Mezuzah is the Hebrew word for doorframe. It is also the name of the little ornament you often see attached to Jewish doorframes, and there is a powerful part of the Bible hidden inside every mezuzah, known as the Shema. “It’s wonderful when Gentiles say the Shema to us!” exclaimed a Jewish friend here in Israel. “It says “Hear, O Israel, the Lord YOUR God, the Lord is one”, she explained. “It’s as if it’s supposed to be said to us”. Nearly every Jewish person is familiar with the first line of the Shema (Shema means ‘Hear’ – the first word of the verse), but there is so much more to this important command in God’s Torah, or law.
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:4
“The Lord is one” bit seems straightforward enough for most Jewish people, but there is a wonderful treasure of the trinity hidden in the shema…
The verse (Deut 6:4) is written on a small bit of paper, rolled up and inserted in a “mezuzah” which is attached to every Jewish door frame (which in Israel is almost every doorframe!) in accordance with the instruction in the verses following it to write it “on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.“(Deuteronomy 6:9)
Very often you will see the first letter of the Shema on the mezuzah. Shema means “Hear”, and the first letter is the “Sh” sound. It looks like this: ש. It is also the first letter of Shaddai which is usually translated “Almighty” – El Shaddai means Almighty God. He is the God of the forefathers of Israel, and so the ש of Shaddai is usually written on the mezuzahs. This letter is called “shin” and although it is one letter, it has three prongs, so to speak. Three in one. Every mezuzah quietly declares that our Lord is one, but with three persons united in a singular Godhead.
Equally the name of God (YHWH – יהוה) is mentioned three times: “Hear O Israel, YHWH your God, YHWH is one, you shall love YHWH your God…”
And how about loving the Lord with all our heart, soul and might? Here is a challenge indeed. What does that look like? The Jewish religion is all about deed, rather than creed – doing rather than believing, as a way of honouring God in the best way they know how. Following the Torah. Obedience, doing all that is required. But even though Yeshua says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” in John 14:15, it is possible to obey with no love at all.
Parallel to the command of loving God with all our heart, soul and might is this verse in Jeremiah 17:
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind, (the Hebrew for this word is literally “the kidneys” – the innermost parts, or the hidden motivations)
to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
God knows very well if our hearts and souls are in it – he searches our hearts, he tests our innermost thoughts, and he gives to us according to the fruit of our actions. This verse comes right after a wonderful passage on how we can keep God at the core of our lives, and avoid putting our love and trust anywhere else. How often do we find it easier to put our trust in human beings around us, who are visible, touchable, but fallible?
Immediately before this verse (verse 10) is a passage warning us not to trust in human beings but to keep our trust in God. Cursed is the man who trusts in man, Jeremiah says, and blessed is the man who trusts in God:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
What a contrast! When we trust in human beings instead of God himself, it does us no good, and we can’t even see the good that is there. But when we trust in God, even in dry times we don’t have to worry! We are plugged into the unstoppable, endless water of life. Jeremiah speaks a lot about this problem – God’s sorrow that the people of Israel had forsaken him; the the spring of living water, and had instead dug around elsewhere – hoping that their broken and useless water cisterns would do the trick.
How had it come to that? The same way it happens in our hearts today – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Bemoans Jeremiah in verse 9, right before he tells us that God is searching our hearts and testing our minds. We keep moving away from God in our hearts, deceiving ourselves, and ending up putting our trust elsewhere before we even know it!
No wonder God insisted that we needed to be reminded, which is why he suggested keeping a reminder on the doorframes, hence the development of the mezuzah:
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 7-9
You could use the Shema to guide your prayers today for Israel – take time to check in your heart and mind and action whether you are loving God first, and put things right with him where you have moved away from that spring of living water. Then pray the Shema over the people of Israel, praying that God would be their first and highest love, and that they would come to love the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as one.