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Mind and Heart: The Halacha & Psychology of Tefillin

The Legal and Spiritual Difference between the Arm & Head Tefilin

1 hr 16 min

Class Summary:

The question is obvious: Why the change in the blessing before the tefilin we wrap on the arm and the one we place on our head? Why does the arm tefilin get the blessing “to put on tefilin,” and the head tefilin, “for the mitzvah of tefilin?” Both tefilins are put on, and both of them are a mitzvah! So why this distinction?

Rabbi Yosef Engel (1858-1920) and Rabbi Yosef Rozen (1858-1936), the Ragatchover Gaon, answer this question in a novel fashion. Take for example a bride getting dressed for her wedding. We all understand that the ultimate objective is not for her to put on the wedding gown; the objective is for her to be wearing the gown. It is just that in order to wear the gown, she needs to put it on. Is the same true about tefilin? Is the mitzvah to have the tefilin on you (if even for a short while), or perhaps the mitzvah is simply to put them on? Which part of the two components makes you fulfill the mitzvah? Which one of the two is the ultimate objective? Is it the act or the result of the act? Is it the act of wrapping tefilin on your arm and head, or is it the result of the wrapping, namely, that you are wrapped by tefilin? Rabbi Engel and Rabbi Rosen prove that in each one of the two boxes of tefilin, the definition of the mitzvah is completely different.

Which brings us to the deeper question: Why this strange distinction mitzvah between the tefilin on the arm vs. the tefilin on the head? Why would G-d desire different things for the two tefilins we wear? Why two different objectives for the arm tefilin and head tefilin? It was the Lubavitcher Rebbe who explained the novel approach of the Ragatchover from a deeper psychological and spiritual perspective. Essentially the distinct definition of the mitzvah in each one of the tefilin boxes reflect the stunning path of Judaism toward living a serene, wholesome, happy and maximized life, in which we learn to create peace between the mind and the heart.


Please leave your comment below!

  • Anonymous -1 year ago


    shkoyach !

    It could be thats why people when they speak whilst wearing tefilin lift up only the shel rosh

    when they should be lifting both. 

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  • YL

    Yosef Lange -2 years ago

    Cohen wearing Tefillin

    Rabbi, Once again amazing and uplifting Shiur.  One thought occured to me about the Cohanim in the Bais HaMikdash.  They could only wear the Tefillin shel Rosh. They are not fulfilling the Shel Yad unless they do it before they do the Avoda.  What bracha or brachos will they make on the shel Rosh?

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  • CS

    Chaim Schonbrun -6 years ago

    What an amazing shiur,thanks a million

    What an amazing SHIUR ,i don't have the words and am not eloquent enough to adequately express my appreciation and gratitude for these amazing lectures. May HASHEM grant you ARICHAS YAMIM V'SHANIM and enable you to keep up your holy work On the question,that according to the Rogetchover Gaon that on the shel yad the mitzvah is the act of putting it on,if so how can a person that is being helped by someone else fulfill the Mitzvah ? the answer might be,the KTZOS HACHOSHEN in chapter 182 answers the question why you can't make a SHLIACH to have someone put on Tefilin for you,he answers that Shlichos is only possibly on an act (MAISEH) a shliach's act is considered as my own but by Tefilin doing the act of KESHIRAH is not enough it has to be on my head and my arms and my agent's head and arms don't become mine,therefore even though on the act of the KESHIRA it's considered that i did it but it's still not on my head in other words i put on Tefilin on another persons head,therefore when helping someone put on Tefilin it would certainly work using the concept of Shelichus because there we only need the SHLICHUS for the act of KESHIRAH because there the SHliach is actually puting the Tefilin on the arm of the MESHALACH. thanks again and keep up your good work

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  • R

    rich -8 years ago

    wonderful class as ever , rab congratulations. but I have a question if the tefillin of the arm respresents an emotions and the tefilin of the rosh respresented head intellect, why we put first the arm tefilin and only after that put the head tefilin, should not be the other way around that first put the head and then the arm ?

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    • Y

      Yosef-mendel -7 years ago

      היום יום ז חשון May shed light a bit... הסדר לאחר מתן תורה הוא: הסרת ערלת הגוף, הלשון, הלב - מעשה דבור מחשבה, אברהם אבינו שהיה קודם מ"ת [מתן תורה] הרי בתחילה הכיר את בוראו - מחשבה, אח"כ [אחר כך] פרסם אלקותו, - דבור, ואח"כ [ואחר כך] מילה - מעשה. We seem to be working from bottom, up, now..

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    • D

      dov -7 years ago

      first comes the emotion then internalise..
      Plus that's the order the torah mentions.

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  • MZ

    Mendel Zilberberg -8 years ago

    The difference between Shel Yad and Shel Rosh is illuminated --
    particularly the issue of the limited time needed to fulfill the mitzvah of shel yad and the greater period of time of the shel rosh , because the shel rosh has its mitzvah or wearing it and shel yad has the mitzvah of binding it ( hence the lower time needed for the mitzvah) -- while on the other hand in order to fulfill the shel rosh one needs the shel yad
    insofar as the shel yad deals with the emotional being that arguably can be focused on for a shorter period of time than the intellect or the shel rosh
    Accordingly, it is self eveident that to fulfill the shel rosh ( intellect) one needs to do it -- at least in part -- dealing with one's emotional being -- As the intellect's job is to unravel and tame/make order of/control the emotional self

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Class Parshas Bo/Vaeschanan

Rabbi YY Jacobson

  • January 10, 2016
  • |
  • 29 Tevet 5776
  • |
​Leilu Nishmas Reb Eliyahu Tzion ben Reb Chananya Niasoff ז״ל
And in the merit of our partner in Torah, Yigal Yisroel ben Sofia, שיחי׳

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