A Mezuzah for Every Season
There’s something special about opening a new 12-month calendar, to the blue-hued month of January with the knowledge that, minute by minute, the days are getting longer.
Now, officially more than halfway through meteorological winter, there is a natural temptation to focus on the future – now is prime time for daydreaming of warmer days and ice-free sidewalks. It’s easy to spend your time looking ahead, making plans, being excited for what is to come. But what is truly magical about this time of year is the beautifully human tendency to spend time reflecting.
Winter offers a unique opportunity to lean into introspection, embrace the quiet of an early-morning snow flurry, and make time for contemplation. The veil separating our present from our past can be especially thin this time of year. Winter carries with it the calm need to self-reflect, and the quiet required to recognize where change is necessary. In the depths of winter, we are reminded of what we value, those we love, and what we have to feel grateful for.
And as seasons change, sometimes our priorities – our focus – can shift as well. Regardless of what is going on around us, how can we maintain constancy in our Jewish ideals, approach to life, and outlook on the world?
Look no further than your home’s doorpost.
As early as the year 2448, Jewish tradition has encouraged individuals and families to frequently remember the commandments and beliefs laid out in tradition by way of the mezuzah. Literally translating into “doorpost,” a mezuzah is a rectangular box, often ornately decorated, that is affixed to the right side of doorways leading into, and all throughout, a home. Each mezuzah houses a hand-written Shemah – a prayer that reminds us of sacred teachings and blesses the home upon which the mezuzah is mounted.
Traditionally, the only scripture inside a mezuzah is the Shemah prayer. However, in these modern times, perhaps there’s room for some to have their own personalized approach. One family at the JCC writes their house rules (“Say your please and thank yous”, “forgive quickly”, “play nice, play fair” etc.,) and places these inside their mezuzah. This is their way of relating to their Jewish heritage and honoring tradition, but with an inclusive and individualized twist.
In a way, the mezuzah is an age-old strategy of bottling up hopes and good intentions, and ensuring that these can never be forgotten. Whether you’re heading out, returning home, or simply walking from one room to another, there is a mezuzah to remind you of the centuries of Jewish tradition that came before.
When walking around the JCC, you can find countless mezuzot adorning doorways to classrooms and offices alike. Though not a dwelling, the J is a home to many; these walls cradle a safe space for individuals of all journeys and backgrounds to come and feel welcome. A mezuzah reminds us of the Jewish values and culture we hold dear in our hearts, and protects our halls from those who may wish them harm.
Soon the days will begin to linger longer, and the chill will start to thaw. Although we continue to look ahead with excitement, perhaps there’s time to set the intention to bring some elements of winter along with us – like thoughtfulness, kindness, and a propensity for charity.
When you catch sight of a colorful mezuzah on your way to Pilates class, what will it remind you of?