Return to main index

W6. Writing God's Commandments on Our Doorposts and Gates    [Make a Comment]

We are to write God's Mitzvot on Our Doorposts and Gates.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Deuetronomy 6:4-9 (Maimonides RP12-13, 15; Meir MP8-9, 12; Chinuch C421-423)
Sh'ma, Yisra'el! ADONAI Eloheinu, ADONAI echad [Hear, Isra'el! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one]; and you are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11:18-20 (Maimonides RP13, 15; Meir MP12; Chinuch C421, C423)
Therefore, you are to store up these words of mine in your heart and in all your being; tie them on your hand as a sign; put them at the front of a headband around your forehead; teach them carefully to your children, talking about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up; and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates -

I address writing God's commandments on the doorposts of our houses and gates in Mitzvah #Iflink(W2, W002), but some of what I say there bears repeating here as well.

It is easy to see how this mitzvah can be viewed as metaphorical only - that is to say, that we should dedicate our houses and other dwellings as places where God's commandments are remembered and obeyed. I believe that is, in fact, its ultimate purpose, but I agree with those who perform the commandment literally through the centuries-old practice of hanging m'zuzot (enclosures containing words from the Sh'ma) on the doorposts and gates of their dwellings.

This is one of those calls that (short of God revealing it prophetically) cannot be proven, but I offer several reasons for believing as I do. First, hanging a m'zuzah on the doorpost of a house has the actual effect of reminding those who enter of God's commandments and that only holy thoughts and deeds are welcome within. Second, because displaying m'zuzot is almost entirely a Jewish custom, it has the additional benefit of announcing to all who enter that sons and daughters of the Covenant live there, thus promoting one of God's purposes for Israel, which is to be a priestly nation and a light to the peoples of the world.

I cannot help but think of another occasion in the Scriptures where the children of Israel were commanded to put something on the doorposts of their homes - the blood of the Pesach - the Passover lamb sacrifice:

Exodus 12:7, 13
They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame at the entrance of the house in which they eat it ... The blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are; when I see the blood, I will pass over you - when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you.

Although one can see how God's direction could have been interpreted metaphorically (as in the case of the Deuteronomy 6 and 11 mitzvah), several things were accomplished by complying literally. First, it served to identify the houses' occupants as believers in God and trusters in His Word. Second, it served to identify the houses' occupants as probably being Israelites. Third, treating God's commandment metaphorically and failing to physically apply the blood to the doorposts would not have been sufficient and would have resulted in disaster for that house.

I believe that the commandment to write God's words on our doorposts and gates is meant to be literal despite its close proximity in Scripture with the commandment to place God's words on our hands and our foreheads, which I take to be metaphorical. Although there may be several ways to go about it, I recommend using time-honored kinds of m'zuzot that are recognizable as being Jewish. The m'zuzot principle is applicable to Gentiles as well, but there is greater liberty for them and, in fact, it may be preferable that Gentiles (other than k'rovei Yisrael) not display traditional Jewish m'zuzot, because they almost always mean that the occupants of the house where they are displayed are Jewish. Some kind of substitution for Gentiles to accomplish the same purpose would seem to be preferable.

Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch interpret Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:18-20 literally, and most of what they have to say about m'zuzot consists of details of their construction and use.


Return to main index