Most Jewish homes, whether observant or not, have a small ornament-like object nailed or glued onto the doorframe of the entrance of their home. Known as the Mezuzah, after an ancient Akkadian word "Nazuzu", meaning 'to stand', this object, made from a variety of materials and with Hebrew letters or words inscribed on it, is actually a Mezuzah case which contains a small parchment scroll with biblical inscriptions and prayers that are said by many to be some of the most fundamentally important in the Jewish faith.
The history of Jews being required or commanded to place a Mezuzah on their 'doorposts' goes back all the way to the biblical Book of Deuteronomy when G-d commanded the Children of Israel to inscribe certain religious phases upon the "doorpost" of their homes. Because this commandment was given to the Children of Israel when they were still wandering in the wilderness of Sinai, the tradition was already more than 1,000 years old when described by the Roman Jewish historian Josephus Flavius in his descriptions of religious customs among Jews still living in Palestine.
One of the most important passages written in a Mezuzah is the Shemah Prayer which is so important in the lives of observant Jews that they recite this prayer daily, beginning when they arise in the morning and retire to bed at night. The words of this prayer verse: "Shemah Yisrael, Adonai Elokanu Adonai Ehad" (Hear O'Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One" is virtually the center of the Jewish faith and is so vital to a Jew's physical and spiritual life that it is often the very last words uttered before death. The passage literally "connects" Mankind with the Creator, the One G-d. Another important verse, known as the "V'Havtah", is taken from The Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 6, verses 4-9, which ends with: "And thou shall write them upon the doorposts of thy house and upon they gates".
It is very important that these biblical words be written by a non-metal quill pen on a piece of parchment, in the same manner as the parchment used in writing of the Torah scrolls, which are found in a Synagogue, the Jewish house of worship. The small Scroll is then enclosed in the Mezuzah Case and then affixed on the doorframe in an angle, with the top portion pointing towards Jerusalem, Judaism's holiest city.
Observant and traditional Jews place a Mezuzah on the doorframe of every room in their house except bathrooms or closets; the reason for being is that G-d commanded them to "write these words" at the entrance of every room they dwelled in. When moving into a new home, it is customary for the male head of the household to attach the Mezuzah while reciting a special prayer: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who has commanded us to affix the Mezuzah". It is considered bad luck to use a Mezuzah that had been attached to the door of a former residence; and while these are carefully removed, it is preferred to bury the scrolls in the same reverent manner as is done for old prayer books that are no longer suitable to be used for prayer. As a sign of reverence for G-d and His holy name, it is customary to touch the Mezuzah and then kiss the fingers that touched it when entering or leaving a home or building upon which a Mezuzah has been placed.
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