"And write them on the door posts of your house and upon your gates"
Generally, a mitzva is defined by the object used to perform the mitzva,
such as shofar, lulav, and tefillin. However, the word "mezuzah" means "door
post"; the object itself has no defining name other than the post upon which
it is placed. This would be comparable to referring to tefillin as "arm".
What is different about mezuzah?
The Talmud teaches that upon vacating a home, if a person knows that the
next tenants will be Jewish, he is responsible to leave a mezuzah hanging on
the door. The Talmud relates a story concerning an individual who ignored
this responsibility and was punished with the loss of his family.1 What does
this transgression which result in such a tragic punishment?
When leaving the land of Moav, Naomi attempts to dissuade her
daughter-in-law Ruth from embracing Judaism and accompanying her to Eretz
Yisroel. Among the precepts she mentions that Ruth will be required to
observe is the mitzva of mezuzah.2 What is the significance of this
particular mitzva to a person who is interested in converting?
In the secular world, a person has a right to his privacy, and no authority
can dictate to him what to do behind closed doors; man is king of his
domain. The manner in which a person makes it be known that his house is
under his control is by placing his name on either the door or door post. By
placing a mezuzah on his door post, man is affixing Hashem's name upon his
home, thereby submitting to Hashem that He is the authority of this abode.
Naomi understands that Ruth, coming from a society which entitles a person
to complete control over his actions within his own home, needs to be warned
that as a Jew this will not be the case.
Leaving a mezuzah behind when vacating a premises is an affirmation that
this is Hashem's home. A person who removes the mezuzah is denying Hashem's
control over his home. Therefore, the quid pro quo for this is that he loses
his own home, i.e. his family.
The mezuzah functions to make a home "Hashem's home". Therefore, the object
of the mitzva becomes the home, not the name affixed to it. Consequently,
the mitzva is defined by the doorpost of the house.
2.Rus Rabbah 2:23
"...Do not commit adultery...Do not desire your neighbor's wife..."
The seventh commandment of the Decalogue, "lo sinaf" prohibits adultery.
Included in the tenth commandment, "lo sachmod" is the prohibition against
coveting a friend's wife. It would appear that these two prohibitions
duplicate one another. Why are they both included in the Ten Commandments?
Although "lo sinaf" addresses the prohibition against adultery, the Torah
does not explicitly state that it is referring to a married woman. Why, when
discussing "lo sachmod" does the Torah emphasize the woman's marital status?
The Mishna in Pirkei Avos records that Avraham Avinu successfully endured
ten trials.1 The Torah reports that Sarah, Avraham's wife was abducted on
two occasions, the first time by Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and the second time
by Avimelech the Philistine monarch.2 Rabbeinu Yonah registers both
abductions separately in his enumeration of the ten trials.3 The Ramban
explains that the purpose of a trial is to afford a righteous individual the
opportunity to actualize his potential.4 Once the individual successfully
overcomes his trial, actualizing his potential, repetition of the trial is
pointless. Why, then, is Sarah's second abduction included in Avraham's ten
trials? The only possible solution is that the two different abductions
served to develop different sensitivities. What is the difference between
the two abductions?
As Avraham and Sarah approached the Egyptian border, Avraham told Sarah "Now
I know that you are a beautiful woman. When the Egyptians see you, they will
kill me in order to take you. Therefore, please tell them that you are my
sister."5 Rashi explains that the local populace was not graced with women
of beauty, and Avraham was aware that the Egyptians' lust for her would lead
to his demise.6 The Torah attests to the fact that Avraham's fears were not
unfounded, as the verse records that upon their arrival in Egypt, the
Egyptian officials saw Sarah's beauty and lauded her for Pharaoh, after
which she was abducted.7 In the verses which record Avimelech's abduction of
Sarah, we find no mention of her beauty being a factor which motivated the
act. The Ran explains that this abduction, which occurred twenty-four years
after the first one, was motivated by Avimelech's desire to incorporate a
member of Avraham's family into his household.8 The verses make it clear
that the Egyptian abduction was motivated by lust; Egyptians were notorious
for their immorality. Avimelech's abduction of Sarah was motivated by the
need for domination and power. Avimelech was exercising his power as king to
assert himself over Avraham by taking a member of his household for a wife.
The intended victim of the first abduction was Sarah. Avraham's test was the
manner in which he would react to losing the woman he loved. The intended
victim of the second abduction was Avraham, over whom Avimelech was
attempting to exert his power and control. This test presented Avraham with
a completely different challenge than did the first abduction. The dynastic
names of the monarchs reflect their motivations; the name "Pharaoh" is
derived from "perah" or "paru'ah", which means "naked" or "immoral", while
the name "Avimelech" means "father of power".
The act of adultery can be motivated by two very different feelings; its
motivation can be either lust, or the desire to exercise control over the
married woman's husband. The tenth commandment, "Do not covet" is
emphasizing the prohibition against taking control of another person.
Therefore, in this prohibition, the Torah lists those items to which a
person senses the greatest connection: his wife, house, field and slave. The
Torah emphasizes the coveted woman's marital status, for that serves as the
motivating factor, the assertion of control over his friend. The seventh
commandment addresses the act of adultery motivated by lust. Therefore,
although it refers to consorting with a married woman, the relationship
between husband and wife is downplayed.