Judaism has a wonderful tradition where Jews affix a mezuzah to door frames within their home (generally all main doors except for the bathroom). If I am interpreting correctly, mezuzot are actually the special pieces of parchment (made from a kosher animal) which have the Shema hand-written on them by a sofer or soferet (Torah scribe). These kosher mezuzot are then rolled (in a specific manner) and stored inside a small rectangular case (what is often referred to as the mezuzah). I hope I got all that right :)
Since my decision to convert to Judaism, I have begun to think about my own collection of Judaica. Items like Shabbat candlestick holders, a menorah / chanukia, and a mezuzah are all items I have looked forward to collecting and using. Most recently, I have been on a quest for a mezuzah. As someone who moves a lot, and is often a bit confused about where “home” is, I love the idea of taking my mezuzah to each new apartment and house with me – I want it to be the first thing to go up and the last to come down.
Today I spent a lovely and full day in Jerusalem and found myself with a little bit of free time at the end of the day to do some shopping in the Jewish Quarter. Since it is a Friday (and thus Shabbat was about to start) the narrow alleys and usually crowded stores were surprisingly empty and peaceful. As I have been doing for over a year, I looked at all kinds of mezuzah covers - shiny, colorful, antique and metallic - yet nothing spoke to me. Then, on the very bottom shelf of a lovely store advertising hand-made Judaica, I came across the most beautiful mezuzot I have ever seen. The storekeeper informed me that they were hand-carved out of Jerusalem stone, and I immediately spotted and picked up my mezuzah case.
It is incredibly beautiful and unique. The purchase of my mezuzah and case is made a bit sweeter by the fact that yesterday I went to Tel Aviv and signed an agreement to sub-let an absolutely amazing apartment near the university for the months of August and September. For the first time, I really feel like I will be living in Israel. In August, before I unpack a thing, I will say the special blessing and affix my mezuzah to the door of my new “temporary” home. For me personally, the mezuzah has a special meaning - the special scroll inside contains the Shema, the same words I recited out loud in front of my congregation, family, and friends during my conversion ceremony, which are the same words that have been echoed by the Jewish people for ages.
In the midst of my chaotic life, I have often pondered the phrase “home is where the heart is.” If that is true, my home is in Texas with my baby brother, San Francisco with my friends, Minnesota with my college buddies, and a dozen other places. Just the thought of such division makes me feel scattered! But I think for me, home is truly where the mezuzah is. My mezuzah stands as a reminder of who I am, what I love, and all the people that love and support me – just as I am. Each time I enter my home (wherever it may be) and touch my mezuzah, and then bring my hand to my lips, I know that no matter how many times I move, grow, or change, I am always able to take my religion, relationships, and identity with me.