What is Tefillin

What is Tefillin
Tefillin are an integral aspect of Torah and mitzvos, as mentioned in the Deut. 6:8 "And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for ornaments between your eyes." As one of the three signs of the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people, laying Tefillin every morning during prayers (with the exception of Shabbos, Yom Tov and several other specific days) is a practice Jewish men have observed for over 3,000 years.
Tefillin in Hebrew is the plural form of Tefillah, meaning prayer. The English word for Tefillin, phylacteries, comes from ancient Greek, and means to guard and protect. Jacob ben Asher (14th century) bring down that "tefillin" is derived from the Hebrew pelilah, meaning justice or evidence. For tefillin is a sign and proof of G-d's presence among the Jewish people.

Tefillin consist of two leather boxes, holding verses from the Torah, attached to leather straps. Each of the two boxes contain four sections of the Torah inscribed on kosher leather parchment. These scrolls must be written by a G-d fearing Jewish male in a specific way, using specific materials. The passages are:

  1. The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) - the Unity of The One G-d.

  2. Vehayah (Deuteronomy 11:13-21) - expressing G-d's assurance to us of reward that will follow our observance of the Torah's precepts, and warning of retribution for disobedience to them.

  3. Kadesh (Exodus 13:1-10) - the duty to always remember the redemption from Egyptian bondage.

  4. Vehayah (Exodus 13:11-16) - the obligation to teach his children of the matter for every Jew.


The hand Tefillin, called shel yad in Hebrew, is placed on the upper arm. The black leather straps wrap around arm and left hand for those who are right handed, and the right hand for those who are left handed. The head Tefillin, called shel rosh in Hebrew, is placed above the forehead in a specific position.

Originally Tefillin were worn all day and removed before nightfall. At present day however, Jewish men wear Tefillin during Shacharis (morning service). From the age of 13, a Jewish man is obligated to wear the Tefillin once a day whilst reciting the Shema. Everytime a Jewish man wears Tefillin, he testifies that our G-d -who took us out of Egypt, created and sustains the world- is the One and Only G-d.