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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Mezuzah

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(מְזוּזָה ) or Mezuzoth (מְזוּזֹת )the sing. and plur. forms of a "door-post," the place on which the Mosaic law is interpreted by the Jews as enjoining the Israelites to write passages of Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 11:20). In the following account we especially treat of the Rabbinical regulations.

1. Signification of the Word, and Design of the Injunction. The word מזוזה (from זוז, to push about, to move) denotes either that which is most prominent, hence the post of a door, or that on which the door moves, or on which the hinges turn hence a door-post. This is the sense in which it occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures. From the fact, however, that on it were written passages of the law, the term Mezuzah came afterwards synedochically to denote the writing itself, or the passages of Scripture affixed to the door-post, and this is the sense in which the word is used in the Chaldee paraphrases, and in the Jewish writings generally. As books were exceedingly rare and expensive in ancient times, and could only be possessed by very few, the practice obtained among the nations of antiquity, and still prevails in the East, of writing, engraving, or painting such sacred mottoes or sage maxims over the doors of dwellings as the parents were especially anxious to record or to impart to their children. Thus the ancient Egyptians had brief hieroglyphical legends over their doorways (Wilkinson, Manners and Customs of Ancient Egypt, 2:102; Wathen, page 101); the Greeks and Romans had inscriptions over their doors (Virgil, Georg. 3:26 sq.). Other nations had their laws written upon their gates (Huetius, Demonstratio Evangelica, page 58); and the Moslems to the present day, "never set up a gate, cover a fountain, build a bridge, or erect a house, without writing on it choice sentences from the Koran, or from their best poets"' (Thomson, The Land and the Book, page 98). Now Moses in this instance, as in many other cases, availed himself of a prevalent custom, in order to keep the divine precepts ever before the eyes of the people, and to enable them to instruct their children in the law of God. Hence Maimonides beautifully remarks: "The commandment about the Mezuzah is binding on every one. For whenever an Israelite comes into the house, or goes out, he, seeing on it the name of the Holy One, blessed be he, will thereby be reminded of his love; and when he awakens from his sleep, and from his thoughts about the vanities of time, he will thereby be led to remember that there is nothing which endures forever and throughout all eternity except the knowledge of the everlasting Rock, and he will reflect and walk in the paths of righteousness" (Jad Hachezaka, Ililchoth Tephillin, 6:13).

2. The Manner in which this Injunction has been and still is observed. That the Jews of old literally observed this injunction is not only evident from the above-mentioned prevailing custom of antiquity, but also from Josephus, who distinctly says that the Jews "inscribe the greatest blessings of God upon their doors" (Ant. 4:8, 13); from the Chaldee paraphrase of Onkelos, who translates Deuteronomy 6:9; Deuteronomy 11:20, "And thou shalt write them upon scrolls, and affix them on the door-posts of thy houses and thy gates;" from the Jerusalem Targum, Jonathan ben-Uziel, Jerusalem Talmud (Pesach, 1:1), Babylonian Talmud (Erubin, 96 b; Aboda Sara, 11 a), etc. These authorities, moreover, show that the Hebrews, at least after the Babylonian captivity, and at the time of Christ, wrote the passages containing this injunction on a piece of parchment, and affixed it to the door-posts; and that this Mezuzah, as it is called, is substantially the same as the Jews now have it, which is made in the following manner: On the inside of a piece of square parchment, prepared by a Jew especially for this purpose, are written Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21, while on the outside are written the divine name שדי the Almighty, on the place where the first passage ends, and the words כוזו כוזו במוכסז, Kuzu Bemuksaz Kuzu, to the left at the bottom. Thus written, the schedule is then rolled up in such a manner that the divine name שדי is outside, and is put into a reed, or hollow cylinder made of lead, brass, or silver, varying in costliness according to the circumstances of the people. In this tube there is a little hole, just large enough to show the divine name, which is protected by a piece of glass, forming, as it were, a little window, through which שדי is seen. Such a Mezuzah must be affixed to the right-hand doorpost of every door in the house by a nail at each end.

The fixing of it is accompanied by the following prayer: "Behold I prepare my hands to perform the commandment which my Creator has given me about the Mezuzah. In the name of the one, holy, most blessed God and his Shechinah, who is concealed, mysterious, and incorporated in the name of all Israel. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast sanctified us by thy commandments. and hast enjoined us to affix the Mezuzah." Like the Greeks and Romans, who attached amulets to the jambs of the doors, and ascribed to them magic power, the Jews from a very early period believed that the 2Mezuzah guarded the house against the entrance of diseases and evil spirits, as may be seen from the remarks in the Talmud (Jerusalem Pesach, 1:1; and Babylonian Aboda Sara, 11 a; Menachoth, 33 b), and the Chaldee paraphrase of the Song of Solomon (8:3), which is, "I have affixed the Mezuzah to the right side of my door, in the third part thereof, towards the inside,. so that the evil spirits may have no power to hurt me." Hence the divine name שדי is made to denote the Guardian of the dwellings of Israel, the ש standing for שומר , the ד for דירת, and the י for ישראל, according to the exegetical rule called נוטויקון (=notaricum, from notarius, a short-hand writer, one who writes with abbreviations), which regards every letter of a word as an initial or abbreviation of a word; while the words כוזו במוכסז כוזו , supposed to be the name of the guardian angel, or of God himself, are made to stand for יהוה יהוה אלהינו, Jehovah our God is Jehovah, by another exegetical rule, which exchanges each letter of a word with its immediate predecessor in the alphabet; e.g. the כ in כוזו is exchanged for י, the ו for ה, the ז for ו, and the ו for ה, .thus yielding יהוה . Every pious Jew, as often as he passes the Mezuzah, in leaving the house or in entering it touches the divine name with the finger of his right hand, puts it to his mouth, and kisses it, saying in Hebrew, "The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth, and for evermore" (Psalms 121:8); and when leaving on a business expedition, he says, after touching it, כוזו במוכסז כוזו אל ִואצליח בשמ,ִ "in thy name, Kuzu Bemuksaz Kuzu (= God), I go out and shall prosper."

III. Literature. Maimonides, Jad Ha-Chezaka Hilchoth Tephillin U- Mezuzah Ve-Sepher Torah,5, 6; Jork Dea, § 285-295; the Jewish ritual entitled Derek Ha-Chajim, containing a summary of all the laws connected with the Jewish observances (Vienna, 1859), page 31 sq.; Buxtorf, Synag. Jud. pages 482-487; Leo Modena, Rites and Customs, part 1, chapter 2:§ 3; Allen's Modern Judaism, page 327-329. (See DOOR-POST).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Mezuzah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/mezuzah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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