The Hebrew word /mezuzah/ (מזוזה) means doorpost, that part of the door frame that holds up the lintel. The reference is clearly to the twice-repeated commandment in the book of Deuteronomy to write the words of God “on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.”(Deuteronomy 6:9 and 11:20).
The meaning of the word thus changed from the doorpost itself to the texts you write upon them. Observant Jews write both quotations from Deuteronomy on a piece of parchment (traditionally in 22 lines of Hebrew text), put the parchment in a small box or container of some kind, and fasten that container to the doorposts of the house, and to the doorposts of every room inside the house, excluding storerooms, stables, toilets and bathrooms.
The mezuzah is traditionally written with the word /shaddai, /(שדי) “Almighty,” on the reverse side, is then rolled up and is placed in the container so that this word appears in a small aperture cut into the container. Then it is fixed on the upper third of the right hand side of the doorpost, slightly tilted inwards.
Fragments of a mezuzah were found at Qumran and are planned to be exquisitely presented here, in the near future, in high quality photographic reproduction at www.biblicalreproductions.com. Biblical Reproductions is licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Image courtesy of IAA.
Author: Walter Zanger