Notes From A Hannukat HaBayit

Where do we learn of this Mitzva? From the Shema, “U’Ktavtem al Mezuzot Beytecha U’V’Sha’arecha”

What is it we write? What is in the Mezuza itself? The Shema!

Jewish thinking, Jewish reasoning is associative. As I’ve said many times, the sages didn’t have many doubts as to practical halachic decisions. Rather, the ‚Gemara is a textbook using familiar concepts (Shabbat, Tallit, etc.) to teach advanced logic like a math textbook using apples and oranges).

So what’s in the Shema?


Shema means to listen, not merely to hear. It’s activating a process which is all-too-often, in our very noisy world, passive. It means opening ourselves up to what is already there to be heard.

Yisrael is one name for the Jewish people. It’s also the named earned by our ancestor Jacob after a night of wrestling with a higher power. Jacob personifies balance and integration and he also personifies struggle. This meditation isn’t exclusive to a single ethnic or religious group but is addressed to that part in all of us which struggles to make sense, to find a way, to take what has come before us and to transform it and balance it for future use. We resist complacence.

The Lord, God’s name which we use here is a pointer to time as a dimension, as an integral part of the time-space-spirit reality. Transcending our human limitations, time becomes an expanse, not a flow. But that point of view is that of the infinite and the eternal.

Is our God does not make an ethnocentric statement that our candidate is the top contender for top god. Rather we realize that among the infinite powers of God is the ability to penetrate our world on a personal basis, to somehow self-transform from unreachable to intimately approachable. This name for God is often associated with the concept of compression and constriction, the Infinite taking on the appearance of the finite so we may approach.

The Lord once again returns our thoughts to the infinite, the eternal, the all-encompassing.

Is One is not merely a formal statement of monotheism. It’s much deeper and more profound than that. We should try to experience how ultimately everything is unified through sharing the essence of the One. No other person, no other creature, no other object, no other thought, no other emotion is of less importance than I. We, and everything else, are unique aspects of the All.

What’s a Bayit ? What’s a house? First, it’s a letter, the first letter of the Torah.

Rabbi Itzchak Marmorstein writes in his rather kabbalistic (which means concerned with the inner, psychological meaning of Torah) Mila Yomit:

“Bet-(B) -House, a vessel defined by a floor, a roof and a wall with an open side, similar to our universe that provides us with a floor, a roof, a wall allowing for verticality and an open future.

Bet is the first of the seven double letters, those that are pronounced hard or soft (bet or vet). As seven they each represent a day of the week and reflect the duality of our daily experience. Bet corresponds with the first day; Sunday and is dominated by Chochmah-wisdom.

Numerical value 2- representing the first emerge of two, the Creator and the Created.

Sefira Correspondence-Chesed-Love. The creation as an act of love.”

One also refers to wife as a Bayit. In these days, perhaps we can and must update the definition to the sense of family, of friends, of community. Torah must live and that means to grow and to develop. Thus, we want to seal our Bayit, our house, our family, our community and our world with the lessons of the Shema.

There is also the equally important concept of Sha’ar, gate. Perhaps this takes us back to tying everything together because a Sha’ar, a gate, usually refers to the mouth. And this gives us a clue how we use the Shema, how we put the MitzvaÝ of the Mezuza to practical use, rather than just as some sort of magic amulet or ethnic decoration.

Our mouth is our main port, in computer-speak, out means of input and output: the air we breathe, the food we eat and drink, our words. We have a habit of making Brachot when we eat or drink. Not everyone makes the Brachot and not everyone follows the dietary laws and not necessarily in the same way, but the idea is to create awareness of what we eat, of how it’s derived, of what use it will be put to. Will our mouths, our individual Sha’ar be sealed with the Shema? None of us are, at least I know I’m not, at such a spiritual level of eating only for sustenance. I have a terrible sweet tooth and love spicy food! But do we try to be aware when we eat that it will give us energy to act and the choice then is ours how to use this fuel?

And when we speak, perhaps the most powerful act humans regularly perform, will our mouths, our individual Sha’ar be sealed with theShema? Not spouting pietisms, but will we really use our mouths in a Godly way, in a way to bring peace, to join people, to help create community and insight and growth and progress?

And not only do we dedicate our Bayit, our “home base” to this, although perhaps we can and should look at home as a “charging” center. Because if we recall the rest of the Shema, we remember the words, U’velechtecha BaDerech, when we go on our way. Perhaps on a grey, rainy afternoon like this there’s nowhere we’d rather be than in our warmBayit, our house, especially now filled with family, friends, community. But when the day breaks, in this case a new secular year, we take everything from our house, our Bayit, sealed with the Shema within these ÓÊÂʉ cases, pass through the Sha’ar, the house-gate, our mouths, “take it on the road” and try to continue our unique ways to improve the world.

Keyn Yehi Ratzon May it be Your will.

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