Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day
Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter Two, Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter Three, Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter Four
Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter Two
In what manner are the tefillin [placed on] the head written? [The] four passages are written on four parchments and rolled closed, each as a separate entity. They are placed in four compartments, which are covered by a single piece of leather.
The four passages of [the tefillin placed on] the arm are written on four columns on a single parchment. They should be rolled closed like a Torah scroll from the end to the beginning and placed in a single compartment.
Care must be taken in writing these passages. If one wrote a passage which should be s'tumah as p'tuchah or a passage which should be p'tuchah as s'tumah, it is invalid.
The first three passages are all p'tuchot, while the final passage, V'hayah im shamo'a, is s'tumah.
One must be careful regarding [the spelling of the words in these passages] with regard to the short or full form. [The manner in which] these four passages are written [in tefillin] should resemble the manner they are written in a Torah scroll that has been checked [for accuracy in this regard].
When one writes a word which requires a short form using a full form, it is invalid until one erases the extra letter. If one writes a word which requires a full form using a short form, it is invalid and may not be corrected.
These are [the correct spellings of the words that could present difficulties] with regard to the short and full forms in these four passages.
[In] the first passage, Kadesh li kol b'chor, [the word] b'chor [is written using] the full form; the word zachor [using] the full form; the word b'chozek [using] the short form; the word hotzi [using] the full form; the word yotzi'em without a vav; the word y'viacha [using] the full form; the word v'ha'emori [using] the short form; the word v'hay'vusi [using] the full form; the word la'avotecha without a vav; the word ha'avodah [using] the short form; the word matzot [using] the short form; the word hash'vi'i [using] the full form; the word matzot [using] the full form; the word s'or [using] the short form; the word g'vulecha [using] the short form; the word ba'avur [using] the full form; the word l'ot [using] the full form; the word ul'zikaron [using] the full form; the word einecha [using] the full form; the word torat [using] the full form; the word hotziacha without a yud; the word hachukkah [using] the short form; and the word l'moadah [using] the full form.
[In] the second passage, V'hayah ki y'viacha, [the word] y'viacha [is written] without a yud; the word chamor [using] the short form; the word b'chor [using] the full form; the word b'chozek [using] the short form; the word hotzianu [using] the full form; the word vayaharog [using] the short form; the word b'chor [using] the full form; the word mib'chor [using] the short form; the words v'ad b'chor [using] the full form; the word zove'ach without a vav; the word b'chor in v'chol b'chor [using] the full form; the word l'ot [using] the full form; the word yadecha is written with a hey; the word ul'totafot without the final vav; the word einecha [using] the full form; the word b'chozek [using] the short form; and the word hotzianu [using] the full form.
[In] the third passage, Shema, the ayin of [the word] Shema and the dalet of [the word] echad are enlarged.
The word m'odecha [is written using] the short form; the word l'vanecha [using] the full form; the wordb'vetecha without a second yud; the word uv'kumecha [using] the full form; the word l'ot [using] the full form; the word yadecha [using] the short form; the word l'totafot without both vavim; the word einecha [using] the full form; the word mezuzot without the first vav; the word beitecha without a second yud; the word uvish'arecha [using] the full form.
[In] the fourth passage, V'hayah im shamo'a, [the word] shamo'a [is written using] the short form; the word mitzvotai with only one vav; the word yoreh [using] the full form; the word umalkosh [using] the full form; the word v'tiroshcha without a vav; the word v'hishtachavitem [using] the full form; the word y'vulah [using] the full form; the word hatovah [using] the short form; the word notein [using] the short form; the word otam [using] the short form; the word l'ot [using] the full form; the word l'totafot lacking the second vav; the word einechem [using] the full form; the word otam [using] the short form; the wordb'vetecha without a second yud; the word uv'kumecha [using] the full form; the word mezuzot [using] the full form; the word beitecha without a second yud; the word uvish'arecha [using] the full form; the word la'avoteichem without a vav.
Care must be taken regarding the placement of crowns on the letters. They are formed like [small] zeiynin on the [tops of the] letters which possess crowns as in a Torah scroll. These are the letters which possess crowns in these four passages.
There is only one letter [with a crown] in the first passage: the final mem of miyamim. There are three zeiynin upon it. In the second passage, there are five letters [with crowns]. Each of these is a heh, and four zeiynin are placed on each of them. They are: the heh of un'tanah, the first and final heh in the word hikshah, the heh of vayaharog, and the heh of yadecha.
In the third passage, there are five letters [with crowns.] They are: the kof of uv'kumecha; it has three zeiynin; the kof of uk'shartam; it has three zeiynin; the two tetim and the pei of l'totafot; each of these letters has four zeiynin.
In the fourth passage, there are five letters [with crowns.] They are: the peh of v'asafta; it has three zeiynin; the tov of v'asafta has one zayin; the two tetim and the peh of l'totafot; each of these letters has four zeiynin.
There are a total of sixteen letters which require crowns. If one did not place crowns above them, added other crowns, or reduced the number of zeiynin, the passages are not invalid.
A person who purchases tefillin from a person who is not an expert is required to inspect them. If he purchased 100 tefillin, he should inspect three, either two head tefillin and one arm tefillin, or two arm tefillin and one head tefillin. If he finds them acceptable, [from this time onward,] he can assume the scribe [to be proficient]. Thus, they are all considered to be acceptable and need not be checked.
If, however, one purchases them in different packages, they must all be checked, because it can be presumed that each package was purchased from a different scribe.
After a person writes tefillin himself, purchases them from an expert, or purchases them from another person and has them inspected, and places them in their leather [compartments], they need not ever be checked again.
As long as their compartments are intact, they are assumed to be acceptable even though several years have passed. We do not suspect that a letter has faded out or been perforated. Hillel the elder stated: "These [tefillin] are from my maternal grandfather."
Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter Three
There are eight requirements in the making of tefillin. All of them are halachot transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai and, therefore, it is necessary to fulfill them all. If one deviates with regard to any of them, the [tefillin] are unacceptable. They are:
a) The tefillin must be square and must be sewn closed in a square. [Both] diagonals must be equal, and thus all four angles will be equal.
b) The leather of the head [tefillin] should have a shin embossed on both its right and left sides.
c) The passages should be wrapped in fabric.
d) A hair should be wound around that fabric. Afterwards, they should be placed in their compartment.
e) They should be sewn [closed] with the sinews [of an animal].
f) The leather compartment in which they are placed should have a place for the straps to pass through so that they can be moved through the [tefillin's] handle.
g) The straps should be black.
h) The knot with which they are tied should be the renowned knot that is formed like a dalet.
How are the head tefillin made? We take a cubic wooden block. [It need not, however, be a perfect cube]. If its height is [slightly] more or less than its width, it is of no consequence. We are required to take care only that its width and length are alike.
Three grooves are carved into it so that four projections will be made as depicted. Leather is taken and soaked in water, and then, the mold is placed within it. The leather is inserted in between the grooves.
While [the leather] is still wet, it is plucked and squeezed until the shape of a shin with three heads is formed on the right side of the tefillin as they will be worn, and the shape of a shin with four heads is formed on the left side of the tefillin as they will be worn.
The leather is then left on the mold until it dries, and then it is removed. Thus, the leather will be [formed into a block] with four empty compartments.
One of the passages from the Torah is placed in each compartment, and then a portion of the leather is folded over beneath them, and then they are sewn closed on all four corners.
Within this lower piece of leather, a place should be left for the straps to be inserted, like a handle. It is called a ma'aboret.
How are the tefillin of the arm made? We take a wooden block whose length is equal to its width and is a fingerbreadth - or slightly more or slightly less - high, and place wet leather around it.
The leather is left on this mold until it has dried, and then it is removed. The four passages are deposited in the place left by the mold. A portion of the leather is folded over beneath them, and then they are sewn closed on all four corners. A piece of leather, like a handle, should be left for the straps [to be inserted].
What is the order of the passages? For the head tefillah, the final passage, V'hayah im shamo'a, is placed in the first compartment on the right side of the person putting on the tefillin. Shema is placed next to it. V'hayah ki y'viacha is placed in the third compartment next to Shema, and Kadesh Li is placed in the fourth compartment, on the left side of the person putting on the tefillin.
Thus, a person who is facing the person wearing the tefillin will read them in the following order. If their order is altered, they are not acceptable.
[The passages for] the arm tefillin are written on four columns on a single piece of parchment like a Torah scroll, according to the order in which these passages are found in the Torah, in the following manner:
If they were written on four separate pieces of parchment and placed in the same compartment, one fulfills one's obligation. There is no need to glue them together.
When the passages - both of the head and the arm tefillin - are rolled closed, they should be rolled from the end to the beginning, so that were the passage to be rolled open, it would be possible to read each portion from the beginning to the end.
Before the passages are placed in their compartments, they should be wrapped in a fabric, and hair should be wound around them. Afterwards, they may be placed in their compartments.
This hair should be from a kosher species of animal or beast. Even when these animals died without being ritually slaughtered or were treifah, [their hair is nevertheless acceptable]. It has already become a universally accepted custom to wind hair from the tail of a calf [around these parchments].
When the tefillin are sewn closed, they may be sewn only with sinews from a kosher species of animal or beast. [Sinews taken from] animals which died without being ritually slaughtered or which were treifah [are nevertheless acceptable].
It is customary to take sinews from the heels of kosher animals and beasts. They are white in color. If they are too firm, they are softened by [pounding them with] stones and the like until they become like flax. Afterwards, they are spun and twisted into threads and used to sew together tefillin and the sheets of Torah scrolls.
When the tefillin are sewn closed, they should be sewn as a square. It is a widely accepted practice for there to be three stitches on each side, so that there will be twelve stitches in all. This applies for both the arm tefillin and the head tefillin. If, however, one made ten or fourteen stitches, there is no difficulty.
For each of the stitches, the thread must pass through from both sides.
The groove between [each of the compartments] of the head tefillin should reach the stitches [which sew the tefillin closed]. [Nevertheless,] if the groove is discernible, so that the [division into] four compartments is openly visible, [the tefillin] are acceptable even if the groove does not extend until the stitches. If, however, the groove is not discernible, [the tefillin] are not acceptable.
It is necessary to pass a thread or cord through each of the grooves on [the outer side of] the leather [compartments] to separate between the compartments. It is common custom to pass one of the sinews used to sew [the tefillin closed] between each of these three grooves.
How are the straps made? We take leather straps [at least] the length of a barley-corn in width. If they are wider than that, they are acceptable. The length of the straps of the head tefillin should be sufficient to surround the head, tie the knot, and extend on either side of the head until they reach the navel or slightly above it.
The length of the strap of the arm should be sufficient to surround the forearm, tie its knot, and extend until it can be wound three times around the middle finger and tied. If the straps are longer than this, they are acceptable.
One places the straps through their handle, leaving space for the [circumference of] one's head, and ties a square knot, which resembles a dalet. Every Torah scholar should learn how to tie this knot. It is impossible to describe this knot in writing. Rather, it must be seen.
The straps of the hand tefillin should be tied with a knot that resembles a yud. This knot should allow the strap to pass through it so that it can be widened or narrowed while one is tying the tefillin on one's arm.
The outer surface of the straps of both the head and the arm tefillin must be black. This is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai.
In contrast, with regard to the inner surface, since it faces the inside, it is acceptable if it is green or white. One should not make this [side of the straps] red, since it will be embarrassing for him if they become overturned.
The back of the straps should be the same color as the compartment; if it is green, they should be green; if it is white, they should be white. It is attractive for tefillin to be entirely black, the compartments and the entire strap.
The leather used to cover the tefillin and from which the straps are made should come from a kosher species of animal, beast, or fowl. Even when these animals died without being ritually slaughtered or were treifah, [their hides are nevertheless acceptable]. If, however, leather from a non-kosher species was used or if they were covered with gold, they are not acceptable.
The leather used for the straps must be processed with the intent that it be used for the mitzvah. In contrast, the leather used to cover the tefillin need not be processed at all. It is even acceptable if it is made from matzah. [Indeed,] this is the practice in many communities.
tefillin may be made only by a Jew, since making them is equivalent to writing [the passages], because of the shin [embossed] in the leather [compartment] mentioned above. Therefore, if they were made by a gentile or sewn closed by him, they are unacceptable.
Similarly, they may not be made by any others whose writing [of the passages] is not acceptable.
A head tefillah may not be made into an arm tefillah, but an arm tefillah may be made into a head tefillah, because an article should not be lowered from a higher level of holiness to a lesser one. Similarly, the strap of a head tefillah should not be used for an arm tefillah.
When does the above apply? After one has worn them. However, if head tefillin have never been worn, one may make them into arm tefillin. How is this done? One drapes leather around them until they become a single [compartment] and [then, one can] tie them on his hand.
[The following laws apply when] the stitches of the tefillin become torn: If two stitches which are located next to each other become torn, or three stitches become torn even though they are not located next to each other, [the tefillin] are unacceptable.
When does the above apply? With regard to old [tefillin]. With regard to new [tefillin], however, if their base remains intact, they are acceptable. [tefillin are considered] to be "new" as long as the leather remains strong and does not tear when one takes hold of a portion of the leather where the stitch was torn and hangs the tefillin. If the leather is not fit to hang the tefillin because it will tear, the [tefillin are considered] "old."
Should a strap be torn, [the pieces] should not be tied or sewn together. Rather, it should be removed and entombed, and another one [substituted for it].
The remnants of [torn] straps are not acceptable unless their length and width meets - or exceeds - the minimum requirements.
At all times, a person should be careful that the external surface of the straps faces upward when he ties them on his arm and head.
Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter Four
Where are the head tefillin placed? They should be placed at the point of the skull, the end of the hairline towards the face, the place where a child's brain [can be felt] to pulsate.
Care must be taken to position them in the center, so that they will be "between the eyes." The knot should be at the top portion of the neck, the bottom of the skull.
The arm [tefillin] should be tied to one's left arm at the muscle - i.e., the bulging flesh of the arm between the shoulder and the elbow. Thus, if one presses his arm to his ribs, the tefillah will be opposite his heart, thus fulfilling the directive [Deuteronomy 6:6], "And these words... shall be upon your heart."
A person who places the arm tefillah on his palm, or the head tefillah on his forehead, follows the way of the Sadducees. A person who makes his tefillin rounded like a nut does not fulfill the mitzvah at all.
A left-handed person puts tefillin on his right hand, since [figuratively,] it is his left hand. If he is ambidextrous, he should place them on his left hand - i.e., his left hand in a literal sense.
The places where to tie and place the tefillin were received as part of the oral tradition.
The [absence of the] head tefillah does not preclude [wearing tefillin] on the arm, and similarly, the [absence of the] arm tefillah does not preclude [wearing tefillin] on the head. They are two mitzvot, each one to be considered independently.
What blessings are recited? On the head tefillin, one recites: "[Blessed are You...] who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the mitzvah of tefillin." On the arm tefillin, one recites: "[Blessed are You...] who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to put on tefillin."
When does the above apply? When one puts on only one of them. If, however, one puts them both on, one recites only a single blessing, "...to put on tefillin."
One should tie the tefillin on one's arm, and afterwards put on the head tefillin. When one removes them, the head tefillin should be removed, and then the arm tefillin.
[After] reciting the blessing, "...to put on tefillin," and tying the tefillin on one's arm, one is forbidden to talk - even to respond to a greeting from one's teacher - until he puts on the head tefillin. If he talks, it is considered to be a transgression. [In such an instance,] one is required to recite the second blessing, "...concerning the mitzvah of tefillin," and then put on the head tefillin.
Whenever a person puts on tefillin - even if he removes them and puts them on several times throughout the day - he should recite a blessing for them.
With regard to all mitzvot: one recites a blessing for them before performing them. Therefore, one should recite the blessing for the arm tefillah after placing it on one's muscle, before tying it, since tying it comprises the fulfillment of the mitzvah.
When a person removes his tefillin to place them in a container, he should not place the arm tefillah below and the head tefillah above, because when he wants to put them on, he will encounter the head tefillah first. Thus, he will [be forced to] ignore it and take out the arm tefillah, since one should not put on the head tefillah before the arm tefillah.
[This is undesirable because] it is forbidden for a person to ignore one mitzvah and proceed to the fulfillment of another mitzvah. Rather, as soon as a mitzvah comes to a person's hand, he should occupy himself with it. Therefore, a person should place the arm tefillin above, so that he will encounter it first, and thus put on the tefillin in the proper sequence.
A container that was made for tefillin to be placed in and which was used for that purpose becomes holy. It is forbidden to use it for mundane purposes.
If a container was prepared for that purpose, but never used for it, or if a container was temporarily used for tefillin, but was not prepared for that purpose, it does not become holy. Rather, it is considered an ordinary article as before.
It is forbidden to suspend tefillin. [This applies regardless of whether one suspends them] by their straps or from the tefillah itself. One may, however, suspend the bag in which they are placed.
The time for wearing tefillin is the day and not the night, as [Exodus 13:10] states: "And you shall observe this statute in its appointed time, from day to day." "This statute" refers to the mitzvah of tefillin.
Similarly, Sabbaths and holidays are not days on which tefillin [are worn], as [Exodus 13:9] states: "And they shall be a sign for you." Since the Sabbaths and the holidays are themselves signs, [the sign of tefillin is unnecessary].
When does the time to put them on begin? When one can see a colleague standing four cubits away and recognize him. [It continues] until sunset.
It is permitted for a person who put on tefillin before sunset to continue wearing them after nightfall. They may even remain upon him the entire night.
This law, however, is not to be taught in public. Instead, everyone should be taught not to wear tefillin at night and to remove them before sunset.
A person who puts on tefillin after sunset transgresses a Scriptural prohibition, as [implied by Exodus 13:10]: "And you shall observe this statute... from day to day."
When a person is wearing tefillin in the midst of a journey and the sun sets, marking the commencement of the Sabbath, he should cover them with his hand until he reaches his home and then, remove them.
If he is sitting in the house of study and the sun sets, marking the commencement of the Sabbath, he should cover them with his hand until he reaches his home, and then remove them.
If there is a house located near the wall [of a city] where they would be safe, he should place them there. If, however, he did not remove his tefillin after sunset because he did not have a place where they would be safe, it is permissible for him to continue wearing them in order to protect them.
All those who are exempt from the obligation to recite the Shema are exempt from the obligation to wear tefillin. If a minor knows [the importance of] guarding his tefillin, his father should obtain tefillin for him, to educate him regarding the performance of mitzvot.
A person with stomach problems and anyone who can contain his excretory functions only with difficulty are exempt from the obligation to wear tefillin. [In contrast,] all those ritually impure are obligated to wear tefillin like one who is pure.
A person who suffers discomfort, or someone who is disturbed and cannot concentrate his thoughts, is exempt from the obligation to wear tefillin, since a person who wears tefillin is forbidden to divert his attention from them.
Priests who are in the midst of [the Temple] service, Levites who chant on the platform, and Israelites while they are attending the Temple [ceremonies] are exempt from the obligation to pray and to wear tefillin.
A person should touch his tefillin [from time to time] during the entire time he is wearing them, so that he will not divert his attention from them even for a single moment, for their holiness surpasses that of the tzitz. The tzitz has God's name [written] upon it only once, while the head tefillin - and similarly, the arm tefillin - contain the name י-ה-ו-ה 21 times.
tefillin require a clean body; i.e., that one should be careful not to release gas while wearing them.
Accordingly, it is forbidden to sleep while wearing them - neither a long sleep nor a nap. If, however, one places a cloth over them and a woman is not with him, one may nap while wearing them. What should he do? Place his head between his knees and sleep while sitting.
A person who has tefillin wound around his hand is permitted to sleep with them. [This applies] even to a long sleep.
He may eat only a snack while wearing them. If, however, he enters to partake of a regular meal, he should remove them and place them on the table until after he washes his hands [at the conclusion of the meal]. Afterwards, he should put them on and recite grace over his meal while wearing them.
[The following rules apply with regard to a person] wearing tefillin who must use the lavatory: [He should remove his tefillin but,] while he enters, he should not place them in the holes [of the outer wall of the lavatory] which are near the public domain, lest they be taken by passersby.
What should he do? Even if he [merely] has to urinate, he should remove his tefillin four cubits away [from the lavatory] and roll them in his clothes like a Torah scroll, holding them near his heart with his right hand. He must take care that the strap does not protrude more than a handbreadth from his hand. Afterwards, he should enter and relieve himself. After leaving the lavatory and walking more than four cubits away, he should put them on.
When does the above apply? In a permanent lavatory where drops [of urine] will not sprinkle upon him. In contrast, in a place that is temporarily being used as a lavatory, one should not enter, [holding tefillin] wound up in one's hand. Instead, one should remove them [outside the lavatory] and give them to a colleague to guard.
Urine cannot be expelled [without drops sprinkling] even in a permanent lavatory unless one squats. If [the floor is covered] with soft dust, [drops will not sprinkle] even when one stands. If the floor is hard, one should stand on an incline [and urinate], so that drops will not sprinkle on him.
When a person is wearing tefillin and must relieve himself in the evening, when there would be no time left in the day to put them on again after he finishes, he should not enter a lavatory, [holding them] rolled up in his clothes.
What should he do [instead]? He should remove them and place them in their container if it is a handbreadth in size, or in another container which is not specific for them even though it is not a handbreadth in size. He should hold the container in his hand when he enters the lavatory. Similarly, if he needs to relieve himself at night, he should place them in a container and enter the lavatory, holding the tefillin in his hand.
If a person forgot and entered a lavatory while wearing tefillin, he should cover them with his hand until he completes expelling the first issue of feces or urine, and then leave the lavatory, remove the tefillin, return, and complete relieving himself. Were one to interrupt in the midst of expelling the first outburst of feces or urine, he might become very dangerously ill.
If a person forgot and had intercourse while wearing tefillin, he should not hold either the straps or the compartments themselves until he washes his hands. [Then, he should] remove them. [This restriction was instituted] because hands are active.
[The following rules apply to] a person who enters a bathhouse: In the rooms where people stand clothed, it is permitted to put on tefillin. In the rooms where some of the people stand naked and some clothed, one need not remove one's tefillin, nor, at the outset, should one put tefillin on there. In the rooms where [everyone] stands naked, one should remove one's tefillin and, needless to say, one should not put them on.
A person should not walk in a cemetery wearing his head tefillin. Even [outside a cemetery], a person should remove his tefillin if he comes within four cubits of a corpse or a grave, until he distances himself four cubits from them.
A person should not put on tefillin [when he is naked]. He must first cover his genitalia and put on his clothes.
A person who is carrying a load on his head should remove his head tefillin [and not put it on again] until he puts down his load. It is even forbidden to wear a handkerchief around one's head when wearing tefillin. One may, however, wear a hat over the tefillin.
When tefillin or a Torah scroll are in a room, it is forbidden to engage in sexual relations, unless they are removed or placed into a container, and that container placed into a second container which is not specific to them. If, however, the second container designated for them, even ten containers are considered as a single container.
Should a person place [the sacred articles] in two containers, he may place them at the head of his bed, between a cushion and a pillow, as long as they are not under his head, so that he can protect them. [This applies] even if his wife is together with him in bed.
The holiness associated with tefillin is very great. As long as a person is wearing tefillin on his head and arm, he will be humble and God-fearing and will not be drawn to frivolous behavior or empty speech. He will not turn his thoughts to evil matters, but rather will direct his heart to words of truth and justice.
Accordingly, a person should try to wear [tefillin] throughout the entire day, for this is the mitzvah associated with them. Among the praises conveyed upon Rav, the student of Rabbenu Hakadosh, was that he was never seen walking four cubits without [reciting words of] Torah, without tzitzit, and without tefillin.
Although it is a mitzvah to wear [tefillin] throughout the entire day, it is most important during prayer. Our Sages declared: "Whoever recites the Shema without tefillin is considered as if he is giving false testimony."
Whoever does not wear tefillin transgresses eight positive commandments, for in each of the four passages contained in the tefillin we are commanded to wear both head and arm tefillin. [The rewards for wearing tefillin are also great.] Whoever wears tefillin regularly will live long, as [implied by Isaiah 38:16]: "God is upon them, they shall live."
Published and copyright by Moznaim Publications, all rights reserved.
To purchase this book or the entire series, please click here
The text on this page contains sacred literature. Please do not deface or discard.
In every sorrow there is profit