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Parshas Eikev (5771)

"Scroll Patrol"

A wealthy Jewish man buys a fabulous home in Beverly Hills, California. He brings in a local designer to decorate the place. When the job is finished, the homeowner is delighted but realizes that he's forgotten to put mezuzahs on the doors. He goes out and buys 50 mezuzahs and asks the decorator, who is not Jewish, to place them on the right hand side of each door except bathrooms and kitchens. He's really worried that the decorator will chip the paint work or won't put them up correctly. However, when he comes back a few hours later, he sees that the job has been carried out perfectly. He's so pleased that he gives the decorator a bonus. As the decorator is walking out of the door he says, "Glad you're happy with the job. By the way, I took out the warranties in each one and left them on the table for you."

This may be a joke, but it really is true that the mezuzahs (i.e. the parchment inside the case upon which is written the words of the Shema prayer) that we place on the doors of our homes are a “warranty” of sorts – a special protection against illness and all manner of misfortune.

The Talmud in Menachos 33b writes that it is a mitzvah to place a mezuzah on the outermost part of the doorpost of one’s home to protect the entire house from harm. It relates further that the people of the house of Munbaz the King would affix mezuzahs to the doors of the motels at which they were temporarily staying– even though one is not obligated to do so according to Jewish law – just for the protection it afforded them.

As per tradition, on the reverse side of the mezuzah scroll is written the Hebrew name of G-d, Shadda-i. This name – spelled shin, daled, yud - is an acronym for “Shomer Dalsos Yisrael – the Guardian of the Doors of Israel.”

The Kitzur Shelah writes that the Hebrew word mezuzahs – spelled mem, zayin, vav, zayin, suf - has the same Hebrew letters as the words zaz mah-vess, which means “death moves away”, since placing mezuzahs on all our doors will remove death and misfortune from our homes.

So we see that the mezuzah, in addition to being a testament on all the doors of our homes that we are committed to the ideals and beliefs expressed in the Shema – the unity of G-d and our love relationship with Him, etc. – which is its main purpose, also serves as a kind of ‘scroll patrol’, guarding and protecting our homes from illness and danger.

Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, the famous and saintly Torah scholar who settled in Jerusalem in the late 1800’s and founded that landmark institution, the Diskin Orphanage, would hire professional scribes to go from house to house in the community to examine the mezuzahs to see if they were kosher. He paid the scribes directly from the coffers of the orphanage. When Rabbi Yehoshua Leib was asked why he did this, he would reply, “The Torah, in Parshas Eikev, commands us to affix mezuzahs to our doorposts, and in the verse immediately following that, promises ‘so that your days shall increase’ (see Deuteronomy 11:20-21). From here we see that properly installed kosher mezuzahs actually protect Jewish houses from harm and prolong the lives of their inhabitants – thus effectively reducing the amount of orphans and the expenses involved in taking care of them!”

The book Mezuzas Melachim writes that it is a time-honored Jewish custom that when someone is very ill, G-d forbid, the mezuzahs in the home are checked to see if they are kosher.

There are literally thousands of amazing stories that have been documented over the ages of people who were sick or were going through some other difficult situation and then had their mezuzahs checked and found a disqualifying problem with them such as a missing (or extra) letter or even a missing parchment (often the problem found in the mezuzah relates directly to the problem the person had) – and when they fixed the mezuzah the issue went away!

I will share with you one such amazing story that happened to my uncle a few years ago. At that time he was living in a very nice house in a lovely Jewish suburb in Chicago and he was planning on moving to Lakewood, New Jersey where he had already found and purchased a new house – yet, for some inexplicable reason, he just couldn’t sell his house in Chicago. For the longest time, he was carrying two mortgages, and it was very difficult for him financially. Someone suggested that he check his mezuzahs (one is anyway supposed to check his mezuzahs periodically to make sure that the letters didn’t get worn out, which would invalidate them). My uncle removed the mezuzah from the front door of his house in Chicago and had a scribe check it – and this is what he found: Instead of writing the words “and you shall write them on the doors of bei-secha (your home)” as mandated by Jewish law, the original scribe had inadvertently written the word bei-secha twice – meaning two homes - with the extra word bei-secha invalidating the mezuzah! My uncle quickly fixed the mezuzah and sold his Chicago home shortly thereafter!

[To learn more about the mitzvah of mezuzah – including information on where to purchase mezuzahs online and how to affix them to your doors, and which blessing to make, etc. – click on: http://www.aish.com/jl/m/mm/48948731.html.]

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