The day I moved into my condo, just two blocks from my synagogue, my rabbi came over to help me hang my mezuzah. Nine months later, when my first mezuzah was stolen, I was able to hang a new one by myself. “You have two options,: my friend said, “be angry and fearful or immediately hang a new one.” I decided that my house really is a Jewish home, so I’d better hang a new one as soon as possible.
What makes a Jewish home? Did my place “become jewish” when I hung the mezuzah the first time or the second time? Or was it the first time a group of friends stood around a challah and said blessings together? Or was it when I alphabetized my considerable Jewish library?
My living space evolved with me and with my Jewish studies. My condo obviously never went to mikvah like I did, so there wasn’t a specific time when it was suddenly Jewish, but I’ve done a lot of things to make sure that I know it is a Jewish home and that visitors know.
Yes, it starts with the mezuzah at the front door. Open the towel drawer in my kitchen and you’ll also find challah covers. Look above my stove an you’ll see a kiddush cup from Jerusalem, a seder plate and shabbat candlesticks that I bought wholesale, and a Hanukah menorah I was given on the occasion of my conversion.
In my living room, I have shelves of Jewish books. A decorative dreidel. Extra mezuzot on display in a shadow box. In my desk drawer, next to my birth certificate, is an extra kosher scroll. Above my bed is a painting of the Shema.
More important than all the Judaica is, I hope, an ability to welcome family, friends and strangers into my home. That when I pass the mezuzah on the way out of my house, I carry it with me in my actions. The Judaica helps me see that I’m Jewish and tells the world that this is a Jewish home, but without Jewish actions and Jewish living–all the menorahs in the world won’t make it a Jewish home.
As you set up your first Jewish home, I would suggest spending some of that money set aside for Judaica on charity, on Hebrew lessons, or on (gasp) synagogue dues. Make sure that you are constantly evolving your Jewish heart and soul and then you will have a Jewish home–mezuzah or no mezuzah.
Originally published in October 2006, Shebrew.com