February 2013: Tefillin

“You shall love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might…Bind these words as a sign on your hand, and let them be a reminder between your eyes.” These three types of love of G-d (heart, soul and might) are combined when we wrap tefillin every morning before Shacharit. Placing the yad tefillin on our arms over the brachial artery is close to our hearts, while the shel rosh (head) tefillin is in proximity to our soul. The strength of G-d is felt continuously through the binding of the retzuous (straps). We experience this love both physically and spiritually. Prayer is exhilarating and powerful but it requires a high level of discipline and commitment.  It is literally a mitzvah to wrap tefillin. The root of the word mitzvah means to “bind”.  With each mitzvot, we strengthen our connection with G-d. Tefillin reminds us how intense this relationship is.

When I started coming regularly to morning minyan over five years ago, wrapping tefillin became an integral part of my life. It never occurred to me that a simple routine would provide such pleasure. Two years ago I commissioned a Rabbi/Certified Sofer STaM to hand make a new set of tefillin. I examined dozens of parchments written by various sofers until I found the script that I loved. The battim (boxes) were custom made as well as the retzuous. I had finally found an expense that would justify using my Bar Mitzvah savings bonds which stopped earning interest after forty years. It is the most precious Bar Mitzvah gift that I could have ever imagined. I gave my original set of tefillin to my daughter Molly. I see in her eyes the pleasure she feels wrapping tefillin. Please join us while we lead Shacharit service every Sunday morning.

There are differences between the two battim. The four Parshios commanding us to wear tefillin are written on separate parchments and inserted in the partitions of the shel rosh battim. The yad battim has the Parshios written continuously on one parchment. The first two passages remind us of the Exodus from Egypt, while the second two verses are from the Shema. We are reminded daily of the miracle of freedom from slavery when the “strong hand of G-d brought us out of Egypt”. After reading the four passages in the order they appear in the Torah, our past, present and future is identified.

The three mitzvot in the Torah, which are signs of our covenant with G-d, are: Tefillin, Brit Milah, and Shabbat. This is why it is not necessary to wear tefillin on Shabbat or Yom Tov, since the holiday is itself a reminder.

The World Wide Wrap is a signature international program presented by the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs scheduled for Sunday, February 3rd. It is an opportunity for Jews from around the world to learn about the mitzvah of tefillin. Our morning minyan members are enthusiastically looking forward to demonstrating how to wrap tefillin and recite the Blessings. A wonderful program and breakfast will follow the morning service. I hope to wrap tefillin and daven Shacharit with you during the World Wide Wrap.