“You’re such a Jew,” Eileen said with a smile.
“What do you mean,” I asked, knowing what she would say; but, I love hearing her say it.
“You’re so hamish” she said, “so easy to be with. What can I tell you?” I smiled, enjoying the glow of her compliment.
“You know,” I said, “every time you say that, it only confirms my belief that I was switched at birth and my Jewish parents, my real parents, took the wrong baby home from the hospital.”
“You’re a real beauty,” said Eileen, shaking her head.
When I bought my condominium in Pasadena, Eileen and her sister, Phyllis, gave me a mezuzah as a housewarming present.
“It’s beautiful,” I said, “I love it. I’m going to put it on the front door-jamb.”
“Don’t do that,” said Eileen.
“Why not,” I asked.
“You’re not Jewish,” she said. “People might misunderstand. Put it by the bedroom door.”
I agreed and that is where my mezuzah lived until I moved two years later.
In my new house—a townhouse—the master bedroom was upstairs. As soon as the movers left, I unpacked my mezuzah, went to the garage for my hammer, and climbed the stairs to put the mezuzah in place on the bedroom door-jamb. The installation took only a few minutes. I went downstairs and out to the garage to put away the hammer.
Upstairs again, I looked at the mezuzah only to discover it was upside down. I went downstairs, out to the garage, retrieved the hammer, went upstairs, removed the nails, turned the mezuzah right side up, replaced the nails, went downstairs, and took the hammer to the garage.
Coming up the stairs for the third time, I noticed something small and white on the floor near the bedroom door-jamb. On closer inspection, it turned out to be the mezuzah scroll. I went downstairs, out to the garage, retrieved the hammer, went upstairs, removed the nails, replaced the scroll, nailed the mezuzah in place again, went downstairs, took the hammer back to the garage, and went upstairs.
I checked the mezuzah. Satisfied that everything was in order, I called Eileen who laughed when I told her the story of installing the mezuzah.
“Ei,” I said, “I’m exhausted. Who knew being Jewish could be such hard work!”
“A mezuzah is the little oblong container (about the size of two cigarettes) that is affixed to the right of the front door-jamb of [their] home[s], in a slanting position, by a Jew[s] who believes in putting up a mezuzah.
“Inside the mezuzah is a tiny, rolled-up paper or parchment on which are printed verses from Deuteronomy: 6:4-9, 1:13-21. The first sentence is Israel’s great, resounding watchword: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one.’ The inscribed passages contain the command to ‘love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul’; they end with an inscription reminding the faithful that God’s laws are to be observed away from, as well as at home, and that children must have a respect for God’s laws instilled in them. (The enclosed material also includes the injunction to inscribe these words ‘upon the door posts of thine house.’)
“The mezuzah consecrates the home, which is so very important in the life and the ethos of Jews; the home is, in fact, a temple; it is known, in Hebrew, as migdash mehad.
“Some scholars say that the mezuzah carried on the Egyptian practice of writing ‘lucky’ sentences over the entrances to their houses. Muslims inscribe ‘Allah,’ and verses from the Koran, over their doors and windows.” (Rosten, Leo. The Joys of Yiddish. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. p.239.)