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A mezuzah is a small oblong container made mostly of metal or wood, containing a parchment rolled into a scroll (klaf) on which two passages of the Torah, from the Book of Deuteronomy, are written by hand in Hebrew.

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This parchment is rolled from left to right, so that the text can be read from the beginning while unrolling. The mezuzah is attached to the door frame on the right, diagonally, so that the upper part faces the door. It was most often nailed there, when moving into the home or no later than within 29 days of settling there. The function of the mezuzah was to remind pious Jews entering their homes about how they should behave at home with their relatives and how to fulfil the commandments regarding the relationship between God and themselves, and, when leaving the house, about the requirements that the Torah sets for them in relation to people and the world. e The parchments stored inside the mezuzah are checked from time to time to see if they are not damaged in any way; in the case of mezuzahs in homes, this is done twice in seven years; while in public places, it is once every fifty years.
The mezuzah in the collection of the Regional Museum in Nowy Sącz isn decorated in an interesting manner. The front of the object is divided into 12 rectangular boxes, arranged in two columns. Convex symbols of the twelve Israeli tribes are placed in these alternately arranged blue and brown enamel backgrounds, surrounded by a framed. These tribes are descended from the twelve sons of Jacob, who divided the land of Israel among themselves. Their symbols are: a deer, the rising sun, tents, a jar with a sword, a tree, a lion, oars, a donkey, a grape, a ship, a fox, and a snake. At the bottom of the mezuzah, there is a twisted cord with little volutes at the ends and a hole for a nail in the middle; at the top, there is a Hebrew inscription and the letter shin, on the sides of which there are two holes for nails. Three fragments of a Hebrew text on parchment are attached to the mezuzah. In 1987, Albin Kac, a former resident of Nowy Sącz of Jewish descent, who currently lives in Israel, donated the mezuzah to the museum’s collection.



Elaborated by Edyta Ross-Pazdyk (Nowy Sącz District Museum), © all rights reserved

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“(...) 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...

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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),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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Mezuzah

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Mezuza [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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