The Christian Mezuzah? Yup, That’s A Thing
(JTA) — It’s affixed upon the doorpost. It’s wooden, thin and rectangular, but with rounded corners. It’s meant to fulfill a biblical commandment.
And it bears a verse from the Gospel of John about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
That’s right: It’s a Christian mezuzah.
Karen Goode calls her creation the Doorpost Blessing, and it looks nearly identical to the small, oblong case that has adorned the doorways of Jewish homes for millennia. Both Goode’s creations and traditional Jewish mezuzahs are based on the same scriptural passage in Deuteronomy that commands Jews to inscribe the words of the Torah “on the doorposts of your house.” Observant Jews recite the passage twice a day with the Shema.
Except, instead of placing parchment bearing two paragraphs of Torah verses inside the mezuzah, as Jews do, Goode engraves a verse on the outside of the Doorpost Blessing, either from the Old or New Testament. She also offers Doorpost Blessings bearing lines from Christian hymns. Altogether, Goode sells 25 varieties, in English and Spanish.
“I’m following what the Bible says,” Goode told JTA. “I’m taking it to modern-day standards. I’m reminding us of our blessings. We all need something to hold onto. God is much bigger than any of us.”
Goode, who lives in the New York City borough of Staten Island and works at a hospital, launched Doorpost Blessings as part of her interest in carpentry. She came upon the concept in 2014, and began making and selling Doorpost Blessings in their current form this year. She would not disclose sales figures, but said the most popular ones bear Old Testament verses both from the books of Jeremiah and Joshua.
“The inspiration was from God, but I was looking for something that would speak of my faith and also carpentry,” she said. Goode is Christian but did not elaborate on which denomination.
Goode isn’t the first person to market mezuzahs to Christians. In 2014, a financial adviser in New York, Henry Zabarsky, created the Christoozah, a hollow red cross containing scripture on a parchment meant to be affixed to a doorpost. But Zabarsky, who is Jewish, told JTA that he is no longer involved with the Christoozah company, and though there remains a working website, it appears not to have been updated in nearly three years. A contact number with a Colorado area code was unresponsive.
Nor is Goode the only Christian to take on a Jewish practice in the name of fulfilling Old Testament dictates. Some evangelical Christians wear ritual fringes or kippahs, and some hold Passover seders — something Goode says she has done in the past. Several fringe evangelical denominations, including the Living Church of God, eschew mainstream Christian holidays like Christmas and Easter in favor of observing Old Testament festivals on the Jewish calendar.
But unlike Christoozah and the Living Church of God, Goode does not credit Jews — and specifically the practice of hanging mezuzahs — with inspiring the product she sells. There is no mention of Judaism or mezuzahs on the Doorpost Blessing website, though Goode told JTA she finds the Jewish mezuzah “a beautiful item.”
“I’m not referring to a mezuzah,” she said of her creations. “I’m doing what the commandment says. I’m doing it from a Christian perspective, not a Jewish perspective. I would see similarity in that there’s a blessing hung around the door frame, but other than that I credit the Bible.”
Mendel Kugel, a Manhattan rabbi who runs MezuzahMe, a service for selling and examining mezuzahs, says Goode’s project is a testament to the mezuzah’s resonance as a ritual item. But he worries that the presence of Christian mezuzahs will make it easier to mistakenly purchase a non-kosher mezuzah.
“It just shows that it’s such an important thing that Christians also want it,” Kugel said.
“Jews don’t try to convince non-Jews by copying their religious customs, to try to bring them into our religion. We have so much belief in our own religion, we have no reason to copy others.”
Goode, however, doesn’t see her Doorpost Blessings as copies. She prefers to see the commonalities between Christians and Jews — after all, both faiths revere the same holy book.
“We Christians celebrate quite a few holidays that the Jewish people celebrate,” she said. “We do have similar history in that we both acknowledge the Old Testament.”