You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:8-9)
In continuing with the theme of internalizing God’s Word for ourselves and teaching it to our children, Moses instructs the people to wear the commandments upon their hand and forehead and to affix the Word of God to their doorposts and gates. The former is specifically referring to what is known in Scripture as phylacteries (in Hebrew called tefillin). The latter refers to what is known as a mezuzah.
The word tefillin is related to the Hebrew word for “prayer” and, consequently, is associated with services and events where prayer is the central action. Tefillin contain parchments with selected words from the Shema, and is worn upon the hand and between the eyes. This speaks to the notion that, if the Word is in our heart, then it will be in our mind. If it is in our mind then our hands will lend themselves to doing what is right before God. Our prayer, then, is that we will be always hide His Word in our heart that we might not sin against Him.
The mezuzah is what is attached to our doorposts and gates and is typically a small box-like container that, like tefillin, houses portions of the Shema. Most mezuzot will prominently feature the Hebrew letter ש shiyn on its face to represent the Name שדי Shaddai. In turn, the three letters that spell Shaddai — ש shiyn, דdalet, י yod — are said to form an appropriate acronym for the doors of God’s people: Shomer daltot Yisrael, which means, “guardian of the doors of Israel.” In other words, we affix the Word of God to our doors and gates in acknowledgment that God watches over our household as a shepherd watches over his flock.
In both cases, these are given as physical reminders that the Word of God is to be foundational in our lives to the point that it is touches everything in our lives. It is to be at the gate of our communities and on the doors of our homes. Likewise it is to be a guard upon our eyes and, consequently, the gate that is our minds. It is to be what guides our actions, determining what our hands do and where our feet go. And finally, these physical reminders serve as a sign of the covenant between us and the Almighty which is why our mind and body should always be dedicated to His service. In short, tefillin and the mezuzah reminds us that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. May it always be so.
Blessings and Shalom,