Tefillin FAQs

What does Tefillin have to do with Bar Mitzvah?

The Torah requires all Jewish men to put on Tefillin every weekday morning for at least the time during which they recite the Shema(link) prayer.

Although a child is trained to keep all the precepts of the Torah even before becoming fully responsible at the age of bar Mitzvah, Tefillin are the exception: A boy does not begin with this mitzvah until he approaches the age of thirteen. Before then, we are concerned that the Tefillin may not be treated with due respect.


On which days of the year are Tefillin not worn?

Tefillin are not worn on Shabbat and the major holidays when work is not done. They are: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, Passover (first and last days) and Shavuot


If I didn’t lay Tefillin in the morning, can I don them later in the day?

Yes, you should do it in the morning, but if you don’t, then all day until sunset.


If I pray at home, do I still have to wear Tefillin?

It is best to make yourself part of the community’s prayers. If this is not possible, Tefillin can be worn in the convenience of your home, at your office, or in any available location—as long as it is daytime.


Is wearing Tefillin only a custom of orthodox Jews?

Tefillin is something all Jews have done since the time of Moses. Tefillin have been found in archeological digs from the times of the Maccabees and as early as the times of Ezra the Scribe, closely resembling those of today.


Why do we put Tefillin first on the arm and then on the head?

Donning the arm piece first follows the order of the verse which says: “They shall be as a sign for you on your arm and as a totafot on your head.”

And why does the verse have it in that order?

When G-d offered the Jews the Torah they replied with the famous, “We will do and we will listen.” In other words, we accept to do whatever it is YOU want even before we hear it and understand it. If You think it’s a good idea, then there’s a good chance that it is.

When we put on Tefillin, we’re saying the same thing. The human mind is great, but it can only grasp up to a certain point, we can’t always wait until the mind grasps an idea before we start to practice it. So first we put on the Tefillin on the arm, which represents deed and action; then we move on to the head.

Furthermore, actually fulfilling the deed leads to a better understanding of the intellectual and emotional side of the Mitzvah.


What is the writing on the scrolls inside Tefillin?

They are four passages from the Five Books of Moses, written with feather and ink on parchment by a qualified scribe. The Torah talks about Tefillin four times and each of these passages is placed in the Tefillin.

The four passages are as follows (known by their first words):

1. Kadesh—Exodus 13:1-10.

2. V’hayah ki Y’viacha—Exodus 13:11-16.

3. Shema—Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

4. V’haya im Shamoa—Deuteronomy 11:13-21.

(Link to image of Tefillin scrolls)


Why do we wrap the Tefillin around the arm seven times?

Tefillin is comparable to a wedding band; we wear them as a symbol of our special relationship with G-d. Under the wedding canopy seven benedictions are said; corresponding to these blessings we wrap the Tefillin seven times our arms. We then proceed to wrap the Tefillin around the finger, which corresponds to the actual wedding band.

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