A little ancient magic

M. M. De Voe
3 min readJul 14, 2022

how this shiksa came to love the mezuzah on her door

a modern silver mezuzah affixed to an apartment door
When I first saw this, I had no idea what it was. I looked it up on the internet and then felt weird about taking it off…it was a holy thing to believers, I couldn’t just throw it away. So I left it.

The guy who owned this lower Manhattan apartment before my spouse and I bought it was something of a shady guy. An art dealer, the realtor told us. There were indeed huge pieces of art on the walls of the loft, but the realtor told us that his gallery had recently gone under. I was taken by his twelve-piece leather sectional and the photographs of him shaking hands with then-mayor Rudy Giuliani among other recognizable celebrities. The house was a hundred thousand dollars underpriced, the realtor whispered, “because he has to get out.”

Someone else told us he had been caught with child pornography, but that may have been just that they didn’t like him. Certainly, once we closed on the place, IRS audit letters filled our mailbox. We had no forwarding address, so I scribbled RTS on the envelope and hoped the government had tenacity.

The first day we walked into the empty apartment we found a little altar of abandoned things: a beautiful pair of Waterford whiskey glasses, a captain’s knife with a fine wood handle, a silk kimono embroidered with a luscious dragon, some Mikasa plates, a set of knives, and all of this treasure laid out with great care on a black lucite Vondom floating coffee table so heavy that we gave up on turning it sideways to fit it through the door and still, to this day, use it as a centerpiece amid our otherwise dark cherry furniture.

The other thing he left us was his mezuzah.

For those of you not-Jewish, or not-TV-watching, a mezuzah is a a little container that holds a piece of parchment (klaf) inscribed with some verses from the Torah (Bible). The little object adheres to the doorway of a Jewish home and is intended to remind the homeowner they have a covenant with God, and also to indicate to anyone coming to the house that the owners are Jewish.

After briefly considering getting someone Jewish to take it down, I decided to leave it: why not, it was subtle, and I do not sneer at any religions. If this home was protected by the Jewish deity, so be it. I was happy to live a stranger under this umbrella. I was not a believer, but I was also no disdainer — this item brings luck and joy to many people, and being somewhat superstitious, I figured taking it down could bring bad luck.

M. M. De Voe

Fictionista, collector of obscure awards, admirer of optimists in the face of dread. Author of Book&Baby, an acclaimed guide for writer-parents. mmdevoe.com