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On the door jambs of most Jewish homes, you will find a narrow rectangular box, often adorned with the Star of David or the Hebrew letter "Shin". Inside is a scroll containing the Hebrew texts that comprise the Sh'ma, the core of our theology. This box and scroll is known as a mezuzah (plural: mezuzot, from the Hebrew word for "doorpost").
"...And they shall take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts of the lintel, upon the houses wherein [the Israelites will eat their last meal as slaves]..." — Exod. XII:7
The first, oldest commandment to mark the gates and doors of Jewish home was that of the Passover — the final Plague visited upon Egypt — and like our earliest sacrifices, it was a mark of blood, not words. To many purists, blood always marks the earlier, more meaningful, more visceral ritual.
Sitting with a pile of used test strips while listening to the live stream of Kol Nidrei from a well-known Reform synagogue, I was struck by how much our familiar test strips look like the decorative mezuzah cases I grew up with — and how much those test strips represent the core of diabetes management theory. We test religiously, take the numbers as Gospel, eat or fast, exercise or correct, bolus or suspend, based on these numbers — numbers that are inscribed, quite literally, in blood. Your blood, my blood, the blood of any person living with diabetes...
And it occurred to me that we are, in many ways, sacrifices on the altar of diabetes management, as we better learn why diabetes happens, how to live with it, and maybe some day in the future how to prevent or cure it.
In that flash of insight, I saw every used test strip as a mark upon the door to our bodies, the homes of our diabetes, and every stray, random test strip in our houses and cars as a mezuzah — an indicator, a sacred text of our lives with diabetes. Our sensors and infusion sets are the tsitsis (fringed garments) the diabetes god commands us to wear; our meters and controllers, our phyllacteries and prayer-books..
Stripping off the contaminated ends of those test strips to make them safe for jewelry, I felt a sense of loss, of desanctification, of the Divine Presence deserting me as I discarded those blooded ends, turning the mezuzot of my life into the profanity of personal decoration.
I don't get it — the sense of loss, that is. I mean, they're just a bunch of used test strips, right? Or are they really, truly, something else?
Michelle Kowalski, a writer, editor and photography hobbiest living in Phoenix, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in February 2005. In January 2008, as part of her quest to start on an insulin pump, Michelle learned that she actually has type 1 diabetes. (Read More)
Nicole Purcell lists having type 1 diabetes last when she's asked to provide information about herself - because that's where it belongs. (Read More)