Dear Rabbi Fried,
I’ve been wondering about the Hebrew letter shin on the mezuzah cover. Could you please fill me in on its significance?
The letter shin on the mezuzah case is reflective of the name of God, Sha-Dai, which is written on the back of the mezuzah parchment and begins with the letter shin.
On the inside of the mezuzah are the two paragraphs of the Shema; on the back, that name of God. This needs explanation.
One reason that name is written there, explain the Rabbis, is to hint that God promises to protect and watch over the home of a Jew who affixes a mezuzah on his doorway. The Talmud says that our King stands outside our homes and protects us, unlike a mortal king whose subjects stand outside his palace and protect him.
This is hinted to in the letters of that name, shin, dalet and yud, standing for “Shomer dalsos Yisrael,” or “Guardian of the doorways of the Jews.”
There is another, deeper meaning to this as well. The Talmud says that one of the meanings of the name Sha-Dai is “she’amar le’olamo dai,” or “He said to his world, ‘enough.’” At the time that God was creating the universe, the heavens were stretching out and going without an end, until He expressed anger at them and said “dai,” enough. (The expanding universe.)
The meaning of this is that the creations of God, Who is infinite, innately strive to infinity and perfection. God, however, did not want to create a perfect world. He desired an imperfect world in order to leave room for man to partner with Him in perfecting the universe, which is our part in “tikkun olam,” enhancing the world. If it was already perfect, we would have no purpose and no way of earning reward.
The first mitzvah Abraham was commanded was bris milah, circumcision. It was proceeded by God telling him “I am E-l Sha-Dai; go before me and be complete.” This is the first tikkun of an imperfection, to remove the foreskin, manifesting our partnership with God’s name of Sha-Dai.
Ultimately the prime place in the world where a Jew perfects the world is in the Jewish home. That is the place where we sanctify the mundane, elevating all of our everyday life activities to the holy and sublime by living according to the laws of the Al-mighty. The Jewish home, much more than the synagogue, is the pinnacle of a Jew’s tikkun olam.
We are reminded of that every time we walk into our doorways, by the mezuzah. By remembering God every time we pass through our doorway we are reminded of His presence both outside our homes, as our Protector, and inside our homes, resting His presence in all that we do.
For this reason, every door in the house needs a mezuzah. For there isn’t an area of life, whether the kitchen, bedroom or living room, that is bereft of kedushah, holiness.
This is another reason why we have the name Sha-Dai on our mezuzah, reflected by the shin on the cover, to serve as a constant reminder that we are to live our lives as partners of God, and in all that we do to create a tikkun olam and a kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s Name.
Dear Rabbi Fried,