תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת מגילה פרק ד
בר טברי שאל לרבי יצחק הגע עצמך שהיה שער גבוה א"ל נותנה כנגד כתיפיו.
Talmud Yerushalmi Megilah Chapter 4
Bar Tavri asked Rebbi Yitzchak where does one place a mezuzah on a tall doorway? He responded, place it at shoulder height.
The Mezuzah, Our Reminder to to Bring Peace to Our Homes, Rabbi Leah Doberne-Schor
Traditionally, a Jewish home is not complete without a mezuzah on its doorpost.
You may have noticed that a mezuzah is often hanging neither vertically or horizontally, but rather is tilted at an angle. The origin of this custom can teach us about an important Jewish value: Shalom bayit, peace in the home.
The custom to hang the mezuzah at an angle began as the result of an almost one thousand year old disagreement. The great Torah scholar Rashi (1040-1105) ruled that the mezuzah should be hung vertically. He did this because in a Sephardic community, such as the one in which he lived, the Torah is held in a vertical position when it is read. On the other hand, Rashi’s grandsons lived in an Ashkenazic milieu.
Because the Torah is laid in a horizontal position for reading in Ashkenazic communities, these grandsons ruled that the mezuzah should be hung horizontally. In the spirit of compromise, the custom became to hang the mezuzah at an angle.
Put another way, at the very moment when we enter our homes, we are reminded of the importance of finding a way to live in peace with one another.
The point isn’t that we’ll always see eye to eye with the folks we live with; rather, it’s that we commit to working through our disagreements with one another.
The very first word on the mezuzah scroll is “Shema,” or listen. We make a commitment to listen to each other and to find a way to live in peace with each other.
Shalom bayit, like so many of our values, is not to be attained all at once. Rather, we make a commitment to work with our loved ones towards this goal each day, with its blessings, each day, with its challenges.
Each day, when we return to our homes, we see our mezuzah, our reminder of peace and compromise, our reminder of the type of home we would like to create, before ever we cross our threshold.
Hiddur Mitzvah: The Case for Beautifying Ritual Objects, My Jewish Learning
Beauty enhances the mitzvot by appealing to the senses. Beautiful sounds and agreeable fragrances, tastes, textures, colors, and artistry contribute to human enjoyment of religious acts, and beauty itself takes on a religious dimension. The principle of enhancing a mitzvah through aesthetics is called Hiddur Mitzvah.
The concept of hiddur mitzvah is derived from Rabbi Ishmael’s comment on the verse, “This is my God and I will glorify Him” (Exodus 15:2):
“Is it possible for a human being to add glory to his Creator? What this really means is: I shall glorify Him in the way I perform mitzvot. I shall prepare before Him a beautiful lulav , beautiful sukkah, beautiful fringes (tzitzit), and beautiful phylacteries (Tefillin).” [Midrash Mechilta, Shirata, chapter 3, ed. Lauterbach, p. 25.]
The Talmud [Shabbat 133b] adds to this list a beautiful Shofar and a beautiful Torah scroll which has been written by a skilled scribe with fine ink and fine pen and wrapped in beautiful silks.
“In keeping with the principle of hiddur mitzvah,” Rabbi Zera taught [Bava Kama 9b], “one should be willing to pay even one third more [than the normal price].” Jewish folklore is replete with stories about Jews of modest circumstances paying more than they could afford for the most beautiful etrog to enhance their observance of Sukkot, or for the most delectable foods to enhance their observance of Shabbat.
The Midrash suggests that not only are mitzvot enhanced by an aesthetic dimension but so is the Jew who observes it:
You are beautiful, my love, you are beautiful, through mitzvot . . . beautiful through mitzvot, beautiful through deeds of loving kindness, . . . through prayer, through reciting the “Shema,” through the mezuzah, through phylacteries, through Sukkah and lulav and etrog… [Midrash Song of Songs Rabbah 1.15].
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשַׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לִקְבּוֹעַ מְזוּזָה.
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha'Olam, Asher Kidshanu B'mitzvotav V'tzivanu Leekbo'ah Mezuza
Blessing for Putting up the Mezuzah
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with mitzvot, and commanded us to affix a mezuzah.