13 – Tefillin of the hand

Mitzvah 13  The Tefillin of the hand

And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes: Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6.8

וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת עַל יָדֶךָ וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ

And you shall bind them – for sign – on – your hand – and shall be – tefillin(totafot) – between – your eyes.

By wearing the Tefillin on the arm and on the head, indicating that the work of our hands and the thoughts of our brains must be dedicated to G-d, we have a constant reminder not to follow the dictates of evil inclinations.

With all your heart. The hand Tefillin are worn on the left hand opposite the heart. We thus dedicate our heart, the seat of life, to the love of G-d.

With all your might. The hand Tefillin are bound to the arm, the symbol of man’s strength. We thus dedicate all our powers to the love of G-d.

Another theme of the Tefillin is the Exodus from Egypt  – And it shall be a sign … because with a strong hand G-d Brought you out of Egypt. The parchments in the Tefillin speak of the Exodus. The Tefillin thus serve to bind us to our past, especially to this unique event in our history.

The Tefillin are put on the arm first. This is the Tefillin shel Yad or hand Tefillin.

The strap is then tightened by pulling it forward the right. It is customary to wind it toward the body. Chassidic and Sephardic Jews, however, wind it away from the body.

The strap is wound seven times around the forearm. The black side of the straps must always be on the outside.

Now wind the strap once or twice around the palm of the hand so that it can be held to complete the windings of the hand Tefillin.

The three windings around the middle finger are common to all rites, and symbolize the threefold bond of love between G-d and Israel. In a sense, they form a threefold wedding ring. While making these windings, it is customary to repeat the following verses from the Book of Hosea (2:21-22). We are speaking to the Divine Presence of G-d:

              I will wed You to me forever

              I will wed You to me with right and justice, with love and mercy

              I will wed You to me with faith… and you shall know G-d.

The hand Tefillin are bound with a knot in the shape of the letter Yud. This letter always symbolizes the ultimate good in the World to Come. G-d’s Action is guided by His ultimate goal which is this Future World. The letter Yud is also the final letter of the Name Sh-day, the Name associated with G-d’s Providence. Together with the Shin of the head Tefillin, and the Dalet of its knot, the Tefillin spell out this Name.

The Kabbalists teach us that the hand Tefillin represent the feminine element. The single hollow can be said to represent the womb, and the coils, the umbilical cord. What man partakes of with an object, woman partakes of with her very body.

The box of Tefillin is called a Bayit – literally a house. The woman also has her Bayit – the home in which she raises a family. One could say that a woman’s home is her Tefillin.

May we try each day to learn about G-d, to follow His Ways and His Truth

Blessings and Peace

Rebbetzin Revi