Tefillin

 

The biblical commandment to wear tefillin is derived from specific passages in the Torah, the central religious text in Judaism. These passages emphasize the importance of binding God’s words as a sign on one’s hand and between one’s eyes, symbolizing the dedication of one’s actions and thoughts to God’s commandments.

 

Historical Significance

Tefillin have a long and rich history in Jewish practice. They date back to ancient times and have remained a significant part of Jewish religious life for centuries. The discovery of tefillin fragments at Qumran, among other archaeological finds, attests to their historical use.

 

Talmudic Tradition

The Talmud, a compilation of Jewish law and teachings, provides detailed instructions on the construction, placement, and usage of tefillin. It goes beyond the basic biblical commandments, offering insights into how this practice should be performed. The Talmud’s discussions reflect the profound importance attached to tefillin in Jewish tradition.

 

Age and Frequency

The age of thirteen is a significant milestone in Jewish tradition, as it marks the coming of age for Jewish boys. At this age, they become responsible for fulfilling various religious commandments, including wearing tefillin. The daily practice of wearing tefillin on weekdays is a consistent reminder of one’s commitment to following God’s commandments.

 

Exemption for Women and Jewish Feminism:

While women are exempt from the obligation to wear tefillin due to their categorization as a positive time-bound commandment, some Jewish women have chosen to wear tefillin as an expression of their devotion and connection to Jewish tradition. This has sparked discussions within Jewish feminism, as women assert their right to participate in religious practices traditionally associated with men.

 

Tefillin as Talismans

Over time, tefillin have come to symbolize spiritual attachment and protection for those who wear them. They are believed to serve as a constant reminder of God’s presence and the importance of following His commandments. Some individuals may view tefillin as talismans that bring blessings and protection to the wearer.

 

Significance of the Name «Tefillin»

The Hebrew word «tefillin» is derived from the root «tafel,» meaning «to attach» or «to connect.» This name reflects the central idea behind tefillin, which is to bind and connect the wearer to God and His commandments. The physical act of attaching tefillin to the arm and forehead symbolizes this spiritual connection.

In summary, tefillin are a multi-dimensional aspect of Jewish tradition and spirituality. They carry historical, biblical, and symbolic significance, serving as a tangible link between the individual and their faith, and they continue to be a cherished and revered part of Jewish religious practice.


Sources:

Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 959
Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, New York, Carol Publishing Group Edition, 1996, p. 408