An impressive and comprehensive private collection of
mezuza batim (cases) can be seen inside the entrance
of the Jerusalem Great Synagogue next to Heichal Shlomo on
Rechov King George. This is the work of forty years of
collecting by Jacob and Bella Rosenbaum of Monsey. It is
worth a visit during Chol Hamoed to see the marvelous array
of mezuzos, ranging from the tradition form to the
most unusual use of materials and craftsmanship. The lobby
hours are 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9-
12 on Fridays.
This uplifting colletion reminds us of the great value that
Jews everywhere have for hiddur mitzva - to enhance
and beautify the mitzvos and thus glorify the Name of
Hashem. One of our first obligations to our Creator is to
place His Name in our hearts, our minds and on our doorposts,
as a constant reminder of His presence. This is exemplified
in the several hundred pieces that meet our eyes as we take
notice of this remarkable collection.
Each mezuza `house' has a story. There is the Mezuza
of Belmonte which goes back about five hundred years to the
time of the Spanish Inquisition. To the unknowing eye, Mezuza
#23 in the third or fourth cabinet to the left, as you enter,
looks like a present day round ceramic wall relief about 9 x
9 inches. On it are a tree and other pastoral subjects. Under
the tubular trunk of the tree is the parchment of the Shema.
No one would imagine it to be a mezuza. It looks like
a Christian icon. It was designed to disguise its holy
purpose from the non-Jewish neighbors for fear of death or
torture. This mezuza was owned by Marranos who wanted
to fulfill the mitzva of mezuza without being
detected. The parchment was hidden in a secret cell inside
the trunk of the tree.
[Incidentally, a researcher of `Crypto-Jews' recently
discovered a very interesting practice shared among people
living in Brazil, New Mexico and Spain. They had a huge
statue by their doorway, whose foot they kissed when entering
and leaving the house, without knowing why. He discovered
this to be a throwback to their ancestors, Marranos who had
hidden mezuzos in the foot of the statue so that they
could preserve double allegiances simultaneously.]
Mezuza # 17, also on the left, is one of many nondescript
casings without a shin on the front, used for the
offices of the Reichman building in Toronto. It is an example
of downplaying the mezuza on the doorpost so as not to
attract the undue attention of non-Jews.
In the first display case to the right of an office door is a
casual-looking mezuza inside of a frame that has an
interesing story. Two hundred and thirty years back, the
Breslov chassidic community built an impressive chair styled
after the Throne of King Shlomo in honor of their Rebbe.
Years later, when the Communists took over, the chair was
dismantled and smuggled out of the country. A new chair was
built here in Jerusalem and the old pieces of wood were made
into mezuzos. This is one of them.
According to Mr. Yeshaya Barzel, the spokesman for the
display, the second cupboard on the right hand side of the
lobby houses a replica of a mezuza that was left on
the moon by a Jewish astronaut in 1979. Although there are no
doorposts on the moon, this Jew felt a desire to leave a
mezuza and a Tehillim on the moon that states,
"If I look upon Your skies and I see this moon and stars that
You have created..."
Most of the other examples as well, sing out and call
attention to their special purpose by their size, design,
intricacy of their handiwork or their elegance and refinery.
The materials used are as varied as the designs. We see gold,
silver, brass, mother of pearl, ivory, exotic woods, abalone,
coral, ceramics, glass, plastic and Plexiglas, beadwork,
embroidery, papercuts and even dried and woven corn husk
incorporated into the finished case. (As with many decorative
Chanuka menoras, not all of them may be halachically
The variety of mezuzos is vast. Attention is drawn to
the Moroccan silver and emroidered shields typical of North
Africa which were placed over the meuzos in Moroccan
homes by the lady of the house. These shields are made from
the same materials as the talis bags. Another striking
case is one in the shape of a hamsa (chamisha -
five fingers), that is, a hand-shaped amulet. Here the
parchment is placed behind one of the fingers. There are
several cases that resemble large pieces of jewelry and
others that are miniature and complex structures such as a
beis knesses, a bird in flight or a large door key
that combine the use of several materials together. And,
finally, we have splendid examples of traditional silver
mezuza casings similar to those seen in shuls
and homes today and from years past in Europe, North America
The mezuza is the first indication of a Jewish home.
Its contents are one of our greatest treasures, the Shema
Yisroel. The kosher mezuza protects the home of
every Jew in each of his rooms and his entrance ways, however
simple or elaborate its bayis may be.