So I’m sitting in a tire shop this morning, and an employee came in the front door of the waiting area. As he did so, he made a quick gesture of touching the threshold, and then his forehead. He was 50-ish, Mediterranean, had an (embroidered) name beginning with A that I couldn’t read. I’d bet on Persian/Iranian/Farsi, if I had to.
I can’t remember encountering this practice or hearing of it, and I do have some interest and experience in Middle Eastern religions. I did a little quiet googling but couldn’t come up with any match to a religious ritual or practice.
So what religion is represented, and what’s the ritual?
"“What are you doing?” Robbins demanded at one rehearsal as Mostel touched the doorjamb of Tevye’s house and then brushed his fingers over his lips.
Mostel offered the obvious answer: “I’m kissing the mezuza.”
Robbins responded bluntly, “Don’t do it again.”
But Mostel insisted that Tevye, like the Orthodox Jews with whom the actor had grown up, would never neglect to make the customary gesture of devotion that acknowledges the case of sacred parchment affixed to doorways of Jewish homes.
Robbins bristled. Mostel held firm and kissed the mezuza again. Without raising his voice — in fact, the more emphatic he became, the more firmly and calmly he spoke — Robbins demanded that Mostel stop. The actor relented. And then, when he walked through Tevye’s doorway once more, he crossed himself. He’d made — and won — his point. The mezuza kissing stayed in."
Mezuzah would be my guess as well. Usually we Jews kiss our hands after touching the mezuzah, not touch their foreheads, but maybe he was doing that and you mistook his gesture, or maybe it’s a variation unique to Sephardi or Persian Jews that I’m not familiar with. Or maybe, if the store is not Jewish-owned, and doesn’t have a mezuzah, he instinctively touched the doorpost, and then slapped his head “duh” when he realized his mistake.
Now I’m confused. The threshold is the strip at the bottom of the door, which as you say, you walk over. The lintel is the strip at the top of the door, which you walk under. Did he stoop down and touch the threshold, or did he raise his hand over his head and touch the lintel?
I haven’t ruled it out. It just didn’t strike me as being that. I have seen people do pretty obviously OCD stuff going through doors. This looked - casual and practiced and specific, like crossing oneself.
Aluminum! Maybe he was grounding himself. Who did that in a movie, was it John Malkovich? Whoever it was they stayed indoor as much as possible, wrapped in foil and everyone had to leave their phones outside.