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God Bless This Home

Freda Isaksen

Every family cherishes a wish that their home will be blessed. Of course every religion will express this wish according to their own ethnic belief, be it by an outward expression of prayer or by silent observance of the Deity.

In the Jewish religion it is observed by a visual recognition to a Supreme Being. Specifically, in every observant home a symbol is nailed to the doorpost of the main entrance to the house. The mezuzah, as it is called, is a vertical box about four to six inches in length and two inches wide and can be made in virtually any material such as ceramic, wood or metal, there is no restriction to its design. The important requirement is that inside the box a paper or parchment scroll is placed on which is written in Hebrew the prescribed words that describe God’s blessing on the home and its inhabitants. These words must be kosher as specifically stated by the sages of old. It is affixed on a slant from left to right.

A pious Jew will observe it every time he enters the home by touching it and then placing his fingers to his lips as if bestowing a kiss from God, maybe a prayer is murmured. In my home we believe that we will be blessed by our daily deeds of righteous living, so although the symbol is always there as a reminder as we enter our home we do not need to constantly seek its blessing. The mezuzah is a symbol that this is a Jewish home and the inhabitants will live in the tradition of their forefathers.

I recently painted the exterior of my house, the mezuzah was temporarily removed so that the doorpost could receive a fresh coat of paint. Because my birthday was approaching I suggested to my son that a mezuzah would make a memorable gift. He answered that he had already decided on my gift which would be a surprise. So I would buy one myself and drove to Pico Boulevard to make the purchase.

Anyone familiar with that street near Robertson Boulevard knows that the neighborhood is occupied by many observant Jewish people from Eastern Europe so there are many stores that sell ethnic merchandise. I stopped at a store that displayed a sign stating Book Store and Judaica. The shop was jammed full of everything regarding Judaism including a wall of more than two hundred mezuzahs ranging in price from five dollars to very decorative three-figure items. It was hard to choose as of course the eye will always seek out the most costly, so I set myself a price limit and selected one that by chance had no marked price on it.

Two men were standing and conversing in a foreign language, I approached them and asked the price of my selection. “$69.95,” one said. As I turned to return he said, “Maybe it’s $39.95.” As that was a little above my limit and there were many more to choose from I returned it to its peg whereupon the man said in a sarcastic voice as he held out another mezuzah, “This one you can have for one dollar.” Immediately the other man turned to me and said, “A Jewish home should have a nice good mezuzah. If you like the one for $39.95 take it and I will pay for it.” I replied, “You don’t even know me. I tell you what you should do. Give the $39.95 to someone as tzedakah ??? and I will buy the one for one dollar.”

I had not looked at what was in the salesman’s hand but nevertheless I took one dollar out of my purse and gave it to him, he placed the item in a paper sack and handed it to me. As I left the store he called out, “You must buy a scroll to put inside.” I thanked him and answered, “I have one at home.”

When I got into my car I opened the sack and looked at my one-dollar purchase and was pleasantly surprised. Although it is only made of plastic I like my new mezuzah and have nailed it to the doorpost of my home as God’s blessing is surely not measured by dollar value and maybe if the man does donate the $39.95 to a worthy cause we will both have done our good deed for the day.


Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at math.wayne.edu.

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