"Abba, I love watching you put on your tefillin each morning. They are just magnificent."
"Avi, what a nice thing to say! You are hinting to the Tur's (Orach Chaim 25) description of tefillin. He relates that the thirteenth blessing of the morning, 'otayer Yisrael bisifara' (He crowns Yisrael with splendor), refers to tefillin, which are called 'pe'er', as the verse states, 'Don your headgear (pe'ercha) upon yourself' (Yechezkel 24:17)."
"Now you have my curiosity going, Abba. If the Torah describes them as 'pe'er', the why do we call them tefillin?"
"Excellent question, Avi. The Tur explains that the word tefillin comes from the word 'pelila' which refers to testimony. The tefillin are a sign and testimony to all who see us that the Shechina (Divine Presence) rests upon us, as the verse states, 'Then all the peoples of the earth will see that the Name of Hashem is proclaimed upon you, and they will revere you' (Devarim 28:10). The Gemora (Menachos 35b) darshens that they are referring to seeing the tefillin that rest upon our heads."
"That is fascinating. Please tell me more about tefillin, Abba."
"With pleasure, Avi. There are two parts to the tefillin - one we bind on our arms, and the other we rest upon our heads. Both of them are square boxes made of leather with parchments inside of them. The parchments have four different parshios of the Torah written upon them."
"Which parshios, Abba?"
"The Tur (Orach Chaim 32) lists them - 'Kadesh Li kol bechor' (Shemos 13:1-10), 'Vi'hoyo ki yiviyacha' (Shemos 13:11-16), 'Shema Yisrael (Devarim 6:4-9), and 'Vi'hoyo im shomoa' (Devarim 11:13-21)."
"Why these particular parshios, Abba? What do they say? What is so special about them that they were chosen to bind on our arms and rest on our heads?"
"You are very astute, Avi. You have hit on a crucial point which delves into the very heart of the mitzvah of tefillin. 'Kadesh li kol bechor' speaks about Yetzias Mitzrayim. 'Remember this day which you departed from Mitzrayim . . . For seven days you shall eat matzos . . . And you shall tell your son on that day, "It is because of this that Hashem did for me when I left Mitzrayim" . . . And it shall be for you a sign on your arm and a reminder between your eyes - so that Hashem's Torah may be in your mouth - for with a strong hand Hashem took you out of Mitzrayim.' 'Vi'hoyo ki yiviyacha' speaks about the bechoros (firstborns). 'When your son will ask you, "What is this?" you will tell him, "With a strong hand Hashem took us out of Mitzrayim from the house of bondage. And it happened when Pharaoh refused to send us out, that Hashem killed the firstborn in the land of Mitzrayim . . . And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes, for with a strong hand Hashem removed us from Mitzrayim."' 'Kriyas Shema' is the parasha where we accept upon ourselves the Yoke of Heaven. We are commanded to love Hashem and learn His Torah day and night. We then are told to bind these words as a sign upon our arms and as tefillin between our eyes. The second paragraph of 'Kriyas Shema' is where we accept upon ourselves all of the commandments, along with their rewards and punishments. Hashem instructs us to 'Place these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul; bind them for a sign upon your arm and let them be tefillin between your eyes.'"
"Abba, all four parshios have in common the command to bind them upon our arms and place them between our eyes."
"Very good, Avi. The tefillah that we say before putting on the tefillin details many of the kavannas (intentions) of the mitzvah. Let me share some of them with you. The commandment of tefillin is written in the Torah. The four parshios speak of the Oneness and unity of Hashem in the world, and the miracles and wonders that He performed at Yetzias Mitzrayim. They demonstrated His strength and absolute rule in the upper and lower worlds. Hashem can do whatever He wishes. He commanded us to rest them upon our arms to remember His outstretched arm. The tefillin shel yad rests opposite our hearts, which inspires us to subjugate the desires and whims of our hearts to the service of the Blessed One. We are similarly commanded to rest the tefillin shel rosh opposite our minds - which are home to the neshama (soul) and the senses - to arouse us to subdue them all to Avodas Hashem. The siddur Iyun Tefillah shares with us a fascinating insight. Four of our senses are located on our heads - sight, hearing, smell, and taste. Therefore the tefillin shel rosh are separated into four compartments, to connect all four senses to Avodas Hashem. In the hand rests one sense - touch, therefore the tefillin shel yad has only one compartment."
"How inspiring, Abba! I cannot wait until I am old enough to put on tefillin. I want to be strengthened by them."
"That is wonderful, Avi. We all need the motivation that they provide. The Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 421) describes our situation here in this world as a struggle between ruchnius (spirituality) and gashmius (physicality). The neshama is here in the physical world, far away from its spiritual source. It is surrounded on all sides by enemies who are out to destroy it. Hashem, with His infinite mercy and wisdom, commanded us to place guards upon the gates of our souls. Limud HaTorah, which is constantly on our lips, tzitzis which adorn the four corners of our garments, and tefillin which are bound to our arms and crown our heads, are Hashem's holy guardians of our pure neshamos. Perhaps these are some of the reasons why the Gemora Yerushalmi (as cited in the siddur Shaar HaRachamim) states that there is no mitzvah in the entire Torah as great as tefillin. The entire Torah is related to tefillin, as the verse states, 'And it shall be for you a sign on your arm and reminder between your eyes - so that Hashem's Torah may be in your mouth' (Shemos 13:9)."
"Hashem is so kind, Abba. He gave us a beautiful Torah full of mitzvos, and then He gave us the means to guard ourselves and remember those mitzvos. I have one last question for you. Why do put on your tefillin here in the house before you walk to Beis HaKinesses?"
"Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai teaches us that when a man walks out of his house in the morning wrapped in his tallis and crowned with his tefillin, four holy angels join him and accompany him to the Beis HaKinesses. They proclaim, 'Give honor to the likeness of the Holy King! Give respect to the son of the King! He bears the cherished image of the King, Whose Holy Spirit rests upon him. Klal Yisrael, you are Hashem's glory!"
Kinderlach . . .
The sefer Yesod Vi'shoresh Ha'avodah teaches us to make the blessing on tefillin with tremendous simcha! After learning so much about this wonderful mitzvah, it is easy to see why. Tefillin are Hashem's magnificent crown upon our heads. They contain parshios of the Torah of Yetzias Mitzrayim and Kriyas Shema, which remind us of Hashem's absolute rule over the world, and our submission to Him and His mitzvos. We bind them upon our arms and rest them on our heads to subjugate our desires and thoughts totally to His service. They guard us from impure influences, and provide a heavenly escort as we leave our homes. How fortunate we are to have this wonderful mitzvah! How Hashem loves us! How we love Him! Tefillin - the crown of an Eved Hashem!
Kinder Torah Copyright 2010 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman
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