A Chanukat Bayit — Housewarming

Found In: Endings & Beginnings

Tags: shehekheyanu , mezuzah, Rabbi Rona Shapiro

By Rabbi Rona Shapiro and David Franklin | Complete Ceremony

A Jewish home is traditionally marked by a mezuzah (parchment scroll containing Torah verses) on each door, outer and inner, that is not a door to a bathroom. These scrolls must be hung in their ceremonial cases within thirty days of moving into a house, and frequently a party is held in order to accomplish this ritual task.

Several weeks after we moved into our new home, we invited friends over on Saturday night for a hanukat bayit (dedication of the home) -- a housewarming. We began the evening with havdalah (the blessing over the end of the Sabbath), but at the conclusion of havdalah, before dousing the braided candle that traditionally accompanies the blessing, we used it to light 10 smaller tapers. These candles were then passed out to groups of people along with a mezuzah, a hammer and nail (or appropriate tools) and the location of a door where that mezuzah would hang. (Drilling of holes and marking of mezuzah locations were done beforehand.) Together we recited the appropriate blessings:

Masculine:

Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech haolam asher kidshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu likboah mezuzah

Feminine:

Brucha at yah eloheinu ruach haolam asher kidshatnu bemitzvoteha vetzivatnu likboah mezuzah

Blessed are you, God, Sovereign/Spirit of the Universe, who has sanctified us with God's commandments and commanded us to affix the mezuzah.

And:

Masculine:

Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech haolam shehecheyanu vekiymanu vehigianu lazman hazeh

Feminine:

Brucha at yah eloheinu ruach haolam shehechiyatnu vekiymatnu vehigiatnu lazman hazeh

Blessed are you, God, Sovereign/Spirit of the Universe, who has given us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this joyous time.

Then we dispersed throughout the house in the dark to affix our mezuzot on various doorposts. It felt magical and mysterious as our guests scattered and the lights twinkled throughout the darkened house. Only when all the mezuzot were hung did we turn on the lights and put out the candles.

We liked the idea of carrying the sweetness of Shabbat not only into the week but into the physical corners and doorposts of the house, by using the havdalah candle to light the other lights.

A traditional prayer for the home to use during this ceremony:

A Blessing For The Home

Within these gates
Let there come
No sorrow

Within this dwelling
Let there come
No distress

Through these doors
Let there come
No terror

With this family unit
Let there be
No disagreement

Within this place
Let there be only
Blessing and Peace