Mezuza: should it be viewed as a quasi amulet?

In his typically brilliant style, Rav S.R. Hirsch explains the meaning of a Mezuza as mentioned in this weeks Parshas Ekev, Devarim 6:9

The mezuzah is not an amulet; in and of itself, it does not protect the
house. Only insofar as they shape their lives in accordance with the mezuzah’s
content can the people within the house expect help and protection
from God, the “All-Sovereign and All-Sufficing,” in all the vicissitudes
of domestic life. With this intent it is our custom to adorn the
outside of the mezuzah with the Name shin-daled-yud.

Author: pitputim

I'm a computer science professor in Melbourne, Australia. I skylark as the band leader/singer for the Schnapps band. My high schooling was in Chabad and I continued at Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh in Israel.

10 thoughts on “Mezuza: should it be viewed as a quasi amulet?”

  1. In other words, simply putting on a mezuzah on a house means nothing unless the residents abide by what is written in the Mezuzah?
    So non observant Jews shouldn’t concern themselves with putting on a mezuzah?

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    1. No, it means that one should not encourage the notion that the Mezuza in of itself is like a guard that doesn’t let bad things in/happen. Rather, the Mezuza and it’s conception should be coupled with the type of understanding and educational infusion that makes the person realise that they should seek to emulate what’s written therein.

      This is where the more rational approach of Rav Hirsch differs from perhaps Mekubalim/Chassidim in their nuance. It’s a fine distinction and one that has always existed in Jewish philosophy. I’ve always been of the view that one should always be exposed to both approaches. In too many cases, students are only exposed to one mode of understanding. I think this is potentially dangerous because there are people for whom one approach clicks and the other approach doesn’t. Some are quite happy with both approaches. At the end of the day, it’s about making sure that ONE approach clicks for at least every student. That’s my educational philosophy.

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  2. how do you deal with the statement in the Gemorra that one may “test” the Almighty by giving charity and expect to get a reward?
    You will answer that the gemorra provides a “proof text” for the statement.
    In the same way the kabbalist/chassid will be able to find a Talmudic source for their view of the “power” of the mezuza.
    They could refer to the statement in the beginning of Berachot ( a few days ago in the Daf Yomi) that links the wearing of tefillin shel rosh to instilling fear in the nations of the world

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  3. הרב יחזקאל ליכטנשטיין “מזוזה כסגולה לשמירת הבית”, “תחומין” י עמוד 417

    א. בספרות חז”ל
    ב. בספרות הראשונים
    ג. הוספת שמות מלאכים וחותמות למזוזה
    1. המתירים
    2. האוסרים
    ד. המזוזה אינה שומרת את הבית ממזיקים, אלא את האדם מעוון
    ה. מזוזה כקמיע
    1. קביעתה שלא במקום מצוה
    2. מסירתה לגוי

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  4. I don’t think that the kabbalistic chassidic approach is meant to be exclusive to the rationale as presented by Rav SR Hirsch. They complement each other. Both are true and both views should be used when discussing any mitzvah that is associated to a cheftzah. like mezuzah, tefillin, sefer Torah etc.
    Eilu V’elu Divrei Elokim Chaim.

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  5. how do you deal with the statement in the Gemorra that one may “test” the Almighty by giving charity and expect to get a reward?

    Very easy. Where did you see in gemara a statement that one may “test” the Almighty by giving charity and expect to get a reward?

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  6. i wrote this a while ago, but i only posted it today. it looks a bit more at the topic of utility of mitzvot in the spiritually powerful sense, according to rambam of course…
    http://thinkjudaism.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/will-keeping-the-mitzvot-really-build-the-3rd-temple/

    at any rate, i hope i have represented kellner’s view that rambam would entirely reject the notion of mezuza as amulet well, since rambam has general rules about these things.

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