The word “mezuzah” literally means “doorpost” in Hebrew. The mezuzah itself consists of the
protective casing, or bayit/בית, and the sacred parchment inside, or claf/קלף. The parchment is a holy document, written by a scribe who concentrates on the spiritual meaning of each word. The text inscribed on the parchment is the first three paragraphs of the shema/שמע, the central prayer of the Jewish faith. These paragraphs detail how one must love G-d with all their heart, and states that these words should be placed on the doorposts of one’s home and on their gates.
The letter shin/ש on the case of many mezuzahs is for the word Shadai, one of G-d’s many names, which stands for “Guardian of the Doors of Israel,” or שומר דלתות ישראלל.
The mezuzah also stands to remind us of the Children of Israel’s final night in Egypt. By putting a symbolic sign on their doorposts and lintels, the Israelites marked their homes as Jewish homes, which were to be passed over when G-d carried out the tenth plague. So too, mezuzot today serve to mark Jewish homes and to remind us of our formative relationship with G-d.
Roll the parchment with the words facing inward, towards the larger first word of shema/שמע, so that שמע is the first word that is seen when opening it. Place the mezuzah on the upper third of the right-hand doorpost as one is entering the room or hall, with the top of the mezuzah slanted slightly towards the inside of the room. Then say the following blessing:
ברוך אתה ד’ אלוקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וציונו לקבוע מזוזה
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheynu melech ha’olam
asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu likboa mezuzah.
Blessed are you, G-d, Sovereign of the Universe,
who has sanctified us with your commandments,
and commanded us on the placing of a mezuzah.
Some people follow the practice of taking out the parchment inside and having it checked by a scribe every three and a half years to make sure that the letters are still legible and kosher.
by Eran Hornick and Joanna Lubkin