DIY Lego Mezuzah with Kids
(Update: a revised version is now under my Make a Mezuzah: LEGO Mezuzah page.)
I’m a big fan of making mezuzah cases with kids, and especially out of found materials. In my house, Lego qualify as found material, as they are found under every large piece of furniture.
Making a ritual object out of repurposed materials with your kid is fun and Jewish (two words we like to link as often as possible), useful and meaningful. In the case of a mezuzah (pun intended), we can touch the container every time we enter a room, which gives us a physical connection to the Sh’ma prayer inside and the parent-child crafted case outside. Of course, we make sure the case is mounted low enough for kids to reach, too. (And the observant among us would have a kosher mezuzah higher up on the doorframe already. For mezuzah rules, see here.)
Other materials great for making mezuzah cases are: dental floss containers, toothbrush tubes, fat straws (from bubble tea), half a walnut shell, toothpaste boxes, plastic tubing and pretty much anything longer than it is wide and that will still fit on a doorpost. Laurie Bellet, author of The Reluctant Artist, posted a great idea at the Torah Aura blog about making cases from dried-out markers.
Do see my Kveller.com article about making training scrolls (as in “not kosher” scrolls) with kids and about making mezuzah cases from used glue stick containers and empty matchboxes.
But why Lego? Why not? Lego are fantastically fun building materials. And if you love Lego, you and your kid can happily fiddle with a pile of assorted bricks and come up with all sorts of designs.
The basic requirements are that the case is: big enough to hold a scroll, has a way to open and close to insert the scroll, and has a flat back for mounting to doorpost with tape.
The rest is left up to the imagination. My dream is to create a big letter Shin(the traditional decoration for any case) on the front using the tiny, single-knob round pieces, but I have so far been unable to meet this challenge.
To make a three-legged Shin requires five horizontal rows of knobs, and my flat plate is only four rows wide. I made a sample Shin (at left) which could easily attach it to the front of my mezuzah, but the thick profile (I don’t have the right kind of flat plates) would protrude too far into the doorway.
But, maybe you have a more of a variety in your Lego hoard and will not be deterred. My collection is a glorious mess of hand-me-downs and yard-sale victories, with nothing newer than 10 years old. We have no Technic pieces yet, but I have my eyes open. Teeny gears, spindles, wheels and such will appeal to older kids and geeky parents. If you’d like to see pictures of the different bricks and awesome ways to sort and store them, see this article at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories (total geekdom. I love it.)
I got the idea for Lego Mezuzot from the adorable cases by JewDads. See the JewDads website and their product page at Modern Tribe. The designs are customizable, imaginative and cute, and they are permanent, so if you buy one, little hands will not demolish it in three seconds.
But for folks who just want to mess around with Lego, or for folks who don’t have the discretionary income to buy much Judaica online (me, on both counts), we can play around with making mezuzah cases at home for free.
My version is very simple, I admit, and rather plain. But it demonstrates one way to construct a basic closed case. I started with a 4 x 12 flat plate (4 knobs by 12 knobs), then made a wall around the perimeter with a series of 1 x bricks (bricks only one knob in width). I used clear 2 x 4 bricks for the front so we could see the scroll inside, and we just remove the top two when we need to put the scroll in or take it out.
I did not glue this together because I haven’t made a model I like well enough to preserve it for eternity. My kid is less picky, thankfully. Epoxy is probably the best bet for gluing, but most epoxies off-gas something awful and I wouldn’t do the gluing indoors and certainly not right next to my kid’s head.
I use foam tape squares to affix it to the doorframe. For temporary mounts, blue painter’s tape and poster clay work well. If your doorframe is metal, consider gluing a magnet to the back of your mezuzah. By the way, a “real” case must be affixed at the top and bottom.
Not only is making mezuzot out of Lego fun, Jewish, useful and meaningful, it is educational. Math is involved here, as are spatial relations, shape and size discrimination, Hebrew and fine motor-skills. Playing with Lego can stretch your brain. You don’t need to tell this to your kid.
More Jewish Lego lore: I also wrote an article about making toy Hanukkah menorahs out of upside-down Duplo and Lego. The holes on the underside of the bricks and plates make great candle-holders (candles being 1×1 round bricks or Lite Brite / Battleship Game pegs. Duplo Brick holes actually hold real Hanukkah candles, but please don’t light candles in your toys: they will melt. The toys and the candles, I mean.
Recommended Picture Book Reading: A Mezuzah on the Door, by Amy Melzter (P.J. Library selection)