Did you know that a tiny box on a doorpost can remind us to take the teachings of the Torah with us wherever we go?
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Korach” (Numbers 16:1 – 18:32) and in it we read how the evil Korach and his followers led a rebellion against Moses. Korach is considered to be the patriarch of rabble-rousing and breeding strife.
One of the tactics that Korach used to rally the people against Moses was to present arguments that made the Torah look contradictory or illogical. With this tactic, Korach accused Moses of usurping God’s power and writing the Torah himself.
In one such episode, Korach confronted Moses, and in full view of hundreds, if not thousands, of people, asked him about the mezuza. As you may know, the mezuza is a special scroll that is affixed to the right doorpost of every room in every Jewish home and office. One of the reasons why every room has a mezuza is in order to remind us of the presence of God.
Korach asked Moses the following question: “Does a room full of Torah scrolls and other holy books require a mezuza?”
Korach, as logic would dictate, argued that the doorpost of such a room should not require a mezuza. This is because the holiness of all the Torah scrolls and other ritual items would surely remind one of the presence of God, rendering a mezuza unnecessary!
Moses responded, of course such a room still requires a mezuza. The Torah says that a mezuza is required on every doorpost and this must be observed regardless of all other considerations.
Doesn’t Korach have a point? Isn’t the intention and the spirit of the mitzva of mezuza fulfilled with a room full of Torah scrolls? Why should a mezuza be needed? There are a number of answers to this question, and here is a compelling one:
Although the Torah scrolls would surely remind one of the presence of God, there is something that Torah scrolls won’t do. You see, Torah scrolls generally sit on a shelf. They are confined to a certain place. They usually don’t leave the room they’re in. A mezuza, however, goes one step further. The mezuza is affixed at the entrance of the home or room. It stands tall and bold between the home and the street and reminds us that we have to take the teachings of the Torah and implement them outside the room in which we learned them.
A mezuza is customarily kissed on the way into a room, but perhaps more importantly so, on the way out of a room. The mezuza reminds us that we must take our Judaism to the outside world. Being Jewish is not confined to a bookshelf or to the synagogue as a Torah scroll generally is. Being Jewish is an activity that applies both inside our home and synagogue, as well as on the outside, in the community, and in the workplace.
This was one of Korach’s many arguments which he thought were invincible. But don’t worry. Korach didn’t last long. The earth swallowed him up and that was the end of that.
However, Korach made us realize how so many of the mitzvot have symbolism and meaning that doesn’t always readily meet the eye. This is one of the reasons that although the “spirit of the law” is very important in Judaism, even more important is observing “the letter of the law.”
In any event, this week’s Torah portion gives us an opportunity to remember and act on the message of the mezuza. Make sure you take your Judaism along with you when you leave your home each day!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below: