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Guide to Putting on Tefillin

Guide to Putting on Tefillin

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What is Tefillin?

You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes.

Deuteronomy 6:8

You have a brain. It is in one world. Your heart is in another. And your hands often end up involved in something completely foreign to both of them. Three diverse machines.

So you put on tefillin. First thing in the day, you connect your head, your heart and your hand with these leather cables—all to work as one, with one intent. And then, when you go out to meet the world, all your actions find harmony in a single coordinated purpose...

Tefillin are a pair of black leather boxes containing Hebrew parchment scrolls. A set includes two tefillin—one for the head and one for the arm. Each consists of three main components: the scrolls, the box and the strap. The scrolls are inserted into boxes made of leather that have been painted black.

One box is strapped on your head, and the other onto your arm next to your heart. It’s done once a day—preferably during the morning prayers. If that is not practical, say at least the passage called the Shema (found below). It’s done by Jewish males, age 13 and up, every day except Shabbat and major Jewish holidays.

1. Place on Arm

You have two black leather boxes with straps in your tefillin bag. One is for the arm, the other for the head. Take out the arm one first—that’s the one that’s one smooth box, rather than four compartments.

Remove the tefillin from the plastic case.

The arm-tefillin goes on the weaker arm: right-handed people do the left arm, lefties do the right arm.

Roll up your sleeve so that the tefillin is in direct contact with your arm. Put your arm through the loop formed by the knotted strap. Place the black box up on your bicep, just below the halfway point between the shoulder and the elbow, right across from your heart (see illustration).

Below are video instructions:


2. The Blessing on the Tefillin

Recite the blessing. If you can read and understand the original Hebrew, say it in Hebrew. Otherwise, you can say it in any language you understand.

Here’s the Hebrew text:

Here’s how it sounds:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Elo-heinu melech ha’olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu l’haniach tefillin.

Here’s what it means:

Blessed are You, L‑rd our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to put on tefillin.

Audio: Tefillin Blessing (Ashkenaz)

Audio: Tefillin Blessing (Sefard)

Focus on what you’re doing. From the time you make the blessing until both tefillin are in place, do not talk. Don’t even wink. Just concentrate on hooking up your mind, heart and deeds, and binding them to G‑d.

3. Bind the Arm-Tefillin

Tighten the strap around your arm, mindful that the knot stays in direct contact with the box.

Continue to wrap: two more times over the strap-socket of the black box and around the biceps, then seven times around your arm and once around your palm. Leave the remainder of the strap loose.


Below are video instructions:


4. Place the Head-Tefillin

Next, get out the head-tefillin. Remove the tefillin from the plastic case. The box goes on your head, just above your forehead. Center it in the middle of your head directly above the point that’s right between your eyes. The daled-shaped knot should rest on the base of your skull.


Below are video instructions:


5. Tie on Hand

Now back to your hand. Wrap the remainder of the strap three times around your middle finger, like this: once around the base, then once just above the first joint, then one more time around the base. You’ve got some strap left over, so wrap it around your palm and tuck in the tail end.



Below are video instructions:


6. Recite the Prayers

It is best to pray the entire morning prayers in one’s tefillin. However, if this is not possible, at least say the Shema prayer:

In the original Hebrew:

Cover your eyes with your right hand and say:

Recite the following verse in an undertone:

Transliteration:

Cover your eyes with your right hand and say:
Sh’ma Yis-ra-eil, A-do-nai E-lo-hei-nu, A-do-nai E-chad.

Recite the following verse in an undertone:
Ba-ruch sheim k’vod mal-chu-to l’o-lam va-ed.

V’a-hav-ta eit A-do-nai E-lo-he-cha b’chawl l’va-v’cha u-v’chawl naf-sh’cha, u-v’chawl m’o-de-cha. V’ha-yu ha-d’va-rim ha-ei-leh, a-sher a-no-chi m’tsa-v’cha ha-yom, al l’va-ve-cha. V’shi-nan-tam l’-va-ne-cha, v’di-bar-ta bam, b’shiv-t’cha b’vei-te-cha, uv-lech-t’cha va-de-rech, u-v’shawch-b’cha uv-ku-me-cha. Uk-shar-tam l’ot al ya-de-cha, v’ha-yu l’to-ta-fot bein ei-ne-cha. Uch-tav-tam al m’zu-zot bei-te-cha, u-vish-a-re-cha.

Translation:

Cover you eyes with your right hand and say:
Hear, O Israel, the L‑rd is our G‑d, the L‑rd is One.

Recite the following verse in an undertone:
Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.

You shall love the L‑rd your G‑d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes. You shall write them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.

By Chabad.org Staff
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Discussion (48)
July 10, 2014
Tefillin
A reminder between your eyes. Does this not mean to keep at the forefront of your mind as in to THINK about these words(Torah) all the time? Remember the movie "The gods must be crazy and the coke bottle?" And on your hand means "To Do" Torah. Bind/control you hand to Torah. Please help me understand if i'm wrong.
Anonymous
East bay
May 7, 2014
to David... you are not fulfilling a mitzvah, you are fulfilling three mitzvot. every day will help you connect.
Anonymous
Los Angeles
May 3, 2014
I feel very stupid, but todah for telling me how to fix things.
Thank you, Chabad...for informing me I was not actually fulfilling a mitzvah and was doing this wrong. I appreciate now knowing the correct way.

I only wish I had known 5 months earlier when I began davening daily. (I was keeping it in the plastic boxes when I strapped it to my arm and placed it on my head.)

Information on how to loosen and/or tighten tefillin haRosh would be helpful... :-)
David Ba'al Teshuvah
Kansas
April 30, 2014
tefillin
Rabbi Cotler, thank you for your further comment below.
Besides the lighting of Shobbos/Yom Tov Candles, the custom is that before performing the Mitzvah the blessing is recited.
Please explain why when putting on the Tefillin shel yad must the box be connected to the biceps before the bracha is said and then the strap tightened.
Surely the bracha should be said first.
When putting on the Tefillin shel rosh it is customary to hold the tefillin, say the bracha and then place on the head.
Avraham
Israel
April 24, 2014
wow, this helped a lot for when I get my own teffilin.
Unkayvah Bat Tzakarah
April 9, 2014
Re
From Yalkut Bar Mitzvah (Laws of Tefilin according to Chabad/Shulchan Aruch of Alter Rebbe)

After placing the tefillin on the biceps, and before tightening it, the berachah, "l'honiach tefillin" is recited...

After the berachah, one should tighten the strap within the knot so as to fulfil the commandment, "You shall bind them for a sign upon your hand." The "yud," kesher (knot) on the tefillin shel yad should never be separated from the bayis (lit. the house) - almost to be compared with the choshen (breastplate) of the Kohen Gadol which was never allowed to be separated from the ephod.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
April 3, 2014
tefillin
at what "split-second" must I recite the blessings of the tefillin (arm and head).
I have been putting tefillin on for nearly 50 years and every time that I go to a different community some "macha" tells me that I am doing it wrong.
This one says that I make the blessing too soon as I must strengthen the knot on the arm firmly; another says the knot must not be fastened before the bracha!
Maybe we should concentrate on what is written inside those boxes rather than the appearance on the outside!
Avraham
ISRAEL
January 7, 2014
Re: Shema
Jeff,

Of course the whole Shema may--and should--be recited. But for someone in a rush, not having the time to recite the whole thing shouldn't be a reason for him not to do it at all. Hence the suggestion of the first paragraph.
Eliezer Zalmanov
for Chabad.org
January 5, 2014
Shema
Why do you recite only the first part of the Shema? Can you recite all 3 parts?
Jeff
Fair Lawn
December 6, 2013
Tefillin rosh straps
Jonathan - you may tuck them into your belt or gartel (if you wear one). This technique (a) keeps the leather off the floor/ground and (b) keeps the straps straight (so the black side is out.
HA Arnevet
Florida
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