Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried
Chapter 10 : The Laws of Tefillin
Avi is a lazy boy
The commandment of tefillin is also a very precious commandment, for the whole Torah is compared to the tefillin, as it is written: 1 "In order that there will be the law of the Lord in your mouth." One who does not to put on tefillin is considered as one of the transgressors in Israel (who sin) with their bodies. 2 One who puts on defective tefillin not only fails to observe the commandment, but also says many blessings in vain, which constitutes a grave sin. Therefore, one must take care to buy tefillin from a competent and G-d-fearing scribe. Also the (tefillin) straps should be bought from a trustworthy person, to be sure that they were prepared for this particular purpose from clean (animal) skins. But due to our many sins, this gross mistake is on the increase, in that (people) buy their tefillin and the straps from anyone who sells them cheaply, and they are unfit. Every G-d-fearing person should consider this: if for one's clothes and utensils, one is lavish so that they be of the right kind, how much more (should he do so), then, with the objects required by the Almighty, blessed be His name. One should not economize and worry about (spending) the money, but be scrupulous to buy these when they are definitely fit for the purpose, even if the price is high. One should always take care of them that they stay in proper condition, and that the cases and the straps be black. It is proper to smear the straps often with (a little) oil, so that they are (always) black. (But not smear them with fish oil which is called "fishtran" because this is from a non-kosher fish.) If the tefillin become defective, even only slightly, or if the stitches become loose, one should immediately consult a competent scholar as to whether they are (still) fit. One must particularly be careful regarding the edges of the cases, and especially so (with the edges of) the one for the head, because this is very common that they become frayed and holes are made there, which makes them unfit. Very frequently, when the tefillin become old, some part of the upper skin becomes separated, of the head, which makes them unfit. One needs to take great care about all these. All who are careful about the commandment of the tefillin and treat them with respect, and not engage in idle talk about them or everyday matters, his days will be prolonged, and he is assured of being in the world to come, as it is written: 3 "O Lord, by these things, (that they wear on them G-d's name in the tefillin) they will live, and in all these things is the life of my spirit; so will You give me health and cause me to live." The word "tefillin" connotes judgment and admonition, (and therefore the lamed has the dagesh - stress - to take the place of the missing second (lamed) ) because the tefillin serve as evidence and convincing proof that the Divine Presence rests on us, as it is written: 4 "And all the nations of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord;" and explained our Rabbis, of blessed memory, that (the reference) is the tefillin of the head upon which is (embossed the letter) shin, (the first letter) of the word Shaddai (Almighty). Therefore, one should not cover the tefillin of the head entirely with the tallit.
- Ex. 13:9
- Because they refuse to subjugate their bodies to the worship of the Almighty.
- Isaiah 38:16
- Deut. 28:10
The time for putting them on in the morning begins when one sees one's neighbor, with whom one is slightly acquainted, at a distance of four cubits, and recognizes him. After putting on the tallit one puts on the tefillin. The reason we put first the tzitzit over the tefillin is that the commandment of the tzitzit is performed more often, in that it applies (both) on week days and on Sabbaths and festivals, while the commandment of the tefillin only applies on weekdays. And this rule is well established; 1 one which is observed regularly and one which is not observed regularly, that which is observed regularly takes precedence. However, if one happens to take the tefillin first, even if they are (still) in their bag, one must put them on first and then wrap oneself with the tallit, because a mitzvah must not be passed by, as it is written: 2 "And you shall observe the matzot," read instead (commandments) mitzvot: that is, if a commandment presents itself, do not delay. 3
- - that when we have two commandments -
- Exodus 12:17
- lit. "allow it to sour", just as yeast for dough will sour if one does not use it quickly, so the commandment loses its value if one delays its performance.
It is written: 1 "And it shall be as a sign upon your hand", 2 (in the section (that starts from verse 5): "And it shall be ..." ) "your hand" is written with (at its end) the (superfluous) letter "hey". The interpretation of our Rabbis, of blessed memory, is that this is the "faint" hand, that is, the left, which is weaker and feebler. One puts on (the tefillin) there, on the place (the biceps) where the muscle stands up, as it is said: 3 "Therefore, shall you put these My words upon your heart," that is, it's put (physically) opposite the heart. Therefore, one puts it (the tefillin) there, and inclines it slightly to the side of the body, so that when one lets the arm down, it (the tefillin) will be opposite the heart. It is written about the head tefillin: 4 "Between your eyes," received by tradition, our Rabbis, of blessed memory, that it does not mean literally between the eyes, but (on the head) midway between the eyes. And its place is from where the hair begins to grow, and its place continues upwards finishing at the place where a baby's skull (lit. brain) is soft; which means that the lower edge of the tefillin should not be lower than the place where the hair begins to grow, and the upper edge not higher than the place where a baby's skull is soft. Great care should be taken that it (the head tefillin) should always lie in its proper place. If there lies even a small part of it, on the forehead where no hair grows, or one puts all of it at the place of the hair but it is to one side and it is not exactly midway between the eyes, the commandment is not fulfilled, and one blessed in vain. The knot (in the strap) must be placed opposite this, on the back of the head, above the nape of the neck, which is the base of the skull, where there is hair, which is opposite the face and not incline to one side or another. It should be tightened onto the head; but when the case and the base are wide, it is difficult that it will be tightened properly. One needs to be very careful with this matter.
- Exodus 13:16
- The word "your hand" is "yadchah" in Hebrew.
- Deut. 11:18
- Deut. 7:8
One puts on tefillin while standing. One should not shake the tefillin from the bag, because it is an act of contempt toward a mitzvah; rather take them with one's hand. One puts on first the (tefillin of the) hand, and before tightening the knot one blesses: "to put on the tefillin". (the letter hey has the vowel kametz, and the lamed of "tefillin" has the stress). One then tightens the knot and makes seven coils on his forearm. Afterwards, one puts on the (tefillin of the) head, and before one tightens it on his head one blesses: "Concerning the commandment of the tefillin". (the letter vav has the vowel patach) and tightens (the strap) on his head and says: "Blessed be His glorious kingdom forever and ever". The reason one needs to say: "Blessed be His glorious ... and ever" is because there is some doubt on (whether one should say) this blessing. Because there is doubt about this blessing, it is also doubtful whether or not a listener has to respond Amen to it. It seems to me, therefore, that it's best to say this blessing quietly. After putting on the (tefillin of the) head one makes with the strap of the (tefillin of the) hand three coils on the middle finger, one around the middle section, and two around the lower section.
Even if it happened to one, that one took from the bag the head (tefillin) first, one must pass over the commandment, hold it in one's hand, and cover it up with something, and put on the hand (tefillin) first. Since the precedence of the (tefillin of the) hand, over the one of the head, is ordained in the Torah, as it says: 1 "And you shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes." Hence, one can disregard, the (apparent) neglect of a commandment, in this case.
- Deut. 6:8
Nothing must intervene between the tefillin and one's flesh, and it makes no difference if it is the one of the hand and (similarly) makes no difference if it is the one of the head. Short hair is not considered an intervention since it is customary (to wear the hair) like that. But those who grow a thick tuft of hair, not only is this brazenness and vanity, and so is forbidden, there is also a prohibition because of putting on tefillin since this (thick hair) grows a lot, it is an intervention. 1
- Between the head and the tefillin.
Care should be taken with the tefillin of the hand that the knot should not be shifted from the case (even when they are in their bag one needs to be careful about this), and the yud of the knot must always be facing the heart. The base in which the strap is inserted should be upward and the case downward. In an emergency, for instance, a left-handed person, who puts (the tefillin) on the right hand, and at this moment has no tefillin himself only (ones that were) borrowed from a person who puts it on his left, (and also the opposite case) and the knot cannot be changed; if this is the situation, if he puts them on as they are with the base upward and the case downward, then the yud and the knot will be facing outward. In such a case, he may invert (the tefillin), and put it on with the base being downward and the case upward, so that the yud and the knot may be facing the heart.
It is forbidden to interrupt, by conversation, between (the putting on) of the (tefillin of the) hand and that of the head. Even to hint (by winking) with the eyes or to signal with one's fingers (of the hand) is forbidden. As it is said: 1 "And it shall be unto you for a sign upon your hand and for a memorial between your eyes," it is necessary that this memorial will be immediate (between) the hand tefillin and that of the head, so that both of them may constitute one unit. Even if one hears kaddish or kedusha, one must not interrupt (to respond) rather keep silent and pay attention to what the worshippers say. If, however, one hears another say the blessing, "to put on the tefillin", one can respond (to it) Amen, because this Amen is a corroboration that one believes in the commandment of the tefillin; and is therefore, (not an interruption rather) like one event. With tefillin (arranged according to the view) of Rabbenu Tam, 2 it is likewise forbidden to interrupt between (putting on the tefillin of) the hand and that of the head; but (to respond) to kaddish and kedusha one may pause.
- Exodus 13:9
- Rabbenu Tam, the grandson of Rashi, disagreed with him over the order of the four parchments in the head tefillin.
If one errs and pauses, one touches the (tefillin of the) hand, and repeats the blessing, "to put on the tefillin", then tightens the knot and afterwards puts on the (tefillin of the) head and blesses over it. If, (however), the interruption has been for the need of the tefillin, one need not repeat the blessing over the (tefillin of the) hand. If one errs and pauses, one touches the (tefillin of the) hand, and repeats the blessing, "to put on the tefillin", then tightens the knot and afterwards puts on the (tefillin of the) head and blesses over it. If, (however), the interruption has been for the need of the tefillin, one need not repeat the blessing over the (tefillin of the) hand.
One must reflect on putting on tefillin, that we are commanded by the Holy One, blessed be He, to put on tefillin which contain four (Torah) sections which have written on them the unity (of G-d), blessed be His name, and of the exodus (of the Israelites from the land) of Egypt. On the arm (the tefillin are placed) against the heart and on the head against the brain, in order that we should always remember the miracles and wonders that He has wrought for us, which show His Unity and that He has the might and the dominion over those who are above and below, 1 to do with them as He wants; also, that we should serve Him (with) the soul which (resides) in the brain, and also (with) the heart, which is the seat of our desires and (passions) thoughts. In so doing, one remembers the Creator, and minimizes one's pleasures, and (also) fulfill: 2 "And that you seek not after your own heart and your own eyes." This is the reason why, concerning the tefillin, it is written, "Between your eyes."
- Those above - the heavenly hosts, angels, cherubim, seraphim etc. Those below - mankind, the animals, the fish etc.
- Num. 15:39
The tefillin of the hand and of the head are two (separate and distinct) commandments, and non-observance of one does not effect the other. Therefore, if one has one (tefillin) only, or if by reason of some (accident or) outside force one is able to put on only one, one puts (that) one on. If one puts on the one for the hand, one blesses: "to put on the tefillin" only; but if one puts on the one for the head, one blesses (both blessings) on it: "to put on the tefillin" and also "Concerning the commandment of the tefillin"; and (also) say "Blessed be the name ... and ever". The tefillin of the hand and of the head are two (separate and distinct) commandments, and non-observance of one does not effect the other. Therefore, if one has only one tefillin (available), or if by reason of some (accident or) outside force one is able to put on only one, one puts (that) one on. If one puts on the one for the hand, one blesses: "to put on the tefillin" only; but if one puts on the one for the head, one blesses (both blessings) on it: "to put on the tefillin" and also "Concerning the commandment of the tefillin"; and (also) say "Blessed be the name ... and ever".
A fully left-handed man, even if he has become left-handed by becoming accustomed to this, in any event puts (the tefillin) on the right for everyone which is his "left". If he does all work with his right and only writes with his left, or vice versa, then the hand with which he writes is considered the "right" one, and the tefillin is placed on his other hand. An ambidextrous person puts the tefillin on the left (hand) for every one. A man not born left-handed at all, rather afterwards accustomed himself to write with the left but does all his (other) work with his right, puts (the tefillin) on the left (hand) for every one.
The prescribed width of the straps, whether of the head (tefillin) or of the hand, is no less than the length of a barley. 1 The prescribed length for both the right and left (straps of the tefillin of the) head, is to reach down to a man's navel, or slightly above that. There is an opinion that holds that (the strap on) the right hand side should reach down to below a man's abdomen. 2 (that is most used) And it is proper to follow this stricter view in the first instance. The (strap of the tefillin of the) hand should (be long enough) so it can be tightened, and make with it seven coils around the arm, and three coils around the (middle) finger, and then (by winding around the hand) hold it. If (one) strap becomes torn, whether of the head or of the hand, an authority should be consulted.
- 9 mm.
- lit. to the place of his circumcision.
Care should be taken that the straps will be with their black side out. If it happens to one that the strap around one's head became reversed or (the one) around one's arm so that the white side is outwards, one fasts or gives charity. Similarly, if one's tefillin fell to the ground, when not in their bag, one should also fast. But if they fall down while in their bag, there is no need to fast, but one should give something to charity.
If one has removed the tefillin because one needs to go to the toilet, upon putting them on again, one must again bless on them. But if one was in the middle of the blessings belonging to the Shema, that is, from the blessing "who forms the light" and onward, one does not interrupt by (saying) the blessings that are over the tefillin; rather put them on without the blessings, and after the (silent reading of the) Shemoneh Esreh, one touches them (the tefillin) and blesses over them.
All the time the tefillin are on one, one should not divert one's attention from them at all, except at the time one says the Shemoneh Esreh and while studying the Torah. It is forbidden to eat a regular meal with them on, but a snack may be eaten with them on. To sleep, even a nap, is prohibited with them on.
One must touch the tefillin whenever we think of them, because by so doing, one will not have one's attention diverted from them. One should first touch the (tefillin of the) hand and then the one of the head. It is a beautiful custom to touch them when mentioning the commandment concerning them in the reading of the Shema. When saying: 1 "And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand," one touches the hand (tefillin) and kisses, 2 and when saying: "And they shall be as frontlets between your eyes," one touches the head (tefillin) and kisses. 2
- Deuteronomy 6:8
- That object with which we have touched it.
One may raise up (a holy thing to a higher grade of) sanctity but not lower it. Since the tefillin of the head is more sacred than that of the hand, for it has four compartments and also the (letter) shin; therefore, the strap that was once used for the head may not be used for the hand, but the strap that was used for the hand is allowed to be used for the head. Also, the strap of the (tefillin of the) hand which broke above and close to the knot, and one wants to reverse it so that now the knot will be at the lower end (of the strap), it is forbidden, rather the knot must be made at the end where it has been broken off. The same applies to the strap of the (tefillin of the) head, it is forbidden to change (the part of the strap) that was part of the knot so that it is outside the knot. A bag made for the purpose of keeping the tefillin, and had been used to hold them, afterwards no use may be made of this bag, for any secular purpose.
The tefillin should not be taken off until after the prayer "and a redeemer shall come to Zion". When we say "may it be Thy will, O Lord, that we keep Thy statutes". But in communities where it is customary, that on the day the Torah is read, the holy scroll is not returned 1 until after the prayer "and a redeemer shall come to Zion", the tefillin are not taken off until after the scroll is returned to the ark. A hint to this (rule) comes from: 2 "And their king passes on before them, and the Lord at their head." If there is a circumcision (in the synagogue) that day, one does not take off (the tefillin) until after the circumcision. On Rosh Hodesh (the New Moon), (the tefillin) are removed before the Musaph (additional) service; on (the Intermediate Days of Tabernacles) Hol Hamoed Succot, every one takes them off before Hallel; but on (the Intermediate Days of Passover) Hol Hamoed Pesach, the congregation removes them before Hallel and the chazan (Reader) after Hallel.
- To the ark.
- Micah 2:13
One removes (them) while standing. One unwinds the coils around the (middle) finger and two or three coils from around the arm, then first removes the (tefillin of the) head, and after that removes the (tefillin of the) hand, because it is written: 1 "And they shall be for frontlets between thy eyes," since it is written in the plural, "And they shall be," our Rabbis, of blessed memory, explained that as long as (the tefillin) is midway between the eyes there must be two (tefillin) on. Therefore, one first puts on the (tefillin of the) hand and removes the head (tefillin) first, so that whenever the head (tefillin) is on him the one of the hand should also be on. It is proper to remove the (tefillin of the) head with the left hand, which is the weaker one, in order to indicate that we are reluctant to remove it; for the commandment is actually that one should wear the tefillin the whole day, but because our bodies are not always clean we take them off immediately after the prayers. One must not remove the tefillin in the presence of a (Holy Scroll) Sefer Torah, nor in the presence of his teacher; rather (remove them after) turning oneself to the side. It is the custom of sages to kiss the tefillin when putting them on and when taking them off. The tallit is not taken off until after the tefillin are removed.
- Deuteronomy 6:8
The tefillin should be placed in their bag in a way that one may be certain the following day of taking out the hand (tefillin) first. It is not permissible to place the (tefillin of the) hand on top of one of the head, since the sanctity of the one of the head is greater than that of the hand, rather they must be placed side by side. The bag containing the tefillin should be placed in the bottom of the tallit bag, with the tallit above them, so that the tallit is first to hand. The tefillin should be placed in their bag in a way that one may be certain the following day of taking out the hand (tefillin) first. It is not permissible to place the (tefillin of the) hand on top of one of the head, since the sanctity of the one of the head is greater than that of the hand, rather they must be placed side by side. The bag containing the tefillin should be placed in the bottom of the tallit bag, with the tallit above them, so that the tallit is first to hand.
If a man (arrives at the synagogue) with no tefillin of his own when the congregation is already praying, he should wait till the end of the service and then borrow tefillin from someone, so that he can read the Shema, and the Shemoneh Esreh wearing tefillin, rather than pray together with the congregation without tefillin. If he is afraid that he will go past the time (limit) set for the praying of the Shema, while waiting for the tefillin he should read the Shema without tefillin. If he is afraid that he will also go past the time (limit) set for praying, he should also (without tefillin) pray. But upon obtaining tefillin later, he should put them on with the (necessary) blessings, then say, while wearing them, some Psalm, or put them on at the Mincha (afternoon) service. The night is not the time for tefillin, and it is forbidden to put them on in the nighttime. It is permissible to take someone else's tefillin, even without his knowledge, and put them on, and say the blessings over them. (As is described in the previous chapter Law 11, relating to the laws of the tallit.)
Tefillin require a clean body; therefore one should be careful not release gas with them on. A person suffering with diarrhea, although he has no actual pain, is exempt from (putting on) the tefillin, since he is unable to keep himself properly clean. However, if he is under the impression that he will be able to keep his body clean when reading the Shema and the Shemoneh Esreh, he may then put them on. As regards any other ill person, if he suffers pain in his illness and he cannot concentrate, because of his pain, he is exempt, because it is forbidden to divert his attention from them; if this is not the case, he is obligated.
A minor (below the age of thirteen, if) he knows to take care of tefillin, not to pass wind with them on, and not to sleep while having them on, then his father must buy him tefillin so that he can put them on. It is now the prevailing custom that a minor begins putting on tefillin two or three months before he becomes thirteen years old.
As regards to wearing the tefillin on (Intermediate Days of festivals) Hol Hamoed, there is disagreement among the authorities and divergent customs. In some communities, they go by the opinion that one does not (on Hol Hamoed) put them on, while in other communities, they go by the opinion that they do put them on, but do not say the blessings over them out aloud at the synagogue as it is done on weekdays. They are (other communities with) the custom to put them on without the blessings (then one must have in mind, that if Hol Hamoed is not the (appropriate) time for tefillin, they should be considered merely as ordinary straps). And although one does not bless, in any event, one is not allowed to interrupt between (putting on) the (tefillin of the) hand and that of the head, but one may interrupt for kaddish and kedushah. Care must be taken that among those who worship in one synagogue there should not be some who put on (the tefillin) and some others who do not put them on. (it can be seen that this is not allowed because of "you should not cut yourself" away from others.)
Tefillin are presumed to be ritually fit by the law, all the time the case is in perfect condition, also the written parchments are presumed to be valid, and do not need (their validity) to be examined. Nevertheless, it is proper to (occasionally) examine them, because at times they become spoiled through perspiration. If the tefillin are not put on except occasionally, they should be examined twice in every seven years, because there is a possibility that they have become moldy. If (one of) the cases is torn, the parchments must also be examined. And also (an examination is required) if they fell into water. However, if he does not have a competent person to examine them and sew them up again, one should put them on without having them examined, so as not to miss the commandment of tefillin but not bless over them.