Feed Your Soul

Get your SKINNY on in less time than it takes to pack for Burning Man.


(the pitch)

Moses’s marathon farewell speech continues this week. (He was loquacious because TED Talks hadn’t been invented yet.) This week’s reading is called Eikev (aye-kev), which means: as a consequence of… because Moses told our peeps that if we observe the Torah’s mitzvot (meets-vote) – commandments – God will keep the covenant that was promised to our ancestors and to each of us, oh so long ago. The covenant’s term sheet stated we’d be prosperous and content in life if we lived according to the Torah’s values and ethics. Party on! (Not so fast…) Moses also rebuked our peeps for their rebellious ways, including worshiping the Golden Calf, challenging Moses and Aaron’s leadership, disbelieving the scouts’ report of the land, and all the other times we tested God’s patience. (If you’re foible forgetful, read this SKINNY and this one and this one too.) Moses then reminded our peeps of the many times God had forgiven them (e.g., the second set of Ten Commandments that God personally retyped for them). [If you need an e.g., read this SKINNY.] Moses also reminded our peeps that God sustained them during their long 40 year journey in the desert by delivering organic fresh food from the sky, in part to teach them that we don’t live on food alone; we also need God (or read: spirituality) to feed our souls.


(the over think)

In a crescendo moment in Moses’ speech, he told our peeps about the land they were about to enter. Long-haul SKINNIES know we’ve been anticipating this moment since we escaped from slavery in Egypt. (If you want the anticipatory build up, start reading here.) Moses described the Land of Israel as beauteous and abundant with seven types of yummy produce (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, dates, and EVOO). Moses assured our peeps that God would love us, bless us, and keep us safe. But, he warned our peeps not to become arrogant and to always appreciate that God helps enable our success. (Team SKINNY says, “Thanks God!”)


(to be in-the-know)

This week’s Torah reading also includes the second passage of the Shema (sheh-mah). [Read this SKINNY, if you didn’t “Hear O’ Israel”.] The Shema’s second passage outlines the rewards we’ll get for doing mitzvot (prosperity, joy, contentment, peace) and the punishments for not doing them (sad-faced emoticons, stress, isolation, despair). The Torah also prescribes that we place the words of the Shema on the doorposts of our homes. God’s instructions were clear: “Write this down. You should love God (or read: your friends, family, fellow humans), observe the commandments… do good deeds, and teach all of this to your children.” The scroll that contains the Shema’s words is called a mezuzah (meh-zoo-zah), which means doorpost. But, a mezuzah isn’t just the pretty case you bought from a lovely boutique in Tel Aviv when you went on Birthright. A mezuzah includes a piece of parchment that’s rolled up and put inside the pretty case. The parchment is called a klaf (like cloth with an “f”) and it has the first two paragraphs of the Shema written on it. The passages declare the unity of God, tell us to post these words on Instagram and on the doors of our homes, and remind us that we make God happy when we act ethically. The text is written only on one side of the klaf. On the other side is the Hebrew word: Shaddai (shah-die), which is one of the names for God. (Read this SKINNY for more of God’s sign-in names.) 


(bookmark. reflect. share)

A mezuzah isn’t an amulet or magical charm that brings Good Luck. It’s a reminder to follow the Torah so we’ll have a Good Life. And, a Good Life comes from being holy. Luck and magic have to produce results, but holiness has no efficacy. It can’t be used to produce anything except more holiness. The purpose of a mezuzah is to remind us that we can be holy and our actions can produce more holiness. Some people mistakenly kiss the mezuzah by first kissing their fingers and then reaching out to touch the mezuzah. But, it’s the opposite. We’re supposed to touch the mezuzah first and bring it’s teachings to our lips as a tangible reminder that our words and actions should be filled with the Torah’s teachings and, thereby, holy. Team SKINNY thinks of the mezuzah as the original reminder app or like setting an alarm on our phones to remind us that we should act with integrity and honesty when we enter and leave our home. Touching the mezuzah is a physical act, like a game of tag. But, in this case, “You’re it!” is a good thing because we’re all “it” when it comes to striving toward living an ethical and holy life. (Read this SKINNY, if your holy has holes in it.)
We hang a mezuzah on an angle with the top pointing inward toward our home. Here’s why: An 11th century smarty-pants French scholar named Rashi (rah-she) thought the mezuzah should be hung vertically out of respect for the Torah’s words. But, Rashi’s grandson, Rabbenu Tam (rah-bey-noo tom), said it should be hung horizontally because the Ten Commandments and the Torah were stored horizontally in the Temple. The debate raged for 150 years when Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher (ah-sure) said we should compromise and hang the mezuzah on an angle. Ever since then, it’s become common practice to hang the mezuzah on an angle as a symbol to us – and to others – that our homes should be a sacred place filled with comprise. The Talmud (tall-mood) – a collection of ancient Jewish laws and customs – described the concept of compromise as Shalom Bayit (shah-lome buy-eet), which means peace in the home. One member of Team SKINNY practices Shalom Bayit with her kids. They pause at their front door, touch the mezuzah, and say one attribute or value that they will bring into their home: kindness, patience, respect, compromise, love. What value would you bring into your home? Discuss at dinner on Friday night (or any other night)!


(to chew on)

Hanging a mezuzah is an easy, fun, and meaningful ritual that takes less time than it takes to read this SKINNY. Some people invite friends over for a Chanukat Habayit (cha-noo-kaht ha-buy-eet), which means dedicating the home and comes from the same word as the holiday of Chanukah, which also means dedication. Pour yourself a glass of wine, order some grub from Grubhub, and hang your mezuzah. (Click here for a how-to-hang guide.) 

Team SKINNY’s reco: A great children’s picture book about a mezuzah is A Mezuzah on the Door, written by Amy Meltzer, illustrated by Janice Fried, Lerner Publishing Group.



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