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Why Do Some Wear Two Pairs of Tefillin?

Why Do Some Wear Two Pairs of Tefillin?

The varying traditions of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam

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Question:

I've noticed that my Chabad rabbi dons two sets of tefillin—one during the morning prayers, and one that he puts on for a few moments right after the prayers. What is the reason for the second pair?

Answer:

Indeed, many Jews – not only Chabad – wear two pairs of tefillin.

The reason for this is that since Gaonic times (6th-11th century CE) there have been differing opinions regarding the arrangement of the four Biblical passages inserted in the tefillin boxes.

The four biblical passages written on a parchment scroll (or in the case of the head tefillin, on four different scrolls) and inserted into the tefillin boxes are: 1. "Kadesh" (Exodus 13:1-10); 2. "Vehaya ki y'viacha" (Exodus 13:11-16); 3. "Shema" (Deuteronomy 6:4-9); 4. V'haya im shamoa" (Deuteronomy 11:13-21). These are the four biblical passages that mention the obligation to wear tefillin.

In what order are these passages placed in the tefillin? Well the Talmud (Menachot 34b) records the tradition on this matter: "Kadesh and V'haya ki yeviacha to the right [of the individual opposite the tefillin wearer1]; Shema and V'haya im shamoa to the left." Furthermore, the Talmud says, if the passages are not in their proper order, the tefillin are not kosher.

The interpretation of this Talmudic rule, however, has been hotly debated.

One opinion is that "Shema and V'haya im shamoa to the left" starts from the center of the tefillin and extends left-wards. This is the opinion championed by Rashi, an eminent 11th century sage.

Rashi's Tefillin:

The other opinion maintains that "Shema and V'haya im shamoa to the left" starts from the left edge of the tefillin and extends inwards. This is the opinion supported by Rashi's grandson, known as "Rabbeinu Tam."

Rabbeinu Tam's Tefillin:

The Code of Jewish Law sides with Rashi's opinion. Nevertheless, it says that "all G‑d fearing individuals"2 should have two pairs of tefillin and wear both each day. In chassidic circles it is especially common to wear two pairs of tefillin, this because according to kabbalah it is important to wear both pairs, each one representing a different divine flow of energy.

Rabbeinu Tam's Tefillin are donned after the morning prayers,3 without the recitation of a blessing. While wearing them, it is customary to recite the three passages of the Shema, as well as the Kadesh and V'haya ki y'viacha passages.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Menachem Posner

Footnotes
1.
This is according to most opinions, including Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam. Others disagree, maintaining that right and left is from the wearer's perspective. The halachah does not follow this view.
2.
The Code also stipulates that Rabbeinu Tam's Tefillin should only be donned by an "established and known-to-be pious" individual. For someone who doesn't meet these criteria, such behavior would be construed as arrogance. Nevertheless, today it has become quite normative to wear Rabbeinu Tam's Tefillin, and as such, this restriction no longer applies. In fact, the Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged all, even bar mitzvah boys, to wear two pairs of tefillin.
3.
The Code suggests wearing both pairs simultaneously during the morning prayers. Today, this is rarely done. Instead, most follow the procedure outlined above.
Rabbi Menachem Posner serves as staff editor for Chabad.org.
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Anonymous July 4, 2017

How does one get a Rabbeinu Tam's Tefillin? Reply

Shmarya Richler Montreal July 23, 2015

Footnote 2 Dear Rabbi Posner,

The Me'asef L'chol Hamachonos in Hilchos Tefilin (Siman 34:3:15) states that when the Code specifies that the individual must be "established and known-to-be pious" he is referring to those that don two pairs simultaneously. This does not apply to those who don Rashi and then Rabeinu Tam one after the other. He also makes the point brought up by Anonymous in the name of Rav Ovadia Yosef Z"l (starting at Additionally)

Thank you for a great article. Reply

Anonymous July 28, 2014

purim when to put on R''T on purim? before or after the megillah? Reply

Anonymous Alpine, NJ December 23, 2013

Ruling of Rav Ovadia Yosef z'l Rav Ovadia Yosef z''l held by footnote 2 by the way. He also felt that as long as a single man can wear them without having improper thoughts and a clean body, there is no problem to wear it. Additionally, he held that since so many Jews, including not only Chasidim but also Sephardim, there is absolutely no issue of arrogance when wearing both pairs.

Tizku LeMitzvot Reply

Daniel Cohen May 31, 2009

Kabbalistically wearing them seperately is not the same affect as wearing them together that why many kabbalists wearing two together Reply

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