The kedushah of
the Tefillin is very great, for so long as the Tefillin are on a person’s head
and hand he is humble, he has yiras Shamaim, and he is not drawn after
frivolity, empty chatter or evil thoughts. He turns his heart to truth and
justice. (Rambam Hil. Tefillin. 4:25)
- While wearing Tefillin, a person is forbidden to turn his thoughts away
from the Tefillin for even a moment. The kedushah of Tefillin is
greater than the kedushah of the Tzitz (worn on the forehead
of the Cohen Gadol), for the Tzitz was inscribed with one name of G-d
while the name of G-d appears 21 times in the passages contained in the
Tefillin. We learn from the verse, “And it will be on his forehead always,”
(Shemos 28:38), that the Cohen is forbidden to turn his thoughts away from
the Tzitz. Since the kedushah of the Tefillin is even greater than
the kedushah of the Tzitz, we can infer that this prohibition also
applies to Tefillin—both the Tefillin of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam. Since the
name of G-d appears many times in the Tefillin shel yad, it is
forbidden to turn one’s thoughts away from them after removing the Tefillin
- There are those who hold that a person is considered to have turned his
thoughts away from the Tefillin when he forgets that he is wearing them for
the amount of time it takes to walk 100 amos. But the poskim cite the Rambam
who holds that it is forbidden to forget about them for even a moment.
- What does it mean to forget the Tefillin? There are two basic opinions
among the Rishonim. Some hold that as soon as a person is unaware that he is
wearing Tefillin, he has forgotten them. Others hold—and this is the
halachah--that we only say a person has forgotten the Tefillin if he falls
into laughter and frivolity, or becomes so preoccupied with mundane matters
that he is no longer conscious of yiras Shamayim. A person who
entertains bad thoughts, smokes, or releases intestinal gas is also said to
have forgotten that he is wearing Tefillin. Nevertheless, the mitzvah of
wearing Tefillin is best fulfilled when a person is constantly aware of
them, except while learning Torah and saying the Shmoneh Esrai.
- Chassidim and anshei maase are careful not to speak at all while
wearing Tefillin to avoid the possibility of being drawn into chattering and
- There is disagreement among the poskim whether the prohibition of
turning the mind away from the Tefillin is from the Torah or rabbinical.
There are poskim that hold that a person who forgets that he is wearing
Tefillin does not fulfil the mitzvah.
- According to the Beis Yosef, the prohibition of forgetting the Tefillin
also applies to a person who holds them in his hand, but most poskim
disagree. Nevertheless, it is forbidden for a person to sleep while holding
Tefillin because he may drop them while sleeping.
- Strictly speaking, it is permitted drink and to eat a casual meal while
wearing Tefillin, but the poskim write that this applies only to a person
who wears Tefillin all day. A person who wears Tefillin only while davening
may not drink or eat at all while wearing them.
- A baal nefesh will be careful not to touch anything dirty while
wearing Tefillin and not to kill lice, etc.
- The Arizal writes (Sefer Hakavanos) that there is no greater p’gam
(blemish) than to forget Tefillin while wearing them. The Chidah (Avodas
Hakodesh) writes that a person should be very careful about remembering the
Tefillin while wearing them, and that even though it is very difficult, the
punishment for forgetting them is very great. The Baahash on The
Kitzer Shulchan Orach writes that forgetfulness of the Tefillin is the
ultimate source of all our troubles in these times, for the reward for
fulfilling the mitzvah of wearing Tefillin is that “all the nations of the
world will see the name of G-d upon you and be afraid of you.” When we
forget the kedushah of the Tefillin and turn our thoughts away from
yiras Shamayim, the gentiles become hostile.