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My younger brother alerted me to the fascinating news that mezuzot will be going into outer space next month.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a mezuzah is a small case placed upon the doorpost of a Jewish home. The mezuzah itself is mostly decorative, but inside the mezuzah is placed a scroll with a passages from Deuteronomy (chapter 6 verses 4-9 and chapter 11 verses 13-21). The mezuzah is not a good-luck charm, or anything like that; it is simply an indication that the family living in the home is Jewish and chooses to follow the commandment to place the mezuzah on the doorpost.

It turns out that astronaut Greg Chamitoff, who is Jewish, has decided to take two mezuzot into space next month when he travels on the shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station. The mezuzot were designed by artist Laura Cowan; one looks like the Apollo spacecraft, and the other is shaped like the space shuttle.

Wisely, it appears that Chamitoff is not going to attempt to place the mezuzot on the outside of the space station hatch. But just having them present is nice symbolism.

Some references:
The Kosher Space Shuttle (Israel Jewish Scene, Ynetnews)
Up, up and oy vey – how I sent my mezuzot into space (Jewish Chronicle)
Tel Aviv mezuzot to blast off into the heavens (Jerusalem Post)


Actually, the first mezuzah was taken into orbit in 1985, by Jeffrey Hoffman. I know this because the mezuzah is in the collection of The Jewish Museum.

And the late Ilan Ramon also took one with him on the ill-fated flight of Columbia.
I have edited the post accordingly by removing the words "the first."

December 2016

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