Material History of American Religion Project

Child's mezuzah

A plastic mezuzah decorated with children's blocks Official Judaism, like official Protestantism, is focused on a text--the Law. But popular Judaism, like popular Protestantism, uses material objects in its devotional life. Prayer shawls, yarmulkes, and Torah scrolls form an important part of everyday Jewish life. Other objects--such as menorah and Passover plates-help identify a house as a Jewish home. The best marker, perhaps, is the mezuzah, a small object attached to the doorframe and containing a verse from Deuteronomy 6: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might." The Law requires that a faithful Jew write these words on his or her doorpost, a tradition that has become the mezuzah.

Over the years mezuzahs have become art objects, showing both the faithfulness and the good taste of the home's occupants. In the United States, the consumer society has led to a variety of designs, allowing them to be signs of individuality. This mezuzah, painted for a child's home or room, reflects this search for individuality within the tradition.

The project's staff bought this mezuzah at a Judaica store in Atlanta.

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