While shopping at the pharmacy last week, I couldn’t help notice they were selling home security cameras. These cameras are to be installed outside of one’s home to monitor any activity day and night for security purposes. Some cameras were expensive and some were very cheap. I took a closer look at both options and noticed that the much cheaper security cameras were exact replicas of the expensive cameras, but they weren’t able to monitor or record anything at all. Even though they looked exactly the same as their expensive counterparts, and were made by the same company, there were in fact just decoys — empty cameras. A very interesting chance to take.
As a rabbi, I started thinking about the first home security system used by the Jewish people. They were first installed on the Jewish homes in Egypt. The upside of these primitive yet very effective units was their simplicity of installation. Lamb blood on the door posts with hyssop branches. The downside of these units was that they were in service and effective for one night only, known as the beginning of “yetziat Mitzrayim,” the rapid exodus from Egyptian slavery. The Angel of Death just couldn’t penetrate these force fields of security and was forced to pass over onto the next domicile.
It is interesting to note that the Jewish people might normally have thought of keeping themselves secure by hiding their Jewish identity and especially not bringing any attention to their homes. During Passover, it was quite the opposite. God commanded them to proudly identify themselves as a group and stand up (or, more accurately, stay home) and be counted as one. Their security came via an identification with the community at large.
Fast forward some years, and the system was upgraded with the commandment of mezuzah.
The Biblical source for the commandment of mezuzah is found twice in Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Torah. The Torah states in two entire paragraphs: “And you shall write these words on the entryways of your dwellings and your gates.”
The Oral Law, which God taught Moshe at Mount Sinai, teaches that these first two paragraphs of the shema are to be affixed to the right side of the doorpost. The two paragraphs of the shema contained in the mezuzah, include the declaration of God’s Oneness and the basics of reward and punishment, two fundamentals of the Jewish faith. The mezuzah is finally affixed to each doorway of our homes, schools, synagogues, and some place them on their businesses. These parchments are to be written by a traditional “God-fearing” scribe, according to strict codes of Jewish law. They must be written with special black ink and with a quill on one piece of specially prepared and scored parchment. The mezuzah is carefully checked for textual errors and incorrectly formed letters by an expert who knows the strict laws of tefillin and mezuzot. It is carefully rolled and inserted into the mezuzah case.
How does the mezuzah provide us with the sense of security we so desire from our high-tech monitoring gadgetry? The great sage, rabbi, doctor and philosopher, Maimonides writes in his magnum opus, the Mishne Torah, “Every time a person enters and exits (and encounters the mezuzah) one automatically contemplates the Singularity of the Name of God. He recalls his affection for Him. He will then awake from his sleep and his obsession with the daily grind, and come to realize that there is nothing that lasts for eternity except for the knowledge of the Creator of the world. This will motivate him to regain full awareness and follow the paths of the upright. Tefillin, tzitzit and mezuzah are one’s true reminders and security guards.”
In reality then, it is not only the mezuzah that watches over us, but it is our watching of the mezuzah that can bring us to a level of consciousness like no other, which can empower us to decipher the secrets of the universe.
So, how does the mezuzah compare to the modern-day security-monitoring camera system I stumbled upon at the pharmacy?
For one, there are also two models. A mezuzah that contains a kosher parchment is connected to a recording system and actually writes the data to a spiritual hard-drive, which some refer to nowadays as “The cloud.”
There is also a much cheaper model, from the same company, but it’s only the case. It might look serious, but it’s just a decoy.
This too is a very interesting chance to take, especially during this time of the year. For the High Holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, many people do a lot of soul searching and introspection for an increased level of consciousness. Though I don’t install security cameras, I do install and check the parchments of mezuzot. Feel free to contact me if you would like additional monitoring systems.