Shelly Butcher – For months I’d been putting off placing a mezuzah on the front door of my apartment in the sleepy little community where I live in the South Bay of San Francisco. My apartment got flooded in February. Who knew that small toilet tank parts could get corroded and break clear off? I know that now. The workers who replaced the hideous puke beige wall-to-wall 70s shag carpet with vinyl faux-wood hipster flooring took the mezuzah down from where it lived on my front door post. I kept forgetting to put it back up. Sometime between then and October 7th my small intestine screamed bloody murder and my appendix came this close to bursting, so I had another surgery a little over a year after last year’s two for one. I was preoccupied by everything, I suppose, and the mezuzah sat untouched on the windowsill near my front door. The morning of October 7th my small friends chat group was buzzing with horrific reports. I called my friend whose parents live in Ashkelon. The lines were constantly busy and she couldn’t get through. I called my non-Jewish ex-boyfriend blubbering incoherently, mid-anxiety attack. The weeks that followed were a flurry of phone calls to friends and family in Israel and an aching blur of horror. My nightmares now featured masked men with automatic weapons knocking on my door in Los Gatos, California. Why they were knocking I have no idea. A man with an automatic weapon can easily shoot the inhabitants of a small apartment without even opening the front door. But apparently the terrorists of my subconscious are exceptionally polite. It was at this point that I said “enough”. The mezuzah was going back up that night, and with the proper blessing to go with it. Never mind my atheism. Never mind my secularism. Never mind the polite but deadly terrorists in my head. I asked my son to get off Roblox and join me at the front door. I gave an impromptu, teary eyed speech about my right to put a religious symbol outside my door as an American, goddammit, even if I am a secular humanist who doesn’t believe in God. And no imaginary terrorist, polite or not, would stop me. I looked up the bracha on Google, offered it to the God I don’t believe exists with all the meaning and kavana I had in the depths of my bones. And I taped my olive wood carved Israeli mezuzah case to my front door frame with permanent mounting tape.

Shelly Butcher wrote ‘Mezuzah’ in our May 17th Humor workshop

Art by Shlomo Felberbaum –