Symbols

Symbols are used within religions to point to or explain something more clearly. Symbols will usually have a deeper meaning. They are often displayed in places of worship or in the home, and are used as a focus during worship.

The mezuzah

Hand touching a mezuzah on a door post

The mezuzah can be found on the door frames of many Jewish homes. It is placed on a slight angle on the right-hand side of every door frame in the house. The only door frame in the house that it is not placed on is the bathroom door.

The mezuzah is a piece of parchment scroll with the Shema prayer inscribed on it which is kept in a small case. The Shema prayer is important to Jews because the words describe God asking Jews to remember his commands in both their heads and hearts. The words will have been written by a sofer, who is a person who is trained to write the Torah. The parchment that it is written on must be on the skin of a kosher animal.

The purpose of the mezuzah is to act as a constant reminder of God’s presence. Jews will often touch the mezuzah as they go through the door. The instruction for this comes from the Torah.

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Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gatesDeuteronomy 6: 5-9

The Magen David

The Magen David, which is commonly referred to as the star of David, is the symbol most frequently associated with Judaism.

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The Magen David star is believed to be a representation of the shield of King David, who was the first king of Jerusalem.

The Magen David is in the shape of a hexagram made up of two equilateral triangles. It is believed to be a fairly modern symbol, and began to be displayed outside synagogues during the 17th century. It became a popular symbol of Judaism and was adopted as the emblem in 1897.

During the Holocaust, Jews were required to display the Magen David to identify themselves.

A Golden Star of David over the first word of the book of Genesis
Question

Explain why the mezuzah is important to Jews.

The mezuzah is an important Jewish symbol. It is important to Jews because it contains a small piece of scroll containing the Shema prayer. This prayer is important to Jews because it is where God asked Jews to remember his commands. They are obeying this command by keeping the mezuzah on door frames in their homes to act as a constant reminder of God's presence. Jews will often touch or kiss the mezuzah as they pass through the door as a reminder that they should live according to God's word. The mezuzah can also symbolise that God is protecting the home of the Jewish family.