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Mezuzot in Space

Jewish Astronaut Posts Mezuzahs on NASA Shuttle Door Posts

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The Apollo Mezuzah by Laura Cowan

The Apollo Mezuzah by Laura Cowan

May 18 2008
The mezuzah, a religious object used by nomadic Israelites wandering in the desert 4000 years ago, is being used by an American Jewish astronaut on his travels into outer space in 2008.

Gregory Chamitoff will place mezuzahs on the door post near his bunk aboard NASA’s Discovery shuttle. Chamitoff says the mezuzahs will serve as constant reminders of his home and of his Jewish identity during his six-month-long stay on the International Space Station.

NASA allows its astronauts to carry a small pouch with a limited number of personal articles from close family and friends, thus enabling these people to share in the space flight experience with the astronaut. The mezuzahs were give to Chamitoff by his former aerospace teacher Phil Hattis and close friend Lisa Stone. Hattis and Stone chose unique space-shuttle shaped mezuzahs designed by Israeli artist Laura Cowan.

“Since Greg and I share a Jewish heritage and I wanted to pick a personal artifact that my family could appreciate for a long time, a mezuzah made sense as something that could become part of the home after returning to Earth. Furthermore, while Greg is in space, it can be part of his temporary home,” said Hattis.

Stone said “It seems very appropriate to have a mezuzah that evokes space flight actually go into space.”

While Hattis chose Cowan’s Apollo Mezuzah, Stone Lisa chose the Shuttle Mezuzah. Cowan says she creates rocket shaped mezuzahs because “I love the idea of using a modern symbol to make an ancient religious law feel contemporary."

God commands the Jewish people to hang mezuzahs, which contain verses from the Torah, on their doorposts. "And you shall inscribe these words upon the door posts of your house and upon your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). I wonder if even the greatest Jewish minds – from Rambam to Einstein – ever imagined that one day these words would be inscribed on the door post of a space shuttle.
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