Moving into a new house is both an exciting and anxious time. We all hope, of course, that this structure will not just be our house - but our home. Judaism helps us create a home by giving us rituals and symbols that help us sanctify the space in which we live and mark it as uniquely Jewish.
These rituals and symbols are celebrated through a chanukat habayit or dedication of the home.
A chanukat habayit doesn’t have a fixed liturgy. But the affixing of the mezuzah is most often the centerpiece of the celebration.
Here are some more ideas for your chanukat habayit:
Before you fix your mezuzah you can ask everyone to take a moment to silently meditate upon the blessings they wish for this home
You can sing Hineh ma tov u'manayim, shevet achim gam yachad. 'How very good is to be when brothers and sister dwell together' or another song based on meaningful Jewish text.
You can prepare a light meal which will include bread dipped in various symbolic condiments, alone or in combinations: salt (symbolizing a life of holiness) oil (sustenance) or honey (sweetness)
You can invite guests to share their blessings for your new home.
A really fun activity: prepare a wall in your house, and paints. Invite your guests to write blessings on the wall, or you can write your blessings and hopes for yourself.
Prepare a program for your guests explaining what the concept of Chanukat Habayit means to you. You can include some meaningful Jewish prayers and texts.
One of the most basic Jewish symbols to help transform a house into a home is a mezuzah. The word“mezuzah” means “doorpost.” A mezuzah is a piece of parchment, contained in a decorative case, upon which two selections from the Torah are written (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21.) The first selection is the first paragraph of the Sh’ma beginning with the words, “Hear O Israel, ADONAI is our God, ADONAI is One.” The second selection is the second paragraph of the Sh’ma.
In a slalom race, the skier must pass through about 20 "gates" in the fastest time.
Well, it happened that a very Orthodox Yeshiva in Montreal had an exceptional skier among its students.. So fast, that in practice, with tzitzis streaming out behind, he had beaten the world record several times.
After first checking to make sure none of the men's slalom races would be on the Sabbath, he tried out for and made the Canadian Winter Olympic team. With his times in the trial heats, he was the favorite for an Olympic gold medal.
Came the day of the final, the crowd waited in anticipation.
The French champion sped down the course in 38 seconds.
The Swiss in 38.7 seconds.
The German in 37.8 seconds.
The Italian in 38.1 seconds.
Then came the turn of the Canadian Yeshiva "bocher." The crowd waited, and waited.........
Finally, after a full five minutes, he crossed the finish line.
"What happened to you?" screamed his coach when the skier finally arrived.
Breathing hard, the exhausted yeshiva student replied, "All right, who's the wise guy who put a mezuzah on every gate?"
A mezuzah is affixed to the doorframe of Jewish homes to fulfill the mitzvah (act of connection and commandment) to inscribe the words of the Sh’ma "on the doorposts of your house" (Deuteronomy 6:9). Many families place a mezuzah on the front door only, but some Jews affix one on every doorway in the home apart from bathrooms, as well as closets too small to qualify as rooms. The parchment is prepared by a qualified scribe (a "sofer stam") who has undergone many years of meticulous training, and the verses are written in black indelible ink with a special quill pen. The parchment is then rolled up and placed inside the case.
The mezuzah is affixed to the right side of the door (as you enter) in the upper third of the doorpost (approximately shoulder height.) Your mezuzah can be attached to the doorpost with nails, screws, glue or double-sided tape.
Ashkenazi Jews and Spanish and Portuguese Jews tilt the mezuzah so that the top slants toward the room into which the door opens. This is done to accommodate the variant opinions of the medieval rabbis Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam as to whether it should be placed horizontally or vertically, and also to imply that God and the Torah (which the mezuzah symbolizes) are entering the room.
The procedure for affixing a mezuzah is to hold it up to the spot to which it will be attached, say the blessing and then attach it.
The video below will walk you through hanging your mezuzah.
One important note: Often, when you purchase a mezuzah case it will come with a klaf (paper scroll) inside. More often than not - in fact, almost all of the time - this is NOT A KOSHER KLAF. A kosher klaf must be purchased separately and usually costs anywhere from $25 to $125 depending on the quality of the klaf.
For a full and complete treatment of the halacha (Jewish law) behind affixing a mezuzah, click here.