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by Efraim Levine

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And it shall be on that day when you cross the Jordan to the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you, you shall set up great stones for yourself and you shall coat them with plaster. You shall inscribe on them all the words of this Torah, when you cross over, so that you may enter the land that Hashem your G-d gives you, a land flowing with milk and honey, as Hashem the G-d of your forefathers spoke about you (Devarim 27:2,3).

In this weeks parsha we learn how the Jewish people were commanded to erect large stones upon their entrance into Eretz Yisroel. Upon these stones were etched the entire Torah in all seventy languages. The stones were coated with plaster in order to protect and cover the inscription.

The commentators explain that these stones acted as a gigantic mezuzah for Eretz Yisroel. Just as a mezuzah offers protection for the home, likewise these stones offered protection for Eretz Yisroel.

The commentators also take note that the posuk instructs the Jewish people to coat the stones with plaster. The common Hebrew spelling for the word plaster is sid, spelled with a samach, however, here the posuk uses the letter sin. The commentators explain that this unusual spelling alludes to Shakai, one of Hashem’s names. The Hebrew word “sid” spelled with a sin contains the same letters as Hashem’s name “Shakai,” sin, daled, and yud. We may ask what significance is there between Shakai and the plaster that covered the stones?

The posuk in the beginning of parshas Va’erah (Shemos 6:2-6) begins by Hashem telling Moshe that He appeared to our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov with name of Kel Shakai, and the name of Hashem, i.e., the Tetragrammaton (yud, kai vav kai) He did not make know to them. However, go tell the Jewish people that to them I will make know the Tetragrammaton. Rashi explains that Hashem has many names. One name is Shakai. This name represents pure faith in Hashem. Hashem promised our forefathers that they would inherit Eretz Yisroel and develop into a great nation. Our forefathers never lived to see the fulfillment of this promise. Yet, they remained completely faithful. Because their relationship was in the form of belief in a promise that they would never live to see, their relationship and perception of Hashem was defined with the name Shakai. The name Shakai stems from the root word dai, which means enough or limit. The limitation here was the lack of fulfillment of the promise.  Hashem now informed Moshe that the Jewish people will merit to witness the salvation of Hashem. They will receive Hashem’s Torah and enter Eretz Yisroel. They will see the fulfillment of Hashem’s promises and thus their perception of Hashem will differ from that of their forefathers. The relationship and perception of the Jewish people will be defined by the Tetragrammaton.  

A mezuzah provides protection. By affixing a mezuzah to our home we remind ourselves of our duty to fulfill the mitzvos of Hashem. This reminder serves as a merit that we be protected from any harm that may enter the home. As the Jewish people entered the land of Yisroel they affixed a gigantic mezuzah that contained the entire Torah translated in seventy languages. Certainly, in merit of fulfilling the Torah we would be worthy of Divine protection. However the stones were also covered with plaster. The plaster was spelled with the letter sin, alluding to the name of Shakai. This symbolized that we are protected through the merit of our forefathers whose relationship was that of Shakai. Although our forefathers never formally received the Torah which represents our relationship with Hashem in the form of the Tetragrammaton yet their relationship with Hashem was one of pure faith that is defined by the name Shakai. Hashem promised Eretz Yisroel to them and it is in their merit we receive Divine protection within.

It is noteworthy that on the outside of our mezuzos it is written Shakai. Indeed, when the mezuzah is neatly rolled all we see from the outside is the name Shakai. The source for this esoteric custom is a Zohar in parshas Va’eschanan. The commentators explain that this name of Hashem is an acronym for shomrei dalsos Yisroel, which is translated as “Hashem protects the doors of Yisroel.”

With this idea in mind, we may suggest that our mezuzah is a microcosm of the gigantic mezuzah of Eretz Yisroel. The inside of our mezuzah is a synopsis of the entire Torah. The posukim mention our acceptance of the yoke of heaven and our acceptance of the all the commandments of the Torah. These words represent our personal relationship with Hashem. It is noteworthy that these posukim also elaborate the reward for observing the Torah. This is consistent with our perception of Hashem which is based on the fulfillment of Hashem’s promises. This relationship is symbolic of the Tetragrammaton. It is in this merit that we seek protection within our home. On the outside of our mezuzah we write Shakai, symbolic of the plaster spelled with the letters of sin, daled and yud that covered the gigantic mezuzah of Eretz Yisroel and characterizes the relationship our forefathers had with Hashem.

The combinations of the text within the mezuzah and the name shakai written on the back of the mezuzah represent our recognition that at times our fulfillment of the Torah and obligations to Hashem fall short of what is required. This may cause us to be unworthy of the Divine protection that the mezuzah offers. We therefore invoke the back cover of the mezuzah as well. We ask for protection in the merit of our forefathers whose relationship with Hashem was complete and based on pure faith in Hashem.


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