Rabbi places mezuzah at local home

Posted 6/17/21

Scott Hecht recently hung a new mezuzah at his home in a ritual performed by his rabbi, Erik Uriarte.

Hecht has lived in the home on Lane 9 for more than 25 years and recently retired his existing …

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Rabbi places mezuzah at local home

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Scott Hecht recently hung a new mezuzah at his home in a ritual performed by his rabbi, Erik Uriarte.

Hecht has lived in the home on Lane 9 for more than 25 years and recently retired his existing mezuzah, which is a container that holds a parchment called a klaf. It bears a text from the Torah,  the Jewish holy book that contains the first five books of the Bible.  

“I’ve had one for years, but I wanted it done with the appropriate ritual,” Hecht said. He read the requisite prayers at the time, he said.

The important part is the scroll inside, according to Uriarte. 

The passage from Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reads, in part, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Uriarte is the religious leader for the Congregation Beth Aaron in Billings. He said the ritual is to bless the home and the occupants as well as to obey the commandment given in the text. 

“We quite literally put the words on the doorpost,” Uriarte said. Doing literally what is written in the commandment, he said, has grown up to be a ritual blessing. 

It isn’t uncommon for the congregation to be spread out from Billings to Powell, as it has members from Buffalo to Cody.

“This is the only synagogue for, gosh, I can’t say,” Uriarte said. “There is one in Bozeman with about 50 families, one in Cheyenne and one in Jackson.”

Uriarte points out Judaism is a heritage as well as a religion. This may ring especially true to Hecht, an engineer. His direct family escaped the Holocaust by immigrating to the United States, where they did not discuss their heritage. Neither his grandparents nor his parents practiced Judaism in the states, Hecht said. 

“If my dad was still alive, we wouldn’t be here [placing the mezuzah]. I’d just keep quiet,” he said. Hecht acknowledged it was what the family felt they needed to do to protect themselves and their children from anti-Semitism. They never even discussed the Holocaust and seldom mentioned family members who were unable to escape the Nazis. Hecht said they had one letter from a survivor in France, telling the story of other members of the family.

“It wasn’t good,” Hecht said. “We survived and they are all dead.”

There are other members of the extended family who are now in eastern Europe and even the Philippines, but do not practice Judaism.

The mezuzah is hung on the front door post on the right hand side at eye level, at a 45 degree angle. 

“We prioritize the main entrance and work our way down from there,” Uriarte said. “It is from tradition, not in the law.” 

And there the little container bearing Jewish script is now installed, reminding the residents to keep the words of God on their hearts in a place where they are unafraid to embrace their religion and heritage.

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