In the Torah portion Vaes’chanan the commandment of tefillin is conveyed in the following manner: “You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes.”1

Because the verse begins by saying, “You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand,” and only then goes on to say, “and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes,” the Gemara2 gleans that the hand tefillin are to be donned before the head tefillin.

The Gemara goes on to say that with regard to removing the tefillin the order is reversed: first the head tefillin are removed and only then are the hand tefillin removed. For “and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes” indicates that “whenever the head tefillin are worn there must be two” — both hand and head tefillin ; inevitably, then, the head tefillin are removed first.

Since “The entire Torah is likened to tefillin ,”3 it follows that just as the term tefillin refers to both the hand and head tefillin , so, too, within the service of Torah and mitzvos there are aspects of both the hand and head tefillin.

The hand tefillin , placed upon the biceps opposite the heart , is indicative of service of the heart, fear of G‑d and acceptance of the Divine yoke, while the head tefillin , which is placed adjacent to the brain, symbolizes the service of the mind.

This concept is also stressed in the Shulchan Aruch , which emphasizes that the commandment of tefillin entails “placing them upon the biceps opposite the heart and upon the head adjacent to the brain, so that we remember the miracles and wonders that He has done for us, these miracles indicating G‑d’s unity, and that it is He who possesses the might and power….”4

Moreover, an integral part5 of the mitzvah of tefillin is that we “submit to G‑d’s service our soul, which is in the brain , as well as the desires and thoughts of the heart. By donning tefillin a person will be mindful of the blessed Creator and restrict his pleasures.”6

In a more general sense there are two overall aspects: The hand tefillin relate to feelings and emotions — fear and awe of G‑d, and practical mitzvos ; the head tefillin relate to intellect and Torah.

Herein lie two important lessons: The fact that the hand tefillin are to be donned first indicates that fear and awe of G‑d must precede Torah knowledge. This is in keeping with the dictum of the Mishna :7 “Anyone whose fear of sin comes before his wisdom, his wisdom will endure; but anyone whose wisdom precedes his fear of sin, his wisdom will not endure.” Or as the Zohar states:8 “Fear of G‑d is the doorway to wisdom.”

This thought is elaborated on in Tanya ,9 where it states: “One must constantly bear in mind that the beginning of divine service, as well as its core and root… requires first arousing the innate fear which lies hidden in the heart of every Jew not to rebel against the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.”

Then comes the second lesson: “Whenever the head tefillin — the service of intellect and Torah study — are ‘worn’ there must be two; the hand tefillin , fear of G‑d, must be present as well.”

For fear and awe of G‑d is not only a prerequisite to the study of Torah, but must also be found alongside and together with the intellectual pursuit of Torah and G‑dliness. Only then can a person be assured that “his wisdom will endure.”

Acting in such a manner enables an individual to reach that level of Supernal fear and awe that is the hallmark of the sanctity achieved through Torah study.10

It is with regard to this loftier level of fear that our Sages state:11 “If there is no wisdom, there is no fear of G‑d,” and concerning which the verse states:12 “He has commanded us to observe all the statutes so that we may fear Him.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIX, pp. 47-54.