'case' of the
By Jeffrey D. Land
In my youth, I was an avid reader of comic books. My favorite hero was a strangely garbed crime-fighter who was hated by the under-world and misunderstood by the press and public. Recently, whenever my misrepresented hero comes to mind, subconsciously I superimpose another image on his masked face, the countenance of a young Chassid.
A few months ago, after having gained my freedom for the day with my last lecture, I was suddenly confronted by a mobile home bellowing Jewish music. Scurrying around, in the immediate area, was a menagerie of Chassidic youth, conservatively attired and sporting black hats. I was more curious to see the inside of the trailer than drawn by their speech on dispelling the darkness of assimilation. As this inquisitiveness pushed me through the door, phylacteries were wound around my arm and placed upon my head. (Incredibly enough, this action awakened dusty memories from the attic of my youth). On the way out, my hands were filled with brochures and a candlestick for my five-year-old daughter.
A few weeks later, while in the process of my bimonthly "clean-out-my-desk-of-all-accumulated-junk" project, my attention focused on the brochures, now covered with phone numbers and memos. Their message contained a pep-talk on lighting Sabbath candles, learning Torah, putting on Tefillin, giving charity, and having Jewish books in one's home. A separate pamphlet spoke of the importance of affixing a Mezuzah to ones doorposts. Salient phrases caught my eye: "The letters must be hand-written on parchment... they can be-come damaged or cracked with age, and should be checked at least every three and a half years. "I had bought a beautiful blue Mezuzah while touring Israel six years previously. I knew that it was good, a $5 price tag and an honest-faced proprietor had assured me of this, but still, perhaps after six years
Shlomie and Yosie from the Lubavitch Mitzvah Campaign unceremoniously entered my home a half hour later than expected. Within ten minutes, the contents of my Mezuzah were strewn across the kitchen table, and they informed me that it was absolutely not Kosher. The beautiful box merely contained a piece of paper with machine-printed words.
I felt my temper rising. What right did these kids have to tell me how to run my home? "This is preposterous! It's from Israel! And it cost me five bucks!!"
Yosie tried to placate my indignation. "This is not unusual, sir. Our "Mezuzah Campaign" has uncovered many such problems. Quite often, Mezuzahs purchased at a Shul gift shop or Hebrew bookstore and are found to be unfit. In the Israeli Knesset, leftist Shulamit Aloni has found it necessary to introduce a bill designed to curb the sale of fraudulent Mezuzos. The money you paid went for the case, but the scroll inside, which is the actual Mitzvah, was scandalously lacking."
I broke in on the young man's speech and succinctly informed them that I did not wish to change the Mezuzah, and that printed words would suffice for my home.
At the front door, Shlomie fingered the slanted patch of clean paint where the Mezuzah had once lain and attempted to calm the tempest. "Everyday, we come across machine-printed scrolls containing everything from the Ten Commandments to quotations from the King James Bible. And everyday we come across people like yourself, people who are angry and frustrated because they have been mislead. Please, though, don't let your anger stand in the way of the performance of a Mitzvah." (No, I suppose that it wasn't their fault that I had been duped.)
The Mezuzah is a covenant between G-d and the Jewish people," he continued. "By attaching this hand-written scroll to your door-posts G-d protects those within. (I even began to admire their absolute faith in an Omnipotent presence.) "People buy expensive homes and invest in costly interior decorations, but they tend to forget that the real beauty of a Jewish home is expressed through something relatively inexpensive; the Mezuzah on each doorpost."
A sign of aging is when ones broad mind and thin waist exchange places. Eventually I returned, from playing the role of a cantankerous old man, to my thirty-some odd years. With some persuasion from the two Chassidim, I came to the conclusion that since only vestigial signs of religious ritual have remained with me, whichever commandments I observed, should be kept in the proper manner. Particularly if it was as simple as putting a seven and a half dollar Mezuzah on the doorpost. By the end of our encounter, I had them affix kosher Mezuzahs to all the doorposts of my home.
As they left,
I pictured my crime-fighting hero of years gone by, thwarting the evil
designs of the true criminals, those fast-buck merchants who desecrate
our religion. Envisioned his campaign to enact protective legislation
that we shouldn't be swindled out of this important commandment which
we all want to keep. He urges us to have the Mezuzahs on our homes checked
by a qualified scribe to make sure that they are kosher. To this day,
the echo of his words remains with me; "Those little scrolls of parchment
are a covenant with G-d which protects our homes and loved ones. Please,
please don't overlook such a priceless treasure."