There is a joke about a Jew whose non-Jewish neighbor came to him asking why there are no thieves in the Jewish house, while thieves break in all the time to the neighbor’s house? The Jew answered, “We have a Mezuzah that guards the house for us.” The neighbor asked the Jew to give him a Mezuzah and indeed the Jew gave him one. A month passed and the gentile neighbor sees the Jew and gives him back the Mezuzah. The Jew asks “What happened? It didn’t work?” The neighbor answers, “It actually worked, they stopped stealing from me, but since the day I put the Mezuzah up, the beggars don’t stop knocking on my door. I already prefer the thieves.”
The Talmud tells us about the Persian king Artaban, who gave a very expensive gift to Rabbi Yehuda. In return, the Rabbi gave him back a Mezuzah. King Artaban asked Rabbi Yehuda, “I gave you such an expensive gift and you give me back a gift of such little monetary value?” Rabbi Yehuda answered him, “You gave me a gift that needs taking care of and I gave you a gift that will take care of you.”
In the book of Zohar, it is written that Hashem’s name is written in the Mezuzah. It’s not just to protect the home but also those who leave and come back from the house.
Other fascinating history related to the Mezuzah is about the first translator and commentator of the Torah to Aramaic, and still today, most printed Hebrew Torah versions come with “Targum Onkelos – Onkelos Translation.”
Onkelos was a Roman from the royal family who decided to convert and become a Jew. When Emperor Adrianus learned that his nephew had converted, he was very upset. “How is it possible that one of my family members joins the Jewish people?!” – and sent army battalions to Israel to bring Onkelos before him.
The soldiers came to Onkelos and were received with a beautiful welcome. Onkelos explained to them the idea of the Torah and convinced them to convert too and to be his disciples. Adrianus didn’t give up and sent another group of soldiers, with a clear order that they are not allowed to have any conversation with the fugitive. The soldiers came to Onkelos, arrested him and went with him to Rome.
On the way Onkelos turned to the soldiers and said: “Let me ask you a question: When an important minister goes on his way at night, a less important minister accompanies him and lights his way with a torch. Whereas a more important minister goes on his way, the former important minister lights the way for him. And when the king sets out, the very important minister lights the way to the king. And now, I wonder: Does the king also light someone’s way at night?” “No!” – replied the soldiers.
And if so, Onkelos continued, “See how lovable the people of Israel are in the eyes of God. When the Israelites walked in the desert when they left Egypt, God himself, who is the King of all kings, illuminated their path with a column of fire!”
The soldiers, enthusiastic with the analogy, decided to convert too and never returned to Rome.
The third group of soldiers came to arrest Onkelos with a strict warning, lest they dare to speak even one word to Onkelos. Just arrest him and bring him to Adrianus.
The soldiers came to Onkelos, and without saying a word they arrested him. When they were about to leave the door of the house, Onkelos put his hand on the Mezuzah and smiled. At the sight of his smile, the soldiers asked: “Why are you smiling?” Onkelos replied: “Have you ever heard such a wonderful thing? All over the world it is customary for the king to sit inside the house and his people guard him from outside. But with the God of Israel, his people sit inside the house, and at the entrance of their houses, and the name of God in the Mezuzah protects the people from all harm. Those words convince the third group, and later on Adrianus, to leave Onkelos to continue his life in Judaism.
From this we can learn how important the Mitzvah of the Mezuzah is and how important it is that in every Jewish home, we should place one in every doorway of the house because we all need and want a special divine protection in every room.
This is also the opportunity to invite you all to be part of the Mitzvah of sponsoring the new Mezuzot we are hanging on all the doors of Sephardic Temple. Every sponsor will receive a beautiful certificate recognizing his or her Mitzvah in honor or in memory of his or her loved one.
Regular door $260; Special rooms and classroom $520; Special entrances $1800.
May we be privileged to see the divine protection in our coming and going.
Rabbi Refael Cohen