And on the doorposts of your…house?

February 13, 2020

Other News

Trystan and Briana Hern with Rabbi Michael Panitz on their floating home.

After four decades in the Rabbinate, the majority of them spent as the spiritual leader of Conservative congregations in New Jersey and Virginia, Temple Israel’s Rabbi, Dr. Michael Panitz, estimates he’s helped affix mezuzot to the doorposts of literally hundreds of homes. But, what if there aren’t doorposts, per se? Or even a house for that matter? What does a rabbi do then?

That’s the question Rabbi Panitz was presented by Brianna Hearn, a newcomer to Temple Israel, who approached him about affixing a mezuzah to the entrance of her small yacht, the home she shares with Trystan, her husband of three months. Hearn is an E-5 in the Navy, currently assigned to the Radiation Health Department at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. She’s a sculptor, a guitar player, and a very serious Star Trek devotee—a self described science nerd. And she’d eventually like to become a Navy chaplain.

The couple began attending services at Temple Israel last autumn, and finding the congregation and its rabbi both warm and welcoming, Hearn decided to pose the question: could she place a mezuzah at the entrance of their floating home?

Never having previously had occasion to consider such a request, Rabbi Panitz was nonetheless happy to help the couple fulfill this mitzvah, and on an unusually warm January day, he met the Hearns at the Portsmouth Marina, D deck, where the RADAR TWO is docked. After some discussion about what might pass for a doorpost the Hearns read selections from the Psalms, and recited the prayers for affixing a mezuzah. When it was safely and permanently nailed to the entrance, the couple recited the shehechyeanu and the shema.

Afterward, they were joined by Bri’s brother, Gerald Moe, for a hearty toast of champagne, punctuated by her explanation of the amount of psi expended by the cork as it popped from the bottle, into the water below. (By her calculations, based on the distance the cork flew—26.762 feet —the psi was 76.341.).

As he left the pier, Rabbi Panitz noted that he was that very evening scheduled to give a talk about “Jewish Firsts.” Looking back at the mezuzah adorning the entrance of the RADAR TWO, he joked, “Now I’ve got one of my own to add to that list.”

- Bobbie Fisher

Letter to the Editor