Jewish Phylacteries (tefillin)

What is a Jewish Phylacteries / phylactery?

When I was at the beginning of building my website, a reader sent me the following email: "I have noticed that some men praying at the Wailing Wall have an item on the front of their hats that to my ignorant eyes looks like a small flash light. Will you please tell me what it is and its use?"

Jewish Phylacteries are called tefillin in Hebrew. Tefillin are small black leather boxes, with scrolls in it, and leather straps hanging on from it. The tefilin, phylacteries is a set of two. One phylactery for the hand, called in Hebrew "Tefillin Shel Yad", and one to wear on the head, called "Teffilin Shel Rosh".

Tefillin on a plane

Before explaining the source and reason of wearing phylacteries, there was interesting news recently with a young orthodox Jewish boy putting on tefillin on a plane. On January 21, 2010 a passenger realized in mid-flight and alerted the crew that an article of clothing on the teenage boy was feared by some passengers to be a bomb.

US Airways flight from New York to Louisville was diverted to Philadelphia. Once the plane was safely on the ground, authorities searched the plane and questioned the boy. It was quickly found that there is no bomb and it was just a false alarm. So, it's always important to know about different cultures and religions.

What is in a phylactery?

Hashem (God) commanded in the Torah to wear tefillin. In the tefillin, the Jewish phylacteries, there are parchments in the tefillin with passages from the Torah reminding that there is only one God, the God who freed His people from slavery in Egypt and that took out the Jewish people from exile in Egypt. Orthodox Jews wear it every morning by their prayers, to constantly remember that they will stay devoted to Hashem and believe that he is the only god and redeemer.

What is a phylactery made of?

Jewish phylacteries are made from leather of a cow. It must be handmade, by an orthodox Jew, while having in mind that it should be made for the holiness of wearing it as tefillin. The straps are also made from leather of a Kosher animal, for example a cow.

How do you put on the Jewish Phylacteries / tefillin?

The phylactery of the hand, tefillin shel yad, is tied on the left arm on the top, across the heart. This is to remind that your heart should always be devoted to Hashem. It is then wrapped seven times around the arm, and tied a special way on the palm. The phylacteries / tefillin shel rosh, from the head, is tied tightly around the head and two leather straps hang down in front of the body.

Specialty of tefillin

Tefilin have a unique specialty, as it shows a bond and connection of the Jews and Hashem (God). The Talmud states that Hashem also wears tefillin, and in the tefillin of Hasem is written the greatness and specialty of the Jewish people.

First time to put on phylacteries / tefillin

When a Jewish boy turns thirteen, he will put on his tefillin for the very first time. There is a large ceremony made that day called a Bar Mitzvah, meaning that this is the date that the jewish boy will start fulfilling the commandments of Hashem. This is a very special date for an orthodox Jewish boy.

What an interesting commandment. Ha? Read more and find out on the uniqueness of orthodox jewish religion and culture .

Have a question, on Orthodox Jewish Matters? Need an answer? Please Email your questions, Chava will answer your questions with insight and wit.

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