Mezuzah and luck

Insights into topics in Judaism.

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Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple,

 Raymond Apple
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DOES A MEZUZAH BRING YOU LUCK?

Q. Is it true that the mezuzah on the door brings you good luck?

A. The serious purpose of the mezuzah is to indicate that this is a house dedicated to the One God and Jewish identity.

There is a popular view that it also wards off ill-fortune. Joshua Trachtenberg, in his “Jewish Magic and Superstition”, 1939, chapter 10, shows that this view was not limited to the masses.

A Talmudic passage, expounding the verse, “that your days may be multiplied”, declares that premature death will befall the homes of those who do not obey the command of mezuzah properly.

The Zohar divided the word mezuzot into two – “zaz mavet”, “death departs”, and urged that every room should have a proper mezuzah.

The 13th century authority, Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg, said, “If Jews knew how useful the mezuzah was, they would not lightly disregard it. They may be sure that no demon has power over a house where the mezuzah is properly affixed. In our house I believe we have close to 24 mezuzot.”

According to Solomon Luria, Rabbi Meir found that when he fixed a mezuzah to the door of his study, an evil spirit no longer tormented him when he took an afternoon nap.

Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (author of the “Sh’nei Luchot HaB’rit”), asserted that with a mezuzah is on the door of a house, “every destroyer and demon must flee from it”.

Even today there are those who insist that if something unpleasant happens, people should check whether their mezuzot are still in good condition.

In war-time some soldiers have been known to carry mezuzot in their pockets to deflect enemy bullets. Many people, men and women, wear a mezuzah around their neck as a charm. Trachtenberg even says that he had heard of a nun who dropped her purse, and among the contents that fell out was – a mezuzah!

How seriously should we take this attitude to a major religious practice?

Maimonides warns against “those people who convert a command intended primarily to imbue our people with a belief in God and a desire to serve Him with love, into a mere talisman which they in the foolishness of their heart think has some magical power”, and warns that they “are risking their portion in the World to Come”.

More valuable, then, than the rather primitive feeling that the mitzvah is a physical protection is the sacred commitment to faith in God in the sight of a sometimes unfriendly environment.


BC & AD OR BCE & CE?

Q. A new Australian history curriculum will replace the terms BC (before Christ) and AD (anno domini) with BCE (before the common era), BP (before present) and CE (common era). Are you for or against this?

A. I am all in favour of dropping the abbreviations BC and AD. They are offensive to non-Christians, and in any case they are inaccurate since Jesus was born a few years “Before Christ” (nor was he born on 25 December!) and so the whole date system geared to Christ is out of kilter.

The Jewish method of using the terms BCE and CE is less offensive than BC and AD, but since it dates the “Common Era” from the supposed birth of Jesus it suffers from the same lack of precision.

There are other date systems in historic cultures – ask the Chinese, for example, what their preference is.

Freemasonry has its own date system: when I joined a lodge in Britain many years ago I got an elaborate certificate issued by “United Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of England: His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, Grand Master”, bearing the date “28th day of April, AL 5966” (“AL = The Year of Light”).