Home > Judaica >> > Jewish Ritual Items > The why's and how's of Tefilin

Wrapping kosher Tefillin is one of the 613 biblical commandments. Jewish adult men are obligated to wrap Tefillin on their arm and head during weekday morning prayers . This biblical obligation originates from the verse:

"Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts… Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads" [Deut. 6:4,8]

According to the dictionary, Tefillin are "phylacteries", small black leather cubes containing parchment scrolls inscribed with biblical passages, worn by observant Jews during weekday morning prayers. But this simplistic explanation does not at all suffice to explain their importance, significance, or cost.

Tefilin are made out of 3 parts:

  • The Batim/boxes, made out of goatskin or cow hide and painted black.
  • The Parshi'ot/parchments placed within the cells of the Batim
  • The Retzu'ot/straps made out of goatskin or cow hide and painted black.
  • The chapters written on the parchments concern the foundations of the Jewish religion. We are commanded to place these foundations every day between our eyes and on our hearts, because these organs symbolize the place of the mind. The head-Tefilla symbolizes one's mind and thinking; the hand-Tefilla symbolizes one's actions and deeds.

    In order to be kosher according to Jewish law, tefillin must meet thousands of requirements as specified in Jewish Law. The scrolls inside the tefillin are inscribed in black ink with a quill (or reed) pen by a specially trained scribe, known as a sofer. The parchment is handmade, and must be from a kosher animal. The scribe concentrates intensely and writes with special Hebrew characters, 1594 letters in all in each of the tefillin-boxes. If one letter is extra, missing, or even incorrectly written, the tefillin are invalid.

    This is an incredibly powerful mitzvah. The passages placed within the tefillin discuss the unity of G‑d, as well as describing the miracles G‑d performed for us when He took us out of Egypt, and how G‑d alone has the power and dominion to do whatever He wants in the physical and spiritual worlds. In other words, these verses cover the fundamentals of our faith.

    The experience of putting on tefillin has changed many people’s lives.