Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.
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Do You Know What a Mezuzah Is?
After I got over the bacon, light switch, Passover thing, I started to really get into the whole moving in together thing. I thought about cookware, bedroom setup, odds and ends we’d have to buy. In addition I realized I forgot a small detail.
“Hey Annie, do you know what a mezuzah is?” I asked over Gchat. “I don’t think so…what is it?”
“Well, it goes on the doorpost and has a prayer in it and is put up for protection,” I tried to explain as best as I could. When Annie asked if she’d be able to see the prayer, I had to tell her that it’s on parchment enclosed in a case, and of course immediately took to Wikipedia to explain when I couldn’t. Thank G-d for the internet.
Once Annie understood what a mezuzah is and its significance, she was totally cool with it (and she realized the connection between the mezuzah and one of the 10 plagues in the Passover story). And I professed my love for her and appreciation of her understanding. It made me wonder, though, what if Annie had asked me if I minded if she put up a crucifix in the hallway or a gigantic Christmas tree in the living room? Am I capable of the same understanding? I suppose that’s also part of this living experience – to see where we draw the line in our comfort zone.
I want to tell you a story about this particular mezuzah. The first night in the apartment I couldn’t sleep. I was having nightmares and kept waking up every couple of hours. After waking up one time I signed into Skype on my phone and started messaging with a friend in Israel who suggested I check my mezuzah. In Judaism it’s common to have mezuzahs checked about every seven years by a sofer (scribe) to make sure the letters are all written clearly and correctly, especially if negative things are happening to the inhabitants of the house, G-d forbid. Well, that was part of the issue – I didn’t put up my mezuzah the first day in the apartment. The next day I took out the mezuzah case that I bought in Israel specially for my new bedroom, put in the parchment, said the prayer before affixing the mezuzah, and stuck it to my doorpost. Call it superstitious if you want, but I’ve been sleeping just fine ever since.
I told Annie about this story because she was having trouble sleeping in her new room as well. One morning after a restless night of sleep, pointing to her doorpost she said to me, “I think I need one of those things.” It was one of the cutest things I had ever heard, and I took it as my cue to affix a mezuzah to our apartment door. So far, we’ve been sleeping just fine.