One might easily think of the mitzvah of mezuzah as a passive mitzvah. Simply recite the blessing before affixing the mezuzah to the doorposts of the house, and it is done.

While affixing a mezuzah is a one time act, its position on the doorpost is meant to lead the home dweller to a continual awareness of the Divine presence. For this reason, there is a custom to either look at or touch/kiss the mezuzah as one passes by.

So which is it? Does one look at, touch or kiss the mezuzah? The answer is that it depends on the family’s or community’s custom.

Many people cite the source for touching the mezuzah back to a story about Onkelos in Talmud Avodah Zarah (11a). When the emperor’s soldiers come to retrieve him (click here to find out why), he placed his hand on the mezuzah and asked if the soldiers know what it means. When they inquired, he used it as an opportunity to explain how God perpetually watches over the Jewish people. The guards were so impressed that they converted to Judaism.

The custom of kissing the mezuzah, which usually means touching the mezuzah and then kissing the fingers that touched it, is not mentioned until the era of Rabbi Isaac Luria (16th century, Arizal). It is a further means of demonstrating not only one’s awareness of God, but one’s love of the Divine as well.

This Treat was originally posted on June 29, 2016.

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