Chapter 20:

Why We Do Not Use the Mezuzah

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In this chapter we will see how the rabbinic mezuzah is a perhaps well-intentioned attempt to obey Elohim’s commands, but how it is actually a house amulet, which opens the door to unclean spirits.

The Cabalistic Hamsa Hand

In the ancient Middle East, the people thought that the world was inhabited by many invisible gods. It was felt that it was necessary to appease these gods by praying to them, making statues to them, and offering incense to them, etc. An ancient Middle Easterner might also wear an amulet, which is a ritual object intended to provide protection against harm. And in fact, amulets are common in Judaism. One example is the Cabalistic Hamsa Hand, which is often displayed in Jewish (and Muslim) homes and places of work.

Six Hamsa Hands

Both Jews and Muslims consider that the Hamsa Hand provides protection against the Evil Eye, but they define the term differently than we do. We believe the Evil Eye refers to greed, such as when one refuses to tithe, or is hard hearted toward a brother in need. For example, consider the financial context of Yeshua’s teaching in the Beatitudes, where a good eye indicates generosity, and a bad (or evil) eye indicates stinginess, and greed.

Mattityahu (Matthew) 6:19-24
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.
23 But if your eye is bad [evil], your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve Elohim and mammon.”

In contrast, Jews and Muslims believe the Evil Eye is cosmic harm generated when someone glares at them angrily. They believe displaying a Hamsa Hand in their home or office will protect them from whatever harm would otherwise result from being glared at whenever someone “gives them the evil eye.”

The Hamsa Hand has been traced back to ancient Iraq (i.e., Babylon), where an image of an open right hand was symbolic of the goddess Ishtar (Easter) or Inanna. She is also called Venus, Aphrodite, and the Queen of Heaven. The eye is the (All-Seeing) Eye of Horus.

Tunisia Hamsa Hand

The Hamsa Hand is clearly idolatrous, as it ascribes spiritual power to an object of the creation, rather than the Creator. It also originally honored deities other than Yahweh (e.g., Ishtar, Aphrodite, and Horus). So how has it found its way into Judaism?

Respectfully, the Orthodox approach to set-apartness is legalistic, and mechanistic. They do not seek to be filled with Yeshua’s Spirit and let His Spirit manifest through them (as we do). Rather, they carefully study the complex (and often contradictory) opinions of the rabbis in the Talmud who rejected Yeshua two thousand years ago. Then they try to conform their lives to the Talmud in such a way that the ancient rabbis would approve. This can lead to what might otherwise be called a “legalistic checklist” mindset.

With a legalistic checklist mindset, when one does all of the approved things, and avoids everything that is not approved, one believes he is safely justified with Elohim. And with this same mindset, one can also follow the ancient Cabalistic masters, as they are similarly legalistic.

With a legalistic checklist mindset, when one does all of the approved things, and avoids everything that is not approved, one believes he is safely justified with Elohim. And with this same mindset, one can also follow the ancient Cabalistic masters, as they are similarly legalistic.

With a worldview that is based on legalism and checklist behaviors, one can easily think there is no prohibition on placing a Cabalistic Hamsa Hand in one’s home or office, since the Talmud speaks well of amulets, and since such amulets not only allegedly heal, but also provide protection from demonic forces.

Our Rabbis taught: What is an approved amulet? One that has healed [once], a second time and a third time; whether it is an amulet in writing or an amulet of roots, whether it is for an invalid whose life is endangered or for an invalid whose life is not endangered. [It is permitted] not [only] for a person who has [already] had an epileptic fit, but even [merely] to ward it off.
[Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 61a, Soncino]

However, sadly, the real effect is exactly the opposite: the use of the Hamsa Hand opens the door to the spirit of Ishtar (Ashtoreth, the Queen of Heaven), and Horus (with the All-Seeing Eye). Other amulets open the door to other unclean spirits.

Personal Amulets and House Amulets

In the chapter on tefillin (phylacteries) we saw that it was common in Babylonian, Greek, and Roman cultures to wear amulets. It was also common to put an amulet (such as the Hamsa Hand) in one’s home. It was thought that the house amulet would protect everyone in the home (which in ancient times was usually the women, children, and the elderly). It was thought that the house amulet would protect everyone not only inside the house, but also everyone on the property.

If a man left the property to go to work, or to war, he might wear an amulet on his body, for mobile protection. As we explain in the chapter on tefillin, we believe this is where tefillin come from. (We also believe that this is the real reason why only men wear tefillin in traditional Judaism, is that typically the women and children stayed home.)

So, what about the mezuzah? Is it also an amulet? Or is it a legitimate reminder to obey Yahweh’s words? As we will see, it attempts to be a legitimate reminder of Yahweh’s words, but it fails in this role, because it makes a metaphorical commandment into a literal one.

House Amulet: Blood on the Door Posts

The idea of putting something on the doorposts of our houses to protect the occupants from harmful spiritual forces does not begin with the mezuzah. Rather, Israel was commanded to put blood on their doorposts at the time of the First Passover as a sign unto Yahweh (or His Messenger) to pass over one’s house.

Shemote (Exodus) 12:7
7 “And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.”

Shemote (Exodus) 12:13
13 “Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.”

The blood effectively served as an amulet, but it was a commanded amulet, so it was good. That is, it was good because it was done in obedience to Yahweh’s word. This then forms the standard by which all amulets must be judged: are they done in accordance with Yahweh’s word? Or are they not? These are questions of great importance, because whoever’s commandments we keep is whom we ultimately serve (whether Yahweh, the rabbis, or some demonic spirit).

Basics of the Traditional Mezuzah

The term mezuzah (מְזוּזָה) technically means‎ doorpost. The plural of mezuzah is mezuzot (מְזוּזוֹת), meaning doorposts.

When most people think of a mezuzah, they think of the decorative case. However, the case also has a piece of parchment inside of it, upon which two passages of Scripture are written. These are Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. Both passages contain the command to write Yahweh’s words on our doorposts and on our gates (verses 6:8 and 11:18, respectively).

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6:4-9
4 “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one!
5 You shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 11:13-21
13 “And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love Yahweh your Elohim serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
14 then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil.
15 And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.
16 Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them,
17 lest Yahweh’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which Yahweh is giving you.
18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,
21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which Yahweh swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.”

Literal or Metaphorical Fulfillment?

It is clear that Yahweh commands us to write His words and His commandments on the doorposts of our houses and on our gates. However, what is a perennial question is whether Yahweh wants us to fulfill these commands physically with a mezuzah, or if He wants us to understand His words metaphorically (spiritually).

Some commandments such as tzitzit (tassels) are to be fulfilled literally. Yahweh tells us in concrete language to make tassels in the corners of our garments, and to put a thread of blue in the tassels of the corners, so that we shall have the tassel, and look upon it, and remember to do everything that Yahweh commands us to do, rather than follow the harlotry to which our own hearts and our own eyes are inclined. The language here speaks of a physical tassel with a physical thread of blue.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 15:38-40
38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.
39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of Yahweh and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined,
40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be set-apart for your Elohim.”

Also, the language of Exodus 12:7 and 12:13 (above) speak of putting physical blood on physical doorposts (and in very concrete terms).

However, there are also some commandments which are obviously meant to be taken metaphorically, and we should not attempt to fulfill them literally. For example, when Elohim tells us to circumcise the foreskin of our hearts, we should not try to do that in a physical sense (and in fact it is impossible, because the heart has no foreskin). Yahweh expects us to understand these kinds of commandments metaphorically, and to fulfill them in the metaphorical sense.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 10:16
16 “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.”

In the same way, when Deuteronomy 6:6 (above) tells us to have all of Yahweh’s words in our heart, we should not try to fulfill this in a physical sense, because it is only possible in a metaphorical sense (and it makes no sense to try to fulfill it physically).

Thus, the most important thing is to determine if Yahweh wants us to fulfill His words literally, or metaphorically. If He means them literally then we should do them literally, but if He means them metaphorically then we should do them metaphorically.

Totafot: A Preacher

Further, as we saw in the chapter on tefillin, when we are told to put Yahweh’s words as frontlets before our eyes, the word in Hebrew is totafot (טוֹטָפֹת), which may stem from the word preach or prophesy, as used in Ezekiel 21:2.

Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 21:2
2 “Son of man, set your face toward Jerusalem, preach against the set-apart places, and prophesy against the land of Israel….”

This word preach or prophesy is hatef (הַטֵּף). It is related to Strong’s Concordance OT:5197, meaning to preach or prophesy by distilling or instilling gradually (like oozing, or dripping).

OT:5197 nataph (naw-taf’); a primitive root; to ooze, i.e. distil gradually; by implication, to fall in drops; figuratively, to speak by inspiration.
KJV – drop (-ping), prophesy (-et).

The commandment, then, is to have something in front of our eyes that metaphorically preaches or prophesies to us, slowly instilling or infusing Yahweh’s words into our lives. This cannot refer to a physical commandment (such as tefillin). It has to be metaphorical, and it makes no sense to try to fulfill it literally.

A Reasonable Reminder or an Attempted Amulet?

Beyond this, it is not physically possible to write all of Yahweh’s words and all of His commands on our doorposts and on our gates in a legible way. (The only way to do this would be to get into microfiche or digital data, but this would be absurd because these things did not exist in ancient times.) Because of this, it is not possible to fulfill these commandments literally, and so it does not make sense to try. Rather, we should realize that Elohim intended these passages to be interpreted metaphorically, and thus we should only attempt to fulfill them metaphorically.

In response, Orthodox Judaism might say that these two passages were chosen because not only do they contain the commands to write Yahweh’s words and commands on our doorposts and on our gates, but that they also evoke the need to fulfill all of Yahweh’s other words and commands. Thus, they might argue that placing these two passages on our doorposts fulfills the command to write all of His words on our doorposts and gates in a sort of a hybrid metaphorical-physical sense because these two passages evoke the rest of Yahweh’s words and commands.

Like so many rabbinic arguments, this seems to make sense, but there are real dangers in trying to fulfill what Elohim intended as a metaphor in a literal way. If we try to fulfill physically what Elohim intended to be fulfilled metaphorically, then we are effectively altering (i.e., adding to) His commands. This is expressly forbidden.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 4:2
2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim, which I command you.”

The implication here is that if we do not keep Yahweh’s commandments as He intends them, then we are not truly obeying His commandments (but are making up our own). Yahweh does not like this.

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 12:32
32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”

Legalism, Cabala, the Zohar, and House Amulets

There was a big discussion inside of Judaism after the 1974 terrorist attack in Ma’alot, Israel. Members of the Chabad Lubavitch sect circulated a brochure called, The Five Point Mitzvah Campaign. This brochure said that the reason Israel was susceptible to terrorism was that the spiritual “defenses” of the nation were down because too many of the people were not following the rabbinic rules for kosher mezuzot. This brochure called upon all Jews to marshal the spiritual “defenses” of the Jewish nation by obeying the rabbinic rules for kosher mezuzot. The collective mezuzot of the nation were also likened to “helmets”, and it was stated that the “military strategy” should be to perform the rabbinic rites of kosher mezuzot exactly, in order to improve the “defenses” of the nation. This generated a lot of discussion in Judaism, but it is not really surprising when we realize that the Chabad Lubavitch sect follows Cabala, and the Cabala teaches that magical amulet-like protective effects are magically granted to those who perform the rabbinic versions of Yahweh’s commandments. That is, Cabala tells us that we are automatically divinely protected when we perform the commandments the way the rabbis say to do them. (This, of course, is a farce, but the point is that it is not too surprising to hear it given Judaism’s legalistic checklist mentality.)

Then, after the 1976 raid on Entebbe, a student branch of the Chabad circulated a flyer suggesting that terrorism had been possible mainly because the victims had not followed the rabbinic rules for kosher mezuzot.

A kosher mezuzah on your door posts not only makes your house an abode for G-dliness, but is also your security measure even after you have left home for the day. And since all Jews are one large body, it increases the security of the entire Jewish nation. Due to the fact that most of the mezuzot in the homes of hostages, upon examination, were found to be defective, improperly placed or not on every door post, all Jews should check their mezuzot immediately.
[Jews and Miracles, Chabad Lubavitch Student Organization, Morristown, NJ, USA]

The flyer clearly indicates that the Chabad consider the mezuzah to be a type of a magical house amulet. They also consider that there is a nationwide “herd amulet” protection to be gained when all Jews obey the rabbinic rules for “kosher” mezuzot.

The perception that “kosher” mezuzot serve a magical protective amulet function is also found in the mystical literature of the medieval era. For example, it is found in such Cabalistic works as the Zohar and the Sefer Raziel.

Classical Talmudism and Checklist Behaviors

After the Chabad publications, several notable Jewish Talmudic scholars protested that the Talmud does not ascribe magical powers to mezuzot. However, these protests are not entirely satisfying, because the Talmud frequently mentions amulets and tefillin together, and also mentions tefillin and mezuzot together. Thus, amulets, tefillin, and mezuzot are all effectively related.

Raba observed: Does anyone go to the trouble of making a[n] amulet in the shape of tefillin? Yet we have learnt: THIS APPLIES TO OLD ONES BUT IN THE CASE OF NEW ONES HE IS EXEMPT!
[Babylonian Talmud, Eiruvin 96b, Soncino]

And:

AS FOR THOSE WHO STAND IN THE ROW, THOSE ON THE INSIDE ARE EXEMPT, BUT THOSE ON THE OUTSIDE ARE NOT EXEMPT. [WOMEN, SLAVES AND MINORS ARE EXEMPT FROM RECITING THE SHEMA AND PUTTING ON TEFILLIN, BUT ARE SUBJECT TO THE OBLIGATIONS OF TEFILLAH, MEZUZAH, AND GRACE AFTER MEALS.
[Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 17b, Soncino]

Talmudic scholars argued from later sources that the only rightful role of the mezuzah was as a reminder to keep all of Elohim’s words and commandments, and that it had no inherent magical powers as an amulet. However, the fact that the Talmud frequently mentions amulets and tefillin together, and also mentions tefillin and mezuzot together makes amulets and mezuzot related. It also opens the door to the idea of the mezuzah as a ritual house amulet (and the Cabala then exploits this).

What Should We Do?

One can argue in favor of using the rabbinic mezuzah only as a reminder to obey all of Yahweh’s words and commandments, but this argument fails because the commandment is given as a metaphor, and it is not right to attempt to fulfill a metaphorical command in a literal way. That is effectively adding to the command, which is forbidden. It also shares too much in common with ancient house amulets, and other amulets in Judaism (such as the Hamsa Hand).

To avoid the possibility of unintentional idolatry, we should seek to fulfill Yahweh’s command to write all of His words and commandments on our doors and our gates in a metaphorical (spiritual) way, as Yahweh intended the commandment to be understood.

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