In general, we are not supposed to fulfill the commandments of the Torah (mitzvoth) for any other reason than the intrinsic one – they were commanded by the One above.  That alone – the connection that comes with fulfilling the will of the Commander in chief – should be what motivates us to fulfill the mitzvoth.  However, in our parsha (Eikev), in the commandment to put a mezuzah upon the doorposts of our house, we see what seems to be an external motivating factor.  The Torah (Deut 11:20) enjoins us to put up a mezuzah, “…in order to lengthen your days and your children’s days…”  That is, if you put up a mezuzah, you will enjoy a long life.  That does sound like an externally motivation.

In truth, though, the Torah is not offering enticement.  It is telling us what the situation is.  The mezuzah offers protection.  This is innate meaning, not external motivation.  The mezuzah, when written properly on parchment, has the ability to ward off and defend us from negative influences.  This is not a reward or side-effect.  As the tosafot (twelfth century halachists and glossators on the Talmud) said about the mezuzah, “It’s made for protection.”  There’s something in the nature of the mezuzah itself that offers protection.

That explains a couple of interesting stories in the Talmud.  We are told (tractate Kelim 17.16) that a stick that contains a hollow receptacle for a mezuzah can become spiritually impure (since the stick is being used as a keli, or “tool”).  Why anyone would place a mezuzah in a stick is anyone’s guess (the mezuzah is supposed to go on a doorpost, not a “stick”), but the fact that the Talmud mentions it without any negative commentary implies that the mezuzah has some intrinsic qualities, even when not on the doorpost.

Even more telling is another story, this one from the Jerusalem Talmud (Peah 1:1).  There we find that Rebi sent a mezuzah to a non-Jewish king by the name of Artbon, and told him, “This protects you while you sleep.”  This story is remarkable because non-Jews are not obligated in the mitzvah of mezuzah.  So, why would Rebi send a mezuzah to a non-Jew?  Again, the implication is that the mezuzah, no matter to whom it belongs, possesses some intrinsic qualities that provide protection.  This is not related to any reward, punishment or motivational factor – it seems to be simply a fact that the mezuzah promises protection and long life.

For our purposes, what is important to realize is that all Jews should possess a mezuzah and place it upon their house.  We have become successful among the nations of the world, and in many instances we live in a free and pluralistic society that permits us to lead free and productive lives in both a Jewish and a professional sense.  However, we are still one nation among “seventy wolves” and we need all the protection that we can get, especially if it is mandated by the Torah as is the mezuzah.

For a more detailed treatment, go to www.jerusalemconnection.org

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. vol 19, page 121-128



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