There’s nothing more mysterious in all of Jewish practice than the mitzvah of tefillin. In it is contained the ultimate paradox, the tying of a finite being with an infinite G‑d. Wrapped in tefillin, you enter a timeless space every morning. Tefillin are a pair of black leather boxes containing Hebrew parchment scrolls.

One 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—while you say a passage called the Shma Yisrael. It’s done by Jewish males, age 13 and up, every day except Shabbat and Yom Tov.

  1. If you don’t already have a pair, get tefillin and instructions by clicking here.
  2. If you have a pair, be sure to have them checked. The scrolls inside could use an occasional checkup.
  3. Wake up in the morning. Or whenever you wake up—as long as it’s still daytime.
  4. Wash up and get dressed.
  5. Take tefillin out of bag.
  6. Put on tefillin, as per these instructions.
  7. Say the Shma Yisrael as printed in the instructions.
  8. Take off tefillin.
  9. Wrap up tefillin.
  10. Put tefillin back in bag.

Total estimated time (excluding waking, washing and getting dressed): 5 minutes.

I get up in the morning and I do this tefillin thing. I feel connected. My day just can’t happen without plugging in like that before I start.

Tefillin is to a person what the computer is to technology. Both connect and integrate very diverse functions. With the computer, you’re connecting hardware. With a person, you’re connecting a mind, a heart and a hand—faculties that are often very disparate. The idea of tefillin is to enter the world as a single person connected to a single G‑d.