Over the years, I’ve found Mary statues and crosses in attics and closets. To me, there is something quite beautiful about tapping into the long-ago spiritual energy of a house, a sort of spiritual archaeology. Recently, we had a room renovated, and the painter uncovered a mezuzah under old paint on the doorpost.
Occasionally during house renovations, one might find remnants of faith that once belonged to previous owners.
Over the years, I’ve found Mary statues and crosses in attics and closets. To me, there is something quite beautiful about tapping into the long-ago spiritual energy of a house, a sort of spiritual archaeology.
Our brick-front colonial house was built in 1931. From the start, I loved the good feeling held within its walls. I believe a house, throughout its history, absorbs its owners’ energies. When my husband and I were house shopping –– we’ve relocated three times to different states –– I could walk into an empty house and sense peace or sadness or even anger. It would seem that loving families have always inhabited our current house.
Recently, we had a room renovated, and the painter uncovered a mezuzah under old paint on the doorpost. I had no idea that the door to a back bedroom had once been an outside entryway. Discovering the mezuzah was delightful.
After carefully removing it, the painter brought me the mezuzah, a tiny metal case containing a rolled-up scroll, with a passage from the Torah written in Hebrew. Traditionally, a mezuzah, as required by the Torah, is affixed to an outside doorpost to denote a Jewish household.
Fascinated, I researched what was written in Hebrew on the tiny parchment.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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 upon your hearts…Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6, 9)
Often, to the unfamiliar, religious symbols serve as quick, visual labels. A cross pendant usually means the wearer is Christian. A mezuzah on a doorframe indicates a Jewish family resides within. Wearing a hijab or headscarf is an outward sign of a Muslim woman.
But the purpose behind a religious symbol is a reminder to its owner to aspire toward a higher spiritual reach.
Regarding the mezuzah, Rabbi Joseph Teluskhin explains in “Jewish Literacy,” "When a Jew enters his house, he sees the mezuzah and is, thereby, reminded how he should act in his home. Likewise, when a Jew leaves the house, the mezuzah reminds him of the high level of behavior he is expected to maintain wherever he goes.”
Although I am a Christian, I love a mezuzah’s purpose; a visual
prompt that a supreme being exists to whom, ultimately, I must give account.
Creator. Creature. Yes, remind me of my place on that food chain. I toyed with the idea of re-affixing it to the door, but I happen to know the Jewish man, now in his 70s, who grew up in this house. I met with his wife, surprised her with my little find and returned it to her family. She seemed eager to show it to her adult daughters.
Maimonides, a 12th-century rabbi, once wrote, “By the commandment of the mezuzah, man is reminded of the unity of God and is aroused to the love of him."
Certainly, this old house retains a wonderful energy of long-ago
owners. After this bit of spiritual archaeology, perhaps I understand
better as to why.
Email Suzette Standring: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.readsuzette.com. Syndicated with GateHouse News Service, Suzette teaches writing workshops nationally based on her award-winning book, “The Art of Column Writing.”