APPENDIX INFORMATION – DEUTERONOMY
What is Tefillin?
You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes.
— Deuteronomy 6:8
You have a brain. It is in one world. Your heart is in another. And your hands often end up involved in something completely foreign to both of them. Three diverse machines.
So you put on tefillin. First thing in the day, you connect your head, your heart and your hand with these leather cables—all to work as one, with one intent. And then, when you go out to meet the world, all your actions find harmony in a single coordinated purpose . . .
Tefillin are a pair of black leather boxes containing Hebrew parchment scrolls. A set includes two tefillin—one for the head and one for the arm. Each consists of three main components: the scrolls, the box and the strap. The scrolls are inserted into boxes made of leather that have been painted black.
One box is strapped on your head, and the other onto your arm next to your heart. It’s done once a day—preferably during the morning prayers—while you say a passage called the Shema Yisrael. It’s done by Jewish males, age 13 and up, every day except Shabbat and major Jewish holidays.
1. Place on Arm
You have two black leather boxes with straps in your tefillin bag. One is for the arm, the other for the head. Take out the arm one first—that’s the one that’s one smooth box, rather than four compartments.
Remove the tefillin from the plastic case.
The arm-tefillin goes on the weaker arm: right-handed people do the left arm, lefties do the right arm.
Roll up your sleeve so that the tefillin is in direct contact with your arm. Put your arm through the loop formed by the knotted strap. Place the black box up on your bicep, just below the halfway point between the shoulder and the elbow, right across from your heart (see illustration).
2. The Blessing
Recite the blessing. If you can read and understand the original Hebrew, say it in Hebrew. Otherwise, you can say it in any language you understand.
Here’s the Hebrew text:
Here’s how it sounds:
Baruch atah Ado-nai, Elo-heinu melech ha’olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu l’haniach tefillin.
Here’s what it means:
Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to put on tefillin.
Focus on what you’re doing. From the time you make the blessing until both tefillin are in place, do not talk. Don’t even wink. Just concentrate on hooking up your mind, heart and deeds, and binding them to G‑d.
3. Bind the Arm-Tefillin
Tighten the strap around your arm, mindful that the knot stays in direct contact with the box.
Continue to wrap: two more times over the strap-socket of the black box and around the biceps, then seven times around your arm and once around your palm. Leave the remainder of the strap loose.
4. Place the Head-Tefillin
Next, get out the head-tefillin. Remove the tefillin from the plastic case. The box goes on your head, just above your forehead. Center it in the middle of your head directly above the point that’s right between your eyes. The daled-shaped knot should rest on the base of your skull.
5. Tie on Hand
Now back to your hand. Wrap the remainder of the strap three times around your middle finger, like this: once around the base, then once just above the first joint, then one more time around the base. You’ve got some strap left over, so wrap it around your palm and tuck in the tail end.
6. Recite the Prayers
It is best to pray the entire morning prayers in one’s tefillin. However, if this is not possible, at least say the Shema prayer:
In the original Hebrew:
Cover you eyes with your right hand and say:
Recite the following verse in an undertone:
Sh’ma Yis-ra-eil, A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu, A-do-nai E-chad.
Ba-ruch sheim k’vod mal-chu-to l’o-lam va-ed.
V’a-hav-ta eit A-do-nai E-lo-he-cha b’chawl l’va-v’cha u-v’chawl naf-sh’cha, u-v’chawl m’o-de-cha. V’ha-yu ha-d’va-rim ha-ei-leh, a-sher a-no-chi m’tsa-v’cha ha-yom, al l’va-ve-cha. V’shi-nan-tam l’-va-ne-cha, v’di-bar-ta bam, b’shiv-t’cha b’vei-te-cha, uv-lech-t’cha va-de-rech, u-v’shawch-b’cha uv-ku-me-cha. Uk-shar-tam l’ot al ya-de-cha, v’ha-yu l’to-ta-fot bein ei-ne-cha. Uch-tav-tam al m’zu-zot bei-te-cha, u-vish-a-re-cha.
Hear, O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One.
Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.
You shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. You shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
I included the above simply to provide you with correct information. Many times on a flight to Israel, first thing in the morning I would see men stand up in the aisles and begin putting on the Tefillin and if I were not aware of what they were doing it would seem ridiculous and some might mock it. Understanding it, I know enough to be quiet if I am sitting next to that person so he can pray quietly and focus his prayers. It is a simple show of respect. I find the information interesting, hope you do too. Next time you come into our house look on the inside post of the door, you will find the small wooden box containing the Shema passage. In Israel every door in every hotel has one.