On August 8, Rhonda and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. During our marriage, we have lived in four different cities and participated as members (and leaders) within four different Jewish communities. What we believe for the community in which we live begins at home: respect, patience, caring, love, communication, blessing, warmth and hope. In each of our homes, the mezuzah in our doorway reflects these and other values, embodied in passages from book of Deuteronomy that we will read in early August. The command “inscribe these words on the doorposts of your house and on your gates!” directs each of us to make our home a Mikdash M’at, a “small sanctuary. ” A Temple/synagogue building, which also bears a mezuzah, is a “larger sanctuary,” a holy place characterized by our tradition as a Beit K’nesset, house of meeting, a Beit T’filah (house of prayer) and Beit Midrash (house of study).
The mezuzah and its contents, with quotes on the parchment from Deuteronomy Chapters 6 and 11, offer us lessons that relate to who we are and what we do as members of a Jewish community and the human
· The command to love God means that we should also find a way to love and respect our fellow community members, who were also created in the image of God. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” the commandment from Leviticus 19, is preceded by verses that direct us to be forthright and thoughtful in what we say and do in order to assure that love and concern are at the basis of our lives together.
· When you relate to people and ideas, be sure to engage your whole being—the fullness of your heart, mind and soul.
· Ceremonies such as Bar/Bat Mitzvah or a graduation do not signify an end to learning. Each milestone marks the beginning of a new phase in expanding our knowledge and wisdom. Opportunities to study the texts of our tradition are intended not only to make us more familiar with our heritage but also to see how Jewish teachings offer us a unique perspective on current events.
· We should not keep our keenest insights about life to ourselves. We should speak about and share our unique perspective with family members, friends, colleagues and all people, who can also teach us what they have come to know from their experiences.
· Every moment of our lives offers us an opportunity to learn something new: when we are at home or on the road, at the end of a long day or in the morning when we wake up, ready to face the new day.
· What we do should accurately and genuinely reflect the best of who we are. Our actions are a sign of our core beliefs and values. They have the potential to define us as people who are dedicated, generous, caring and kind.
· The mezuzah is placed in the entrance of a home or Temple/Synagogue built by people. It can signify our gratitude for the good work of human hands and remind us to “build” in a positive way with our words and our deeds.
· Physical symbols like the mezuzah remind us to live up to a particular standard set by those who came before us. Organizations, sports teams, businesses and nations gain reputations based on how their members or citizens act in the name of the group or country. The mezuzot in the doorways of our homes or at Temple represent a sign from the past that challenges us to be the best community we can be, one that seeks to reach into the hearts of all who walk through our doors with concern, support and guidance that can sustain us at all times.
The mezuzah is more than a small container affixed to a doorway. It can inspire us to create small worlds of blessing and peace within the walls of our homes and our congregation so that we can, in turn, bring greater blessing and peace to the entire world.