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Tefillin – Our connection to Hashem

The mitzvah of wearing tefillin is one of the mitzvot that constitute the cornerstone of every Jew’s life. This commandment is mentioned in the Torah several times when the verse most closely associated with the mitzvah is “and you tied them to a sign on your hands, and they were dripping between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6: 8).

On the mitzvah of tefillin

This mitzvah is said to be equivalent to the whole Torah and is one of the three mitzvot which constitute an “OT” – a sign. A Sign of the special connection between the Jewish people and God. (The other two mitzvahs that are considered a “sign” are circumcision and Shabbat).

The first encounter with tefillin takes place by the age of 13, the bar mitzvah, unlike other mitzvot which are taught to children from an early age. According to Jewish law, this mitzvah takes place during the daytime and not at night, on a weekday and not on Shabbat and holidays, when women are exempt from having to participate in this mitzvah.

What is Tefillin?

Tefillin is made out of two black leather boxes, containing a leather sheet, on which are written four passages from the Torah (also called “the four parshiot”). There are two main methods regarding the order of the parshiot in it – the Rashi method and the Rabbeinu Tam method. Most people buy the Rashi ones. Each of the leather boxes containing the four parshiot is connected to black leather straps. The tefillin are divided into two parts: Tefillin of the hand (tefillin shel yad) and head tefillin (tefillin shel Rosh).

How to put on Tefillin?

First, wear the tefillin of the hand and then the tefillin of the head. The hand tefillin are placed on the weak hand – usually the left hand. If a person is right-handed, he will put it on his left arm, and if he is left-handed, he will place the tefillin on his right arm. (a left-handed person needs to pay attention when buying a Tefillin that it is indeed meant for left-handed people.

It usually is mentioned in the product description). The head tefillin must be placed just ABOVE the natural hairline, precisely in the middle. After you put the tefillin on your arm, and before you tie the straps, you should say the blessing of putting on Tefillin. Immediately after placing the tefillin of the hand, the tefillin of the head should be placed without interruption between them. When you say the blessing, also aim for the tefillin of the head.

Why are tefillin painted black?

The answer can be found in the verses of Shema Yisrael, one of the main prayers recited during tefillin. At Shma Yisroel we proclaim that the Creator of the world is the One and Only: The Lord our God is One! The leather sheet inside the tefillin boxes also contains the verses of the Shema. Black color has a unique feature: it is absolute. It can not be overcome by other colors. This unique trait of black color symbolizes the absolute unity of God, a complete and absolute unity.

From the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe about the tefillin

“In the midst of every human being there is a constant struggle between reason and emotion, and when the mind becomes powerless and emotion dominates without straining, the results will be tragic. The tefillin of the head are worn on the head, the seat of the intellect, while those of the hand are placed on the left hand, facing the heart. The message: to harness the mind and emotion together with their main place of residence – the arm and the head – to the work of the Creator. “

Different Types of Tefillin

Tefillin from goat/sheep’s skin (Tefillin Dakkot):

Those are considered good Tefillin and are less pricey, but aren’t considered as preferable as the next kind.

Tefillin from cattle skin (Tefillin Gassot):

Those are more expensive and are considered superior to Tefillin Dakot, according to Halacha.

Tefillin from cattle skin – Tefillin Gassot – Mehudar:

These Tefillin are made from cattle skin as well but are created with more “hidoorim” than the regular Tefillin Gassot. Considered to be the best of the best, they are also the most sturdy and expensive ones.