While checking mezuzah scrolls this morning (they should be inspected for damage twice in seven years, according to the gemara and Shulchan Aruch), I remembered an incident from some time back, when a mekubal (mystic) visited my community and offered to look at people’s mezuzot.
For those who may not be aware: A few itinerant Kabbalalists claim to be able to read the mezuzah scrolls from people' s doors and discern information about what goes on in the house, and particularly about the spiritual challenges facing the inhabitants of the house.
I must admit, right at the outset, that I am skeptical regarding the abilities of mekubalim who advertise such services. I wholeheartedly believe that such skills could exist, but I have a hard time with the idea that those who are capable of this art are hawking their talents in this manner.
And, of course, I must also acknowledge the following story of skepticism, for the sake of full disclosure: After college, I attended NYU’s Courant Institute, seeking a Masters in Computer Science, intending to make aliyah and work in computers. At the same time I entered semichah at YU/RIETS, to keep up structured learning. In my first or second year into this program, my parents showed my mezuzah to a mekubal – who forecast that I pursue the rabbinate rather than a career in computers. I remained in the Computer Science program for a full year after I had already decided to go with the rabbinate, in an attempt to prove him wrong.
So, yes, I am a longtime skeptic. But to return to our story: The visiting mekubal inspected the mezuzot of a certain family, and told them that one of them was no good. He even explained a certain family problem – regarding which he had been given no advance information, but which I think he could have guessed quite easily - on that basis. The family purchased a new mezuzah (not from him).
The family brought me the mezuzah later, for me to examine it. I studied it, and found nothing wrong. They then showed me the problem: They held the scroll up in front of a flashlight, and there was a pinprick-sized hole in the parchment, at the edge of a letter.
This would, indeed, disqualify a mezuzah scroll – the letters must be מוקף גויל, surrounded entirely by parchment. But I had already been checking mezuzot for a decade, and I had never, ever, seen such a hole. Ever since that day I have included, as a routine part of checking, a step in which I hold up the scroll to a light, and I have never seen such a hole – and I’ve checked dozens of mezuzot since that day.
If you ask me, I think the mekubal had a sharp fingernail, or some other means of puncturing the mezuzah. I can’t prove it, of course… but, all the same, if you do decide to show your mezuzot to a mekubal, check them with a light first, and watch his hands very carefully.