The informant is from Malibu, California and grew up in a Jewish household. She was the president of “Malijew”, her high school’s Jewish club.
This tradition was taught to the informant by her mother when she was very young. The informant grew up in a Jewish household and her mother was of particularly strong faith. Before explaining the tradition as a whole, the informant first described what a mezuzah is. It is a metal tube with Hebrew prayers inscribed on it and it also usually contains a scroll of Holy prayers. These prayers are inscribed by designated scribes and are not considered holy or authentic if they are written by anyone else. The literal Hebrew translation of mezuzah is “doorpost”. This is because they are hung on top of or on the side of a door frame. The informant was always told that this was to protect the house from evil and also to be reminded to obey the instructions of the holy verses contained in the mezuzah.
Beyond hanging the mezuzah, the informant also always makes sure to touch the mezuzah and then kiss her fingers whenever she enters or exits a room with one hung on the door. When asked why she does this, the informant said “because it says so in the Torah”. While it is true that the Torah commands, the act of kissing the mezuzah seems to be a calming act. Though it may be a small, simple thing, it is a way of acknowledging one’s faith throughout the day and keeping God in one’s thoughts. The use was obviously first disseminated through the institution of the Jewish religion, but it is spread today mostly through familial lines.
To some extent, mezuzahs have been a point of contention. This is because they are often left nailed to the doorway after the Jewish owner moves out. When a new owner moves in, they often keep the mezuzah, regardless of their faith. Some owners reportedly kiss it even though they are not Jewish, which has caused some controversy with the Jewish community. The informant recalls going to a friend’s new apartment in New York City and kissing his mezuzah before entering. Her friend was not Jewish and asked her why she did that, having never seen the tradition take place. As far as the informant knows, he has not taken it down. Kissing the mezuzah is not just a cultural or regional tradition; it is seen as a sacred, religious act. People hold these acts dearly and can take it personally if they feel they are being robbed of them.
Farmer, Ann. “In Mezuzas, a Custom Inherited by Gentiles.” New York Times. September (2010): n. page. Print. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/18/nyregion/18mezuzahs.html?_r=1&>.