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A headless, one-armed stick man does some stuff.



Stick Figure Vignette: Parshat Va’etchanan


Attachments: Stick Figure Vignette: Parshat Va’etchanan

A headless, one-armed stick man does some stuff.
Tefillin, Va'etchanan

This was an easy idea to come up with, but became harder to justify. Our initial idea seemed appealing on a very deep level to both of us—that a person becomes whole through donning tefillin. The image of a person literally tying himself together was very natural. The problem comes because we couldn’t find a direct quote to encapsulate our feelings. All the sources we found emphasized the idea that tefillin bind our hearts and our minds to G‑d in one fell swoop, and here our vignette fell short. We didn’t really have a visual connection to G‑d anywhere, or to hearts.

These are the kinds of things that bother us.

But then, when you look at it all together, it make sense. We’re not sure how, but somehow, on a whole, it all kind of works out. It’s already cliché to say we all kind of feel like we’re walking around without our heads sometimes, but we rarely ever feel like we’re walking around without our limbs. And yet, we are all in a sense constrained when we go about our daily lives without attachment. Our actions are always there in front of us, but how many times can we say they’re bound in with who we are? When I’m making an egg or texting someone, they could just as well be tools, detachable parts to put away later. A hand is a hand until it reminds us of our hearts, and even a head is only a head unless it searches for greater meaning. So when you do this thing—when you tie reminders to your hands and set them between your eyes—your hands aren’t just hands, floating out in front of you; they become signs of your connection to G‑d. And that, almost incidentally, is how they make us whole.


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Miriam Brooklyn August 7, 2012

I'm so excited that stick figures are back! they're such an entertaining way to provoke real thought!
Dovid, I love your comment. As one who enjoys doing craft projects I can really relate to the challenge of imparting a message through art.
Kayo, if you'll notice the first comment, the illustrator is apparently a lefty and thus he puts tefillin on his right arm- your average righty puts tefilin on his left arm.
Jack. to add a mundane spin on this idea, a major reason why a woman wear heels, even if they're married to someone their height, is because it makes her carry herself differently and helps her feel dressed up. (Ditto for makeup.) Reply

TCohen pittsburgh August 5, 2012

the spool i guess (oh and BTW i loved the animation!) my problem is with the spool. when he got that string and wrapped it around, i was expecting him to cut the rest off... which is def not what we want to do... so i guess maybe the tying needs to be to something that would ... don't know , save him, maybe, protect him, something that we don't want, consequently, to get rid of — like what is he supposed to do with that spool, now that he's all tied up? Reply

Anonymous August 2, 2012

chime in Loved it !

They say a picture is worth a 1000 words.

I'll bet that you got at least one person to put on tefillin. Even if the process gets lost after a while, putting on tefillin even once makes you think twice.

I also win the bet. The 'at least one person' is me. Your stick man reeled me in. Reply

Jack Cleveland, Ohio August 1, 2012

Stick figure in a tie That reminds me of a person that came into private audience with the Rebbe, where the Rebbe explained that Tefillin is like a businessman putting on a tie, that when one wears Tefillin it's like he's presenting himself properly. The man responded "But Rebbe, I'm not observant!" and explained that he's like in rag-attire, and a tie does not fit in! The Rebbe replied (paraphrased) - "If such a person is thrown on a tie, he will feel devoid of being properly dressed and will feel compelled to dress up the rest of his body!" Reply

Dan Schechter Baltimore, MD August 1, 2012

attachments For me the video compares and contrasts with the Living Torah video "understanding sacrifice" with Moshe Levy. He unwittingly sanctified his arm with a promise of mitzvah tefillin to the point that it no longer exists in this world. Reply

Kayo Kaneko August 1, 2012

Why it is the right arm? B"H
Tefillin is bind on the left arm, usually, No? Reply

Dena Pittsburgh July 31, 2012

Awesome blog post! Mitzvot aren't simply the Torah's way to interact with the physical -- rather, without them, our physical bodies wouldn't have a raison d'etre... Reply

Judith Kelowna, Canada via July 31, 2012

Headless, one armed stickman He found what he was looking for. He was being directed to where he needed to go. Seeks and ye shall find, ask and it shall be given. The LORD had a plan for him. Your mission was accomplished. Well done! Reply

Dovid Taub pittsburgh, PA July 31, 2012

Re" Hard to tell... How would he hang himself without a head?
Thank you for sharing your reaction. It's kind of a hard balance with these vignettes- making it clear enough to be worth watching, but at at the same time open enough to make the use of this style worthwhile. If someone's reaction is "oh, I get it. It's Tefillin. Cute." then why not just write an article about Tefillin? But at the same time, if you watch it and can't get anything out of it, that's not good either. Like I said, it's a balance.
What I was hoping to share was the experience of putting yourself together, making your limbs a useful part of who you are. I liked that the quote from Shulchan Aruch took this Mitzvah and transferred the act of "attaching" from the boxes and parchment to one's actual body. When I put on Tefillin, I'm not just putting things on my arm and head, I'm putting my head somewhere. I liked that, and wanted to share it.
Again, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Anyone else ready to chime in? Reply

One of your big fans Pittsburgh July 30, 2012

Hard to tell... The thing is that after 2 viewings, I still don't know Stickie is putting on Teffilin until you tell me. I thought, for a moment, he was going to hang himself Reply

Anonymous Pittsburgh July 29, 2012

Tefillin I can tell the illustrator/animator is a leftie! :) Reply

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