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What are תפילין? Let's take a closer look by clicking on the image below so you can identify the parts of the תפילין.

  • The בית is the house that holds the קלף.The קלף is the parchment inside the בית.

  • The רצועה is the strap.

  • A knot is a קשר, one at the back of the neck and one on the arm.

  • The של ראש is the headpiece.  It has the four passages on four separate pieces of parchment.

  • The של יד is the arm-piece and has all four passages on one piece of parchment.


The scrolls are inserted into בתים (boxes or houses) made of leather that has been painstakingly pressed into the תפילין's perfectly smooth planes and precise geometrical shape, and painted black.

The upper part of the תפילין box is a perfect cube; the lower part is a flatter box that is wider than the upper part. On one side, the lower part extends further than the other sides and has a slit through which the תפילין strap is threaded.

The hand תפילין has one large compartment, in which a single scroll inscribed with the four portions is inserted. The head תפילין has four compartments, for its four scrolls, and has a raised Hebrew letter ש on each side.


The straps are made of leather painted black on one side. They are threaded through the lower part of the boxes and knotted.

The של ראש has a large, fixed loop to fit the head. The של יד has a smaller, adjustable loop to tie on the upper arm.

The head strap's קשר is in the shape of the Hebrew letter ד; the של יד is knotted in the shape of the Hebrew letter י. (Together, ש, ד, י spell שדי -- one of the names of God.)

What 2

What is inside תפילין? Let's open up תפילין so we can learn what texts from the תנ׳ך are in תפילין. Start by watching the first 3 minutes of the video below.


The four texts that are inserted inside the two בתים of תפילין are hand-written by a scribe. Here they are:​

  • שמות יג:א-י

  • שמות יג:יא-טז

  • דברים ו:ד-ט

  • דברים יא:יג-כא

Grab a תנך and look up these four sets of verses. With a friend talk about what these texts all have in common. Why did the rabbis choose to put these texts inside the תפילין.

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