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HOW

Let's start learning how to put on תפילין with this video. Pay special attention to the order in which תפילין are placed on and any important numbers that come up. If you are a close listener and watcher, you will be able to explain the proper order for putting the תפילין on and precisely how the boxes and straps are to be positioned.

A Guide

The components of tefillin are two leather boxes with parchment with biblical passages inside. The first one goes on your arm, the second on your head.

A right-handed person should place tefillin on the left arm (lefties wear it on their right). The box is placed on the lower half of the bicep. Just before tightening through the loop, the first blessing is recited: (We'll practice this blessing in the next step)

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם. אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהָנִיחַ תְּפִלִּין.

 

Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctified us with God’s

commandments and commanded us to place the tefillin.

The Sephardic and Hasidic custom is to wrap the tefillin strap away from the torso. The Ashkenazic practice is to wrap towards the torso. In both cases, the strap is wrapped around the arm seven times.

The Head Tefillin

The head tefillin is placed with the front at the hairline (or where that hairline used to be).

Before tightening it, the following blessing is recited: (We'll practice this blessing in the next step)

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל מִצְוַת תְּפִלִּין.
 

Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctified us with God’s commandments and commanded us regarding the mitzvah of tefillin.

 

The front should be centered in between the eyes and the back knot should sit in the soft spot of the top of the neck.

 

Bring the straps around to the front with the shiny black side (the “front” side) facing out. Recite these words:

בָּרוּךְ שֵׁם כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד.
 

Blessed is the name of the Glory of God’s Kingdom forever.

 

Wrapping the Hand

 

Finally, the letters of one of God’s names, Shaddai–shin, dalet, yod–are “written” across the hand using the tefillin straps. The strap of the arm tefillin is wrapped around the upper knuckle of the middle finger, once, and twice on the lower knuckle, with the second wrap extending across three fingers (see below). This makes the dalet and yod.

 

 

As the strap is wrapped around the middle finger, the following verses from the Book of Hosea are recited: (We'll practice these verses in the next step)

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי לְעוֹלָם

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים. 

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בֶּאֱמוּנָה וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת יְהוָה.

 

I betroth you to me forever.  I betroth you to me in righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, and mercy. I betroth you to me in faithfulness–and you shall know God.

The strap is wrapped again, diagonally, crossing the entire hand, except the thumb (see above) to form the second leg of the shin. Finally, the strap is wrapped once more around the middle of the hand, forming the middle leg of the shin.

Removal proceeds in the reverse–unwrapping from the hand, taking off the head, and then off the whole arm. You can wrap your tefillin in protective cases that they are commonly sold with.

See how much you remember by taking the quick quest below.

 

Now that you know how to put תפילין on, let's master the ברכות. Here's the blessing for the של יד:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם. אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהָנִיחַ תְּפִלִּין.

Blessed are you, ADONAI our God, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctified us with God’s commandments and commanded us to place the tefillin.

Here's the blessing for the של ראש:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל מִצְוַת תְּפִלִּין.

Blessed are you, ADONAI our God, Ruler of the Universe, who sanctified us with God’s

commandments and commanded us regarding the mitzvah of tefillin.

Here are the verses you say as you are wrapping the straps of the של יד around your hand:

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי לְעוֹלָם

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים. 

וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בֶּאֱמוּנָה וְיָדַעַתְּ אֶת יְהוָה. 

 

I betroth you to me forever.  I betroth you to me in righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, and mercy. I betroth you to me in faithfulness–and you shall know God.

(Hosea 2:21-22)

Practice reading these three selections with a friend and when you feel you can read them with proficiency (each one with 3 or fewer mistakes), add your recording to the Voicethread below. 

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© 2016 by Rabbi David Paskin

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