A Jewish man buys a new home, and he brings in a local designer to decorate it.
When the job is finished, the homeowner realizes he’s forgotten to put up mezuzahs. He goes out, buys mezuzas, and asks the decorator, who is not Jewish, to place them on the right-hand side of each door.
The owner is worried that the decorator won’t put them up correctly, so when he comes home he’s so pleased to find the mezuzas perfectly affixed by the doors that he gives the decorator a bonus.
As the decorator is walking out of the door he tells the owner, “I work in a lot of Jewish houses, I’ve actually become quite an expert at putting up mezuzas. I don’t even need to use the instructions inside the mezuzas at all, I just throw them away!”
This joke reminded me of a class I recently attended. The teacher was explaining how each of us has a perfect soul, and any faults we have or things we lack are external. Not related to our perfect essence.
Like a crack or a paint smudge on the cover of an impeccably kosher mezuzah.*
Toward the end of the class, one of several older single women in attendance raised her hand. And this is what she said, her eyes red with tears:
“I hear what you are saying, but it doesn’t apply to me.
“I don’t have a husband.
“I don’t have children.
“All my relatives and friends feel sorry for me.
“My nephew just got married, I am older than his mother!
“My niece, his younger sister, just became a mother. Thank G-d I got the flu so I didn’t have to endure the humiliation at the bris!
“In what sense, please explain to me, am I whole? Perfect?!
“If you would see the pitying looks I get you would understand that I’M NOT!”
And with more emotion than I’ve ever seen her say anything, the teacher explained, as I passed around the box of tissues to all the crying older singles (and some of the marrieds)
“You DO have a perfect soul. And G-d loves you and has a unique mission for you in life…
“And that is true, if you have a husband
“”Or don’t have a husband.
“If you have children
“Or don’t have children!”
And, to those of us who are not older singles, I would like to add:
You have a perfect soul. And G-d loves you and has a unique mission for you in life…
If you have 15 children or 1.
If your children are A students or F students.
If you have a good marriage or a majorly challenging one.
If your house is pin-neat or hurricane-hit.
If you are wealthy or living off food-stamps.
If you are the next Julia Child or occasionally burn water.
And, of course, it goes without saying:
If you are thin, or not.
If you are smart, or not.
If you are pretty, or not.
If you are “successful,” or not.
Hashem’s not like that designer from the joke. He knows what’s inside every mezuzah case. And we should too. Within our cracked, paint-smudged cases, a core of perfect holiness.
*I heard this concept comparing a person with a mezuzah (and the joke!) from Rabbi Fischel Shachter.