Recently, Chabad communities were stunned by an expose regarding the Mezuzah industry. There were accusations of fraud and non-kosher mezuzos. Of course there were counterclaims. Just last week, a lawsuit was filed in a New York Bet Din (Jewish court) and both sides are digging in. And you thought all the action was in Washington!
Since I have no personal knowledge of who is right or wrong, let me issue one warning: Don’t buy the cheapest mezuzah. You usually get what you pay for. I share this mezuzah hullabaloo as this mitzvah was first introduced in this week’s Biblical reading that commanded us to take the blood of the Paschal lamb and, “Place it on the doorposts…and I [G-d] shall see the blood, pass over you, there shall be no plague among you…And you shall guard this matter as a law …forever.” The Or HaChaim (Morocco, 1696 – Jerusalem, 1743) asks an obvious question: See anyone smearing blood on their doorposts lately?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Shavuos, 1974) explains: The Biblical word “mezuzah” actually means doorposts and the command of putting blood is the origin of today’s mitzvah of mezuzah. Indeed the blood and the mezuzah both serve the same purpose: to protect all the members of that house and remind them that G-d must be an honored guest in their homes.
No wonder then that as the Jews were getting ready to leave Egypt and set up their own Jewish homes, they were introduced to the idea of a mezuzah. Coincidentally, when the Rebbe had private audiences with a young couple about to get married, he would express an interest in how their marriage plans were progressing. It was well-known among Chasidim that if a groom told the Rebbe that they already have an apartment, furniture, etc. the Rebbe would ask, “How are the spiritual preparations coming along? Are you learning the necessary laws, etc.”
Conversely, if the groom replied that he was indeed making all the spiritual preparations, the Rebbe would then ask, “What about the material preparations? Have you an apartment, furniture, etc.?” In one such audience, the groom spoke of all his preparations, both spiritual and material. But the Rebbe persisted, “What else?” So the young man added more details. Still the Rebbe kept asking, “Anything else?” The fellow went on until he had nothing left to offer. Finally, the Rebbe asked: “Did you buy mezuzos yet?”
Not surprisingly, the mezuzah is more than just another prop in setting up a Jewish home. It is a heavenly guide that offers this Divine instruction: From this day on, you must remember that there is more than one opinion that counts in your life. As G-d said to the first Jew, “Whatever Sarah says to you listen to her voice.”
Now in Hebrew, the word mezuzah – מזוזה is comprised of three parts: Mem – מ, Zu – זו and Zeh – זה. Each element is significant. The Mem numerically equals 40. It represents the fact that forty days before a child is conceived Heaven already declares who this child will eventually marry. Zu as well as Zeh both mean this,but zu is the feminine form while zeh is masculine. Thus the mezuzah denotes that bride (zu) and groom (zeh) were inherently bound to each other long before they met ‘downstairs’ on earth.
Now observe the chronology of the word mezuzah. The first mitzvah any young couple encounters when it enters its new home on the very night of the wedding is the mezuzah. It is right there at the front door as soon as they walk in and reveals the secret of a happy marriage. The zu comes before the zeh, the bride precedes the groom.
Even G-d concurs. After all, in the cosmic marriage between G-d and His people, we are the zu and He is the zeh. As the prophet Isaiah says in the name of G-d, “Zu, this nation I did create for Me.” How does the Jew respond? “Zeh, this is my G-d and I shall glorify Him.”
A small piece of parchment packed with big, bold ideas. Husbands and wives were meant to be with each other and so was G-d and the Jewish people. If that reminder isn’t worth a couple of extra dollars, what is? So don’t get hung up on finding the cheapest when you are about to hang up the very item that binds you to your partner Upstairs and downstairs.