofer, or expert scribe according to halacha, or Jewish law. Preparing a Mezuzah scroll is a very precise and challenging process as even the tiniest imperfection can render the scroll unsuitable. There cannot be any cracks or flaws in the parchment, every single letter must be formed perfectly, and the scroll should be written with the proper intention. A kosher Mezuzah scroll may not be printed, and only one side of the parchment is fully inscribed. On the opposite side of the scroll, only a single word is written: "Sha-dai," one of the three-letter names of G-d and a Hebrew acronym for "Shomer Daltot Yisrael," which means, "Guardian of Israel's doors." When the Mezuzah parchment is rolled up, this is the only word that is left visible. It is for this reason that many Mezuzah cases are marked with the Hebrew letter Shin, as it is the first letter of "Sha-dai," though some cases feature the full word.
What Do You Do with a Mezuzah?
The purpose of the Mezuzah is to be hung on the doorposts and entrances of one's home to fulfill the obligation that one must "write the words of G-d on the gates and doorposts of your home," (Deuteronomy 6:9). This mitzvah, or biblical commandment, comes directly from the Torah, which explains why the practice of hanging Mezuzot is one that is so widely followed by Jews around the world, even by many who consider themselves religiously non-observant Jews. Additionally, there is also a common custom to kiss one's hand and touch the Mezuzah as one enters and exits rooms with Mezuzot though simply affixing mezuzot to one's doorways is enough to fulfill the mitzvah.
Do Mezuzahs Make Good Gifts?
Of course! While some homeowners prefer to select their own Mezuzah Cases, plenty of people appreciate the thoughtfulness of receiving a stunning new Mezuzah as a gift. Mezuzahs make very personal and meaningful gifts, especially for engagements, weddings, and housewarmings. You could even get a nice child's mezuzah to celebrate the birth of a new baby!
What Should I Look For When Shopping for a Mezuzah?
Mezuzahs come in every shape, size, material, and color imaginable so it can be a bit overwhelming to know which one to choose. While choosing a Mezuzah is mostly a matter of personal taste, here are a few helpful tips for you:
- Method of Hanging - before shopping for a Mezuzah, consider how you will hang it. Some Mezuzahs are designed with holes so you can nail them directly to your doorpost, others are designed to be hung using double-sided tape or some other stick-on method. This is an important feature to take note of as it will affect the condition of the doorposts you are attaching the Mezuzah to. It may be preferable to select a Mezuzah that can be stuck onto the doorpost and removed later if you are renting your home or preparing to move houses. If you own your home or are looking to permanently hang a Mezuzah, then Mezuzahs that can be nailed to the door may be the better option for you.
- Location - while looking for the right Mezuzah, keep in mind whether it will be placed indoors or outdoors. Mezuzah cases are made to protect delicate Mezuzah scrolls, however, not all cases can survive long-term in certain conditions and can get ruined if not treated properly. While almost any kind of Mezuzah case can be used indoors, if you're shopping for an Outdoor Mezuzah, look for a Mezuzah case that seals tightly to prevent moisture and debris from entering and damaging the scroll inside. A good, sturdy case made from a durable material like stone, cement, glass, or strong metals will not only be safer for your scroll, but will also be able to withstand exposure to corrosive weather conditions like wind, rain, and dust better than a more decorative case made primarily for indoor use.
- Size - before buying a Mezuzah, make sure to measure the doorpost you intend to hang it on. Mezuzahs come in many dimensions and you'll want to look for one that will fit well on your doorpost. If you already have a Mezuzah scroll you'd like to use, make sure to choose a Mezuzah case that it can fit into. It doesn't matter if the space for the scroll is bigger than the scroll itself, just as long as it is properly covered and protected when you hang the Mezuzah. Alternatively, if you're looking to buy a brand new Mezuzah Case with a scroll inside, all of the ones we feature in our store come with options to include an appropriately sized scroll that'll fit inside the Mezuzah you choose. Or, if you're only interested in getting Mezuzah scrolls for cases you have lying around at home, we also offer a great selection of high-quality Mezuzah Scrolls that you can choose from. Simply measure the parchment cavity of your existing Mezuzah Cases and select the correct size scroll from our options and we'll make sure it gets to you no matter where you live! We hope these tips will help you find the right Mezuzahs for you!
What style Mezuzah would be best for me?
We sell all kinds of Mezuzahs, each unique and spectacular, but some of our most popular bestsellers are our gorgeous Designer Mezuzahs featuring designs inspired by traditional motifs such as Tree of Life, Hoshen, Jerusalem, Star of David, Hamsa, Pomegranate, Scripture, and more. You'll find hundreds of stunning Mezuzahs in every style and material made by Israel's finest artists so browse away! The Mezuzah of your dreams is no doubt only a few clicks away so enjoy exploring our many beautiful products and discovering the perfect Judaica treasure from Israel sooner than later!
Do you sell wholesale Mezuzot?
Yes! If you have a large project needing more than 25 Mezuzot, contact us directly and see how we can meet your Mezuzot needs!
If this handy Mezuzah Buying Guide helped you find the perfect Mezuzah Case and Scroll for your needs, then be sure to check out some of our other great buying guides such as this one for Shofars or this one on buying the perfect Tallit to get more useful information on shopping for traditional Jewish Judaica!