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This week I was speaking with one of our wonderful bar mitzvah students and we were talking about the mezuzah. He asked if there was a connection between placing a mezuzah on our doorposts and the blood placed there during the story of the Exodus from Egypt. I said no, they are completely separate but that I had never connected the two before. We then also spoke about the other mention of doorposts in the Torah where a slave who chooses to remain in servitude rather than be free, has his ear pierced on the doorpost. 

Since the conversation with the student I have been considering the connection between these doorposts and moments in our story so imagine my surprise when I came to read a Torah commentary by Rabbi Pakouz addressing this very question! He first asks why we needed to place blood on the doorposts of our houses, the story recounted in this week’s Torah portion, supposedly to alert the Angel of Death to the Israelite houses so that they can “pass over” the homes and spare the lives of the Israelite first born. Rabbi Packouz correctly says that neither God nor the Angel of Death needed a sign, they surely knew which homes were Israelite and which Egyptian, so there must be another reason for the blood. He answers that the blood was not for God, rather it was for the Israelites themselves. They were required to mark their doorposts with a sign that linked them to their community and their people. It was a visible recognition of their connection to their people and destiny, that they had to physically place there. 

Similarly, he argues, our mezuzot are our way of outwardly expressing our Judaism, it is a sign to the world of our link to our people and its destiny. A mezuzah does not magically appear on our doorposts, it is something we choose to place there. At the beginning of this most recent conflict, there were stories coming from rabbis about families delivering their mezuzot to the synagogues, afraid to display their Judaism outwardly. Fear for their safety and that of their families, led them to take them down. And this is something we would expect and of course understand. But a different, much greater phenomenon was taking place: people reaching out to purchase mezuzot and place them proudly on their doorposts. Many had never before felt the need or desire to display a mezuzah on their homes, to acknowledge or define themselves as a Jewish home, but now, it seems more important and significant. People are being pulled to their community and their people, being drawn into the circle, so much so, that there is a shortage of mezuzot in the world! 

God and the Angel of Death did not need the bloodied doorpost, but we did. God does not need a mezuzah, but we do, a visible connection that we are part of a group, a people, who need every one of us, who care for us and for whom we care. When one of us is hurting, we all hurt, we are all hurting now and we need each other. The mezuzah on our door declares who we are, what we care about and what our values are. And most importantly, it helps us embrace our community and all those with whom we share this journey. 

There is a teaching that 600,000 Jews left Egypt and there are 600,000 letters in the Torah, and if one of those letters was missing, there would be a completely different Torah, and if one of those people were missing, it would be a completely different community. We are all important, we are all part of shaping the unfolding destiny of our people and we are all needed to create the whole. The mezuzah, the blood, link us together in support, love and care. I hope we will always have every letter, every human, every blessing.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio

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