Esty, the heroine of Neither Here Nor There, my romance with a difference set mostly in Jerusalem, has been brought up in a haredi (ultra-orthodox) family. Her upbringing was full of rules and traditions she learned to keep without question – or at least without questioning them to anyone but herself. One of those traditions was that of touching the mezuzah affixed to every building and room as she entered it and then kissing the fingers that had touched it.
A mezuzah is a small case containing a scroll made of parchment. On the scroll are the words of the prayer known as the Shema (hear). The prayer begins: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” The case usually contains the letter shin (ש) to stand for one of the names of God.
Why is the mezuzah fixed to doorposts?
The Shema contains a commandment to inscribe the words of the Shema “on the doorposts of your house.” Whether this means every door or only the front door is open to interpretation.
I’d never thought about this before, but I discovered the answer from http://www.jewfaq.org/signs.htm and a longer answer from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezuzah. The rabbis couldn’t decide whether the mezuzah should be horizontal or vertical, so they compromised. Also, the mezuzah is placed so that it points into the room, implying that God and the Torah are entering the room.
There is no connection between the mezuzah and the lamb’s blood placed on the doorposts in Egypt, part of exodus story celebrated on Passover.
Miriam usually blogs at http://miriamdrori.com.