The Silent Witness by Sarah Lehrfield
I don’t have a great sense of direction. I’ll admit it, though never to my husband! I always start various errands, trips up to the mountains or a drive to a friend in another neighborhood confident that I know my way. I don't need Waze (she scoffs). And yet inevitably, I miss an exit, turn down the wrong street or end up traveling in the completely opposite direction.
In fact, this happened just recently. A friend was following me to our weekly Walk and Talks at a new trail head. Directions said West on Orchard Road. But I knew where I was going. Who needs directions, (she scoffs)? I was so confident in my geographical awareness that I ignored the little green “E” on my rearview mirror (how nice of carmakers to put directional indicators there). Suffice it to say, my trusting friend and I ended up at a dead end.
Why am I telling you this? Because often times I try to find my way on memory alone. And I inescapably find myself walking or driving around various neighborhoods in Denver trying to recall which one exactly is my friend’s house. And when I am stuck choosing between two doors, I remember something! A clue! I look on the right doorpost of the home and search for the mezuzah. I sigh with relief when I find its familiar, heartwarming presence and confidently knock on the door. I have reached my destination (with just a little help).
The mitzvah to put a mezuzah on your home is mentioned in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Eikev. The Torah writes, “And you shall write them on the doorposts of your homes and your gates.” The mezuzah itself is not the cover but the parchment inside. Skillfully inscribed on one side of the parchment is the two first paragraphs of Shema. The Shema is a declaration of our commitment to building a relationship with G-d through love, devotion and consciousness. On the reverse side of the parchment is the Hebrew name of G-d Sha-dai, which is an acronym for "Guardian of the Doors of Israel.”
So the mezuzah has come to be a statement of belief, a banner of religious pride and a symbol of Jewish identity. It stands like a sentinel, guarding and protecting the people inside its doorway. Mezuzot are arranged, some elegantly and some simply, some openly and some more hidden, on doorposts of dorm rooms, homes and business offices. Each mezuzah is a reminder to those who pass through its doorway that this is a Jewish place, a place that operates with a unique set of morals and values and whose inhabitants conduct themselves with constant spiritual awareness.
But, says Rabbi Yissocher Frand, the mezuzah has one other purpose: It serves as a silent witness to the ebb and flow of history and human events. The mezuzah remains faithfully and silently on the doorposts, watching life pass it by. It sees infants become adults and generations come and go. It observes the joys and the challenges, the highs and the lows, and the periods of suffering and hope throughout our every day life. The permanence of the mezuzah sends a powerful message: Everything changes. Nothing is permanent. Only G-d and His Torah.
So when you pass by your mezuzah or you perchance have the opportunity to give one a gentle kiss, remind yourself of the fragile nature of life. It moves by in the blink of an eye. Life evolves, the world evolves, and human beings evolve—but G-d does not. We cannot stop time. But we can do our utmost to remember to appreciate every moment of life and its blessings. They are a gift from G-d. They should not be taken for granted. We cannot just exist; we have to chose to live! The mezuzah bears witness to that.
And to the Jew in South Dakota with a mezuzah on his door, watch out for me! I may come knocking.
Sarah Lehrfield is a JWRP City Leader and the daughter of a City Leader. She is passionate about running, reading classics, beaing a listening ear for others and bringing the wisdom and relevancy of Judaism to all Jews. She teaches classes and runs women's programming for the Jewish Outreach Initiative (JOI). She lives in the burbs of Denver, Colorado with her husband, 3 kids and plenty of snow gear.