The Missing Mezuzah

This is a house of stories. Although it wasn't- isn't- my dream home, my dreams have come true within its walls.

Four years ago this month, I walked up the front porch steps for the very first time. We knew the owners; they were looking to sell in a rush out of town.

I'd passed this house a thousand times as a little girl on my bike, pedaling hard to catch up to the big kids. I'd thrown rocks in the creek across the street, trick-or-treated here in my purple poodle skirt.

The first week we lived here I surveyed every single square foot, ran my hands along the chair rail, opened every cupboard door. I was exploring uncharted territory. I was a discoverer of quirks. A scientist, taking notes of the building's DNA.

On the back door was a curious thing, crooked and colorful and nailed to the frame. Without knowing what it was I knew what it meant: God is here.

I'd been in Jewish homes before and I'm sure I'd seen mezuzahs, but I'd never taken the time to inquire about their meaning.

For those of you who don't know, the word mezuzah is derived from the Hebrew word for doorpost. Jewish homeowners affix them to their doors primarily to fulfill the commandment in this passage from Deuteronomy:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. ... Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6,9)

They serve as a reminder of God's presence and His law, and set the tone for behavior that is expected as one enters and leaves the home.

They are typically removed from the doorposts when the house is sold- and this is likely the explanation for why the back door was the only one in the house that had a mezuzah. The previous owners simply forgot about this one. (And since we know who the previous two owners of our house were -- not Jewish families, by the way-- it's likely that the mezuzah had been there for 15 or 20 years.)

Last year we had an addition built to the back of our home. The back door frame was replaced, and the mezuzah was discarded. And even though it represented something that I didn't even fully understand, I missed it.

I missed the feeling of my home being blessed. It was an outward sign of something precious, a faith that's at the root of my own.

My house of stories, I've decided, isn't complete without it.

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