“(...) and you will write them upon the gates and upon the front door of your house”

According to the Jewish religious law, immediately after moving into a new house or flat (in the case of a rented one – no later than within 29 days) on the right side of the entrance door (at 2/3 of the doorway height) a mezuzah should be placed, with a slight tilt left towards the interior of the apartment, and nailed solidly in place. Even today, you can find an oblique trace of its presence on the front door of houses that Polish Jews inhabited not so long ago.
What is the function of this longitudinal container, often beautifully decorated, usually made of metal, but also of wood or glass?
Well, inside the mezuzah there is a bundle of parchment (klaf , rolled from left to right, so that it can be read while unfolding it) with two, handwritten fragments from the Book of Deuteronomy. The custom of placing it on the door frame is already explained by the first of the fragments placed in the mezuzah:

“Hear, O Israel! the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. And thou shalt love the Lord – thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart. and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes” (6: 4–9).

The treatment of the mezuzah as an amulet that protects the home against evil spirits is a myth that comes from folk beliefs. The commandment to place it is closely related to the remembrance of God’s presence and his commandments. The devout Jew, when crossing the threshold of the house, touches it with two fingers of his right hand, with which he then touches his lips. This gesture expresses love and respect for God and the whole religious tradition whose sharing mezuzah emphasises.
Its name comes from the Hebrew word מזוזה (door). Most of the mezuzots (plural of the word „mezuzah”), also displayed on our portal, are marked with the letter shin ש, the first letter of the word  Shaddai, which is one of the names of God.  The Hebrew El Shaddai means “God Almighty”.

Elaborated by: Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums),
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 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.