What is a Mezuzah for?
Mezuzot are the parchment scrolls which Jews attach to the right doorposts of their homes to fulfil what is written in the Torah as understood by our Sages: “And you shall write them on the doorposts (mezuzot) of your house and upon your gates.”
The two sections of the Torah in which this verse appears (the first two paragraphs of the Shema prayer, Deuteronomy 6;4 and 11;13 are written on parchment, rolled up and attached to the upper third of the doorpost, usually enclosed inside a decorative container for protection.
Where do you place the Mezuzah?
All the doors of the home with a top lintel should have a Mezuzah, with the exception of bathrooms or very small rooms (e.g., closets). The custom is to place a Mezuzah even on the garage and storage rooms where there is a minimum of 16ft2 (4×4 Amot)
According to Halachah, the mezuzah should be placed on the right side of the door (from the point of view of one entering the building or room), on the lower part of the upper third of the doorpost (or, for high doorways, around shoulder height), within approximately 3 inches (1 tephach – handbredth) of the doorway opening. The case should be permanently affixed with nails, screws, glue, or strong double-sided tape- BlueTac is debatable as this may not be considered a permanent fixing. Great caution should be exerted not to puncture, rip, or crack the parchment or the wording on it since this would invalidate the mezuzah entirely.
Where the doorway is wide enough, Ashkenazi Jews tilt the case so that the top slants toward the room the door opens into. (This is done to accommodate the variant opinions of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam as to whether it should be placed horizontally or vertically.) Others place the case vertically.
When and what blessing do you make?
We hold the Mezuzah against the spot upon which it will be affixed, then make the blessing, which translates as:
“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His mitzvot, and commanded us to affix a Mezuzah.”
After the blessing is made, the Mezuzah is attached. When affixing many Mezuzot, the blessing is made only before affixing the first Mezuzah, while having in mind that that first blessing applies to the affixing of all the other Mezuzot.
Below left – Sephardi Mezuzah Below right – Ashkenazi Mezuzah
What size Mezuzah should I ask for?
Today Mezuzot are generally written in the standard sizes: 6cm (about 2.5″), 7cm (about 2.75″), 10cm (4″), 12cm (about 5″), and 15cm (6″).
As you might imagine, it is quite difficult to write 22 lines of script in 7cm. Thus, even though they are smaller, good little Mezuzot at Sofer STaM often are more expensive than the cheaper larger ones. Unfortunately, even today many invalid, non-kosher mezuzot are sold to the unsuspecting public. This is true of Mezuzot of all sizes, but it is especially prevalent with the small Mezuzot. In checking, scribes sometimes even find paper inserts with photocopied text. It is not uncommon to find the latest trend which is to silk screen on parchment. Even trained Sofrim find this one very difficult as the letter writing is slightly raised with the ink indentation and the parchment is real. If you are unable to check them yourself, you should be sure always to buy Mezuzot only from an authorized, reputable source.
Can a Mezuzah be repaired?
According to the Halachah (Jewish law), hundreds of laws govern every detail about the making of Mezuzot, including the most minute details of the materials and the writing. Due to the meticulous requirements, it is very easy for something to go wrong during the production of the Mezuzah, sometimes in ways which cannot be seen at all afterwards. If a mistake is found after the Mezuzah is written, it simply cannot be scraped or repaired.
The Halachists suggest that Mezuzot are checked twice in seven years.