09 Feb Mezuza of Kelonikus
וַה’ הֹלֵךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם יוֹמָם בְּעַמּוּד עָנָן לַנְחֹתָם הַדֶּרֶךְ וְלַיְלָה בְּעַמּוּד אֵשׁ לְהָאִיר לָהֶם לָלֶכֶת יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה
We learn in this week’s parsha “Hashem went before them by day in a cloud-pillar to show them the way, and at night He went before them in a pillar of fire to illuminate for them…”
In Avodah Zarah 11b the Gemara tells the following story: When Onkelos the son of Kelonikus [a prominent Roman] converted to Judaism, the Caesar sent a contingent of Roman soldiers to arrest him. When they arrived, he drew them into conversation and convinced them of the truth of Judaism until they themselves converted as well.
The Caesar then sent another troop after him, instructing them not to say anything to him. As they were taking him away with them, he said to them, “Let me just tell you something trivial: In a procession, the nifyora (these and the following are titles of different Roman dignitaries arranged in ascendant order of rank) carries the torch in front of the pifyora; the pifyorain front of the duska; the duska in front of the hegmona; the hegmona in front of the king; but does the king carry the torch in front of the common folk?” “No!” they replied. Onkelos said, “Yet the Holy One, Blessed be He, does carry the torch before the Jewish people, for Scripture says: And Hashem went before them by day… etc.” So impressed were they by this, that they too converted.
Again, Caesar sent another troop, this time ordering them not to enter into any conversation at all with Onkelos. When they took hold of him, he placed his hand on the mezuzah, and asked them, “What is this?” Their curiosity piqued, they replied, “You tell us.” He said, “Usually, the king sits in his palace, while his servants keep guard on him from outside; but the Holy One, Blessed be He, His servants dwell within while He keeps guard on them from the outside, as it is written: Hashem shall guard your departure and arrival, from this time forth and forever.” When they heard that, they too, converted to Judaism.
The Caesar did not send for him again and Onkelos lived happily ever after.
The abovementioned passuk from our parsha, when considered, was enough to make an entire battalion of Roman soldiers give up their lifestyle and risk death or imprisonment! Yet we possess this and other powerful pessukim, but never take the time to consider what they actually mean! It is within our reach to be inspired and passionate about our Yiddishkeit, we just need to open our minds a little to the great messages all around us.
How many times a day do we pass mezuzos?
When we pass a mezuzah it’s an opportunity to be inspired, to gain an entire new neshama! Hashem, the Great King, is outside in the cold guarding little me! There are many other things to consider, Ahavas Hashem, Yichud Hashem, Schar V’onesh…