Make a Mezuzah “training scroll” with your kid (or a whole class).
Printable template below…
Making a DIY (do-it-yourself) mezuzah is fun way to spend Jewish time together, and you end up with a ritual object ready to use.
WANT TO MAKE A SCROLL?
See below for free printable templates and instructions on how to create “training scrolls.” Ages: toddler to teen.
WANT TO MAKE A CASE?
See Make a Mezuzah pages for ideas on how to craft cases from free, found materials. Individual projects include: Lego Mezuzah, Glue Stick Mezuzah, Matchbox Mezuzah, and Marker Mezuzah.
TO MAKE A SCROLL (Klaf)
Show a real scroll for reference, if you have one. The scrolls are fascinating in themselves: little works of art, faith and tradition. On the outside of the scroll should be the letters that spell Shaddai (Almighty) with a lovely crowned Shin, and then, upside down are a string of letters that are actually a kabbalistic cryptogram. The scroll is always rolled from left to right, so that when it is unrolled, the first word seen is Shema. You may buy a kosher scroll at judaica shops, synagogue bookshops and online.
Below are DIY ideas for making a “training” scroll with kids ages Toddler on up. By training, I mean a non-kosher scroll that nonetheless provides an opportunity to learn about mezuzot. If your doors already have the kosher kind installed, a kid-crafted mezuzah can be mounted lower, within reach of the youngest members of the family. See Make a Mezuzah page for mounting instructions.
Size: traditional scrolls range in height from 6, 10, 12 and 15 centimeters. Keep the relative sizes of the scroll and the case in mind while you create.
CHOOSE A VERSION BELOW, depending on the age of your child and the time at hand. The skills required range from simple coloring or matching letters, to writing one word or a whole phrase.
Finish any of these methods by rubbing the dry, decorated scroll with the side of a light beige or ivory crayon to give it a parchment look. Or, start with a parchment-y paper like vellum.
Older kids can use a calligraphy pen with black ink, or an actual feather quill (for feather info, see #4 below).
2) Rubber stamp the word Shema in Hebrew and English (see Resources for where to buy). The Hebrew is just three letters. Remember Hebrew is written and read from right to left: Shin-Mem-Ayin שׁמע
3) Write the word Shema in Hebrew and English with black pen, colored pencil, crayon, or marker. Neither you nor your child have to be Hebrew readers to form the three letters. (But once you write them, you will be!) Use templates below as a visual aid. Remember Hebrew is written and read from right to left: Shin-Mem-Ayin שׁמע
4) Brush: Be a scribe (sofer / soferet). Write the word Shema in Hebrew and English using a feather quill and black paint or ink. Craft stores sell small bags of feathers, but avoid the short, fluffy kind in favor of the longer kind with large spines. You might need to trim the tip into a smaller point. Put blob of paint in small bowl. I’ve had success using a tiny blob of black tempera or acrylic in a clean plastic container or bottle cap. Remember Hebrew is written and read from right to left: Shin-Mem-Ayin שׁמע
5) Match: Spell Shema in Hebrew with aleph-bet stickers and photocopy it. Trim to size. Using another set of the same stickers, your child can match and cover the letters, spelling out Shema with a colorful Shin, Mem and Ayin שׁמע
6) Color: Click on the Shema template. Print. Your child can trim to size, but very young ones might need a lightly pencilled cutting guide. Choose a method of decoration below. (By the way, the little shapes below the letters are vowels.)
- Be a scribe: Fill letters with black tempera or acrylic using a homemade feather quill (to mimic a scribe’s turkey quill) or very narrow brush. (See #4 above for suggestions about making and using a quill.) Thicker paper works best. Put blob of paint in small bowl or bottle cap. (If using cake watercolor, a narrow brush works better than a quill.)
- Trace and color the letters. Use narrow black marker or colored pencil. Fill in with black or other colors: narrow markers, crayons, colored pencils or crayons.
FAQ: Why can’t you just copy and paste from a real scroll you find online, and then trim to fit? You could find an image of a real scroll online, scoot it to a word document and print it, but a real scroll is created by a real person whose livelihood is creating scrolls. Not only is this taking the work of a professional scribe, the scroll would not be kosher, being just a reproduction, and it would only be printed on one side. Note, too that all scrolls contain the four-letter name of God (tetragrammaton, a.k.a. yud–hey–vav and hey) and need to be treated with respect. Look up the word geniza, if this is news. If you photocopy or scan a klaf you actually own, you could look at this as being similar to recording a cassette tape of a CD you already own, just so you can play it in your really old car. Technically, it might be a copyright infringement, but it is for your own personal use and you did buy the first version. Plus, all this is in the service of education: a pursuit so supremely worthy that many other rules are forfeit. (Still, the ethical and legal questions raised by such things are in themselves educational.)
Materials: Buy Hebrew rubber stamps and Alef-Bet stickers at OyToys.com and Benny’s Educational Toys. Crafts stores carry feathers, black tempera (my favorite medium for DIY scrolls) and individual sheets of interesting papers (in the scrapbooking section).
- Sofer: The Story of a Torah Scroll, by Eric Ray. A real sofer shows and tells his work. Ages 4-8, but appropriate even for adults. The pages on making real mezuzah scrolls are a helpful visual guide.
- Mezuzah on the Door (Jewish Identity), by Amy Meltzer (a PJ Library picture book selection).
- HaSoferet, the site of Jen Taylor Friedman, the modern world’s first female Torah scribe (and the originator of Tefillin Barbie and other marvels). Here’s the link to the Mezuzah page, in which she recommends particular vendors, shows us now not to hang a mezuzah, and advises how to make a mezuzah case out of an empty Rolo candy tube.
- Mezuzah.net: Ask the Sofer. See the long list of actual mezuzah questions answered, and submit your own if you need to. Your question is probably already there.