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Guide to Putting on Tefillin

Guide to Putting on Tefillin


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:


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.


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 Staff
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Discussion (65)
October 25, 2015
It depends on how much time you do have. Try at least to say the Shema prayer and the Amidah in Tefillin. If you have more time, you can add additional parts of the prayers.
Shaul Wolf
October 22, 2015
Thanks for the instructions. I'm just learning to put on tefillin and I just would like to know, after putting on the tefillin and making the blessings, is it permissible to remove the tefillin if I can't pray the whole shacharis?
October 20, 2015
The area designated for Tefillin is from the "place where the hair begins to grow" until the "area where a child's skull is soft". The bottom of the Tefillin may not extend past the hairline, and the top of them should not pass this point on the skull, which is assumed to be approximately parallel to one's ear. The Tefillin may be placed anywhere within this area.
Shaul Wolf
October 19, 2015
So it has to be aligned exactly with the hairline? Not below and not above? What if the bottom of the tefillin sits, say, one inch above the hairline? Would one therefore not fulfill the mitzvah? Thank you.
New York
September 18, 2015
The bottom of the Tefillin should be aligned with the bottom of one's hairline. If one has a large pair of Tefillin, they can have them sit further back on their head so that the bottom of the Tefillin rests on the bottom of the hairline.
Shaul Wolf
September 17, 2015
To Anonymous, CA
Yes, Tefillin are worn during the Ten Days of Repentance, except on Shabbat. Staff
September 17, 2015
Trillin this week or not?
I know you don't wrap on chop games, but what about the weeke between RH and YK?
September 11, 2015
Rabbi Yisroel Cotler
Yes!!! Your answer helped a lot 😊

תודה רבה
Robert Kurucz
Fuquay Varina, NC
September 11, 2015
Thanks for the useful information. I was curious about the following: if someone's tefillin is slightly bigger than average, is it okay for the edge of the head tefillin to rest slightly on the forehead? Thank you in advance.
New York
July 17, 2015
Toda Raba