Donning Of Tefillin

Putting on of the Phylacteries

The term tefillin
is reminiscent of the word tefillah (prayer). Tefillin are made of kosher animals skins. The Tefillin are referred to as shel rosh (head-phylactery) and shel yad (hand-phylactery).

The shel rosh consists of four compartments containg four separate strips of parchment on which are written four passages from Shemot 13:1-10, 11-16; Devarim 6:4-9, 11:13-20.

The shel yad consists of a single compartment, containing the same four passages written in four parallel columns on a single piece of parchment.

The shel rosh has on the outside two shin, one with three strokes being to the right of the wearer, and one with four strokes to the left. The seven strokes of the two types of letter shin equal the number of times the leather retzuah is wound around the left arm upon which the shel yad is placed. The shin together with the letters formed by the knots of the two straps of shel rosh and shel yad spell the three-lettered divine name shin-dalet-yud - Almighty.

Tefillin are worn by Jewish males from the age of 13 during the daily morning service and are not worn on the Shabbat and Festivals, which themselves bear witness to the sacred ideas that are enshrined in the tefillin, and are referred to as signs between G-d and his people.

The four Scriptural passages that are inserted in both the shel rosh and shel yad stresses the duty of loving and serving Hashem with our whole being and demand that we give living expression to our love to G-d by careful observance of his precepts which are designed to assure our happiness....we are to subject our thoughts, feelings and actions to the service of G-d. This is intimated by wearing the tefillin on the head, symbolizing our mental faculties, and on the left arm next to the heart, the seat of emotions.

The below declaration of intent is recited before donning the tefillin:

For the sake of the unification of the Holy One, Blessed is He, and His Presence, in fear and love, to unify the Name - yud-kei with vav-kei - in perfect unity, in the name of all Yisrael.

Behold, in putting on tefillin I intend to fulfill the commandment of my Creator, Who has commanded us to put on tefillin, as is written in His Torah: 'Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be tefillin between your eyes.' (Devarim 6:8) These four portions [contained in the tefillin] - [1] 'Shema' (Devarim 6:4-9); [2] 'And it will come to pass, if you will hearken' (Devarim 11:13-21); [3] 'Sanctify' (Shemot 13:1-10); and [4] 'And it will come to pass when He shall bring you' (Shemot 13:11-16) - contain His Oneness and Unity, may His Name be blessed, in the universe; so that we will recall the miracles and wonders that He did with us when He removed us from Egypt; and that He has the strength and dominion over those above and those below to do with them as He wishes. He has commanded us to put [tefillin] upon the arm to recall the 'outstretched arm' [of the Exodus] and that it be opposite the heart thereby subjugate the desires and thoughts of our heart to His service, may His Name be blessed; and upon the head opposite the brain, so that the soul that is in my brain, together with my other senses and potentials, may all be subjugated to His service, may His Name be blessed. May some of the spiritual influence of the commandment of tefillin be extended upon me so that I have a long life, a flow of holiness, and holy thoughts, without even an inkling of sin or iniquity; and that the Evil Inclination will not seduce us nor incite against us, and that it permit us to serve Hashem as is our hearts' desire. May it be Your will, Hashem, our G-d and the G-d of our forefathers, that the commandment of putting on tefillin be considered as worthy before the Holy One, Blessed is He, as if I had fulfilled it in all its details, implications, and intentions, as well as the six hundred thirteen commandments that are dependent upon it. Amein, Selah.

Baruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech ha-olam asher kid'shanu b'mitzvatov v'tzivanu lehaniach tefillin
Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to put on tefillin.