Simanim 25: 1-10 Tefillin

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #13: Simanim 25:1 - 10

Pages 63 - 67


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon








            The mishna in Horayot 3:6 states,


"That which is more frequent than another takes precedence over the other, and that which is more sacred than another takes precedence over the other."


            What if two mitzvot come into conflict, one being more frequent and the other being more sacred?  This is the case with tallit and tefillin: tallit is more frequent because it is worn even on Shabbat, but tefillin are more sacred because they are considered a "tashmish kedusha," an intrinsically holy object (while a tallit is only a "tashmish mitzva," an item used for a mitzva - see Megilla 26b).


            This question prompts some disagreement in Menachot.  On page 49b, we find the dictum, "Frequency carries more weight than sacredness."  However, on 49a R. Chisda avers that in such a situation one may choose as he pleases, and so rules the Rambam in Hilkhot Temidin (end of chapter 8).


            Indeed, one reason offered by the Nimukei Yosef (Hilkhot Tzitzit) for the precedence of tallit is its frequency.  The Shulchan Arukh, however, finds a different rationale in Berakhot 28a which states, "One must ascend in holiness, not descend."


            According to the Dagul Me-revava (siman 25) and the Sha'agat Aryeh (siman 28), this dictum conflicts with the above-mentioned "That which is more sacred than another takes precedence over the other."  They therefore explain that these two rules of thumb are actually unrelated.  "One must ascend in holiness," they say, applies to a single mitzva which has multiple stages.  When two distinct mitzvot are at odds, then it is "that which is more sacred" which takes precedence.


            It is possible to maintain that when more than one mitzva exist simultaneously with regard to an individual, they are considered as one unit.  Bring a proof for this from the first Bi'ur Halakha in this siman.


            Most Rishonim rule, with the Shulchan Arukh, that one should put on his tallit first and then his tefillin.  The Levush, however, puts tefillin first because they are more holy, while the Sha'agat Aryeh (28) leaves it up to the individual.


            The prevalent custom is in accordance with the Shulchan Arukh.  Additional reasons for this include the idea that tzitzit are considered the equivalent of all the other mitzvot (Nimukei Yosef), and that tzitzit serve as a reminder of the other mitzvot and thus lead us to tefillin (Mishkenot Yaakov 26).


            It should be noted that nowadays our custom of putting on tallit before tefillin is nothing but a minhag, since we are already wearing tzitzit (Rabbeinu Yona; Beit Yosef; codified in the Shulchan Arukh se'if 2).




            Yoma 33a teaches us that an opportunity to perform a mitzva must not be wasted (derived in the Mekhilta from the verse, "You shall guard the matzot" - Shemot 12:17 - read "the mitzvot").


            In light of this, what should one do if he mistakenly picked up his tefillin before his tallit?  See the Shulchan Arukh.


            For this reason, it is important to arrange one's tallit bag such that the tallit will be encountered first, before the tefillin.


            What if one extends his hand toward his tefillin but they are in a bag?  The Magen Avraham believes that in such a case one is not considered to be "passing over a mitzva" and he may leave them and put on his tallit.  Read the Shulchan Arukh carefully: does he agree?  The Bi'ur Halakha (s.v. She-lo yanichu) writes, "In any case, it is difficult to accept the Magen Avraham's leniency since there are many who disagree with him."  (The Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav, se'ifim 2 and 3, ruled that ideally - le-khat'chila - one should behave in accordance with the Shulchan Arukh, while be-di'avad one may rely upon the Magen Avraham.)




            According to the Zohar (Va-etchanan 265, brought in the Beit Yosef - trans. Ha-sulam), one must be wearing his tallit and tefillin before leaving his house, and in this fashion enter the synagogue.  Upon entering, he should say, "I will prostrate myself before Your holy Sanctuary in awe of you" (Tehillim 5:8).  And thus rules the Shulchan Arukh.


            Various practical reasons were brought to explain the widespread leniency in this matter.  See M.B. on this se'if, and the Arukh Ha-shulchan 25:2 and 5.


            Even those who do not put on tallit and tefillin at home (for the above-mentioned reasons) are instructed by the Acharonim to don them in the courtyard of the synagogue (Magen Avraham 43:11; M.B. 25:8).


            The Zohar places great emphasis on this issue.  In Sha'ar Ha-kavanot (Derush Beit Ha-kenesset p. 3; also cited by the Magen Avraham), it relates that the holy Ari would refrain from being among the first ten men at the synagogue because they would arrive early, before the time of the obligation of tefillin began, and he did not wish to enter the synagogue without his tefillin on (although the Elia Rabba, 25:6, maintains that it is not an issue before the time of tefillin begins).


            Though there are those who do follow this practice, it appears that the vast majority (including rabbanim and rashei yeshiva) does not, for reasons which continue to elude me.  One gadol, when pressed, responded, "I witnessed our rabbinic elders, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, not acting thus."  And that is all he had to say!

[If faced with a choice of missing a kaddish or entering without tefillin - it is rpeferable to catch the kaddish (while obviously the best practice is to come on time, once late ...).  This may explain some peoples' behavior. - M. F.]




            See the questions of the Arukh Ha-shulchan (25:6) on the Rosh.  See the gemara in Berakhot 60b, and see M.B. 25:13 for his ruling.




            Berakhot 14b-15a teaches,


"Said Ula, 'One who recites keriyat shema without tefillin is considered as if he bears false testimony against himself.'  Said ... R. Yochanan, 'As if he offered a burnt-offering (ola) without its meal-offering (mincha) and a sacrifice (zevach) without its libations (nesakhim).'"


            See there for more on the importance of combining keriyat shema and tefilla (shemoneh esreh) with tefillin.


            There is a practical difference between the approaches of Ula and of R. Yochanan, which arises if one read the shema and only afterward obtained a pair of tefillin.  Must he recite it again?  If he is considered to have borne "false testimony against himself," then apparently he fulfilled the mitzva of keriyat shema completely, though he did incidentally also transgress by neglecting to put on tefillin.  Hence, he is required simply to put on tefillin afterward.  But, if "it is as if he offered an ola without its mincha," then by implication his keriyat shema was incomplete and he must repeat it (Rabbeinu Yona).  See M.B. 58:5 for his ruling.


            What should one do if he has no tefillin but fears that the proper time for shema and shemoneh esreh will pass?  See M.B. 25:14.


            What if he has no tefillin and a minyan is about to start?  The poskim are divided over the question of which takes priority - shema and tefilla with tefillin, or communal prayer.  The Magen Avraham votes for tefillin based on the following reasoning: the Shulchan Arukh rules in siman 111:3 that the juxtaposition of the end of the shema with the beginning of shemoneh esreh ("semikhat ge'ula le-tefilla") is a greater priority than praying with a minyan; in 66:8 he rules that if one who had no tefillin previously obtains a pair in between ge'ula and tefilla, he should put them on right then (without a berakha).  This implies that tefillin is preferable to semikhat ge'ula le-tefilla, and if so, reasons the Magen Avraham, it is by association preferable to prayer with a minyan.  There are those who disagree (Elia Rabba 58:5 and others).  See M.B. 66:12.


            If one recited the Shema without tefillin on because he was worried lest the proper time pass or for a similar reason, then he did not "bear false testimony against himself"  for the following reasons:  (1)  he did so unwillingly - "be-oness" (Levush, siman 58); (2) if he puts on tefillin afterwards it is retroactively not "false testimony" (implicit in Eshel Avraham, batra); or (3) if he had in mind to put on tefillin afterward, then it is not considered false testimony (immediately, not retroactively - Minchat Yitzchak vol.II, 107; Yabia Omer vol. I, 4).


            One who has no tefillin and is planning to borrow a pair may pray until yishtabach; then, after the owner of the tefillin finishes shemoneh esreh, he should put them on and continue praying.

NOTE: The halakhot in the Mishna Berura on this topic are widely scattered - 25:14; 46:33; 66:40; 58:5.




            When performing any mitzva one must have a basic intention that he is doing so in order to fulfill the will of God (60:4, in accordance with the accepted opinion in the gemara that mitzvot require kavana).  And if one's actions demonstrate that he is doing them for the sake of a mitzva, then it is acceptable be-di'avad even without explicit intention (M.B. 60:10).


            Three mitvzot require additional kavana; see above M.B. 8:19 quoting the Bach.  Each of these is assigned an explicit purpose by the Torah.  In our case, tefillin, the verse states, "In order that God's Torah be in your mouth, for with a strong hand did God take you out of Mitzrayim" (Shemot 13:9).


            What if one did not have this intention?  See M.B. 25:15.


            "One should have in mind as he puts them on that the Holy One Blessed Be He commanded us to put on these four sections (parshiot) which contain in them the uniqueness of His name ["shema" and "ve-haya im shamo'a"] and the Exodus ["kadesh" and "ve-haya ki yevi'akha" - see Shemot 13]."  For an elaboration of the underlying themes of tefillin, see the Sefer Ha-chinukh, mitzvot 421 and 422.


            The tefillin of the hand (tefillin shel yad) corresponds to the heart, and the tefillin of the head (tefillin shel rosh) corresponds to the mind.  See the Shulchan Arukh: the purpose of the mitzva should be kept in mind not only at the time of putting them on!  See also in the Emek Berakha 16, cited by the Shla, that tefillin shel rosh correspond to the eyes, as indicated by the verse, "and you shall not stray after your hearts [tefillin shel yad] and after your eyes [tefillin shel rosh]" (Bemidbar 15:39).


RECITING THE FOUR PARSHIOT:  Shema and Ve-haya im shamo'a are said in any case in keriyat shema; what about kadesh and ve-haya ki yevi'akha?  See M.B. 25:16, but also see the Arukh Ha-shulchan 25:8.


LE-SHEM YICHUD:  The Shla (in mitzvat tefillin) wrote in the name of the Zohar (Emor) that "le-shem yichud Kudsha Brikh Hu..." should be said, as brought in the siddurim.  This is agreed to by the Artzot Ha-chayim (25, Ha-me'ir La-aretz 29) and others (see, e.g., the introduction of the Shev Shematta).


            In contrast, the Noda Bi-yehuda wrote (OC vol. II, 107 and YD vol. I, 93) that it should not be said before any mitzva.


            There are those who do say it and those who do not.  Both groups, though, should ideally remember the above-mentioned kavanot.


THE PRONUNCIATION OF GOD'S NAME: For those who do say "le-shem yichud," how must the names of God contained within this formula be pronounced?  Sanhedrin 90a teaches that one who pronounces the name of God the way it is spelled forfeits his portion in the World-To-Come.  The Chatam Sofer in his responsa (CM, Hashmatot 192)  says that people are careful to say "yud kei be-vav kei" (he also wrote this in vol. I, klal 5, se'if 27, and this is also implicit in Tosafot Avoda Zara 18a s.v. Hogeh).  However, the Noda Bi-yehuda wrote (vol. I, YD 93), "As far as I remember from my childhood, I heard those people saying 'shem yud hei be-vav hei' in its entirety and this is certainly not considered transgressing the prohibition of pronouncing the name of God."




            We read in Menachot 36a,


"Said R. Chisda, 'If one speaks between tefilla [shel yad] and tefilla [shel rosh], he must recite another berakha.'  If he spoke then he does [recite another; does this imply that] if he did not speak then he does not?  But did not R. Chiya the son of R. Huna send [a message that] ... 'On the tefilla shel yad he says, "Barukh ... le-hani'ach tefillin;" on the shel rosh he says, "Barukh ... al mitzvat tefillin?!'"  Abbaye and Rava both said, 'If he did not speak he recites one berakha;  if he did speak, he recites two.'"


            This statement by Abbaye and Rava is the subject of debate among the Rishonim:


            Rashi (there), the Rif, the Rambam, and the Rashba (responsa vol. I, 156) maintain that if he did not speak, he makes a single berakha -"le-hani'ach" - over both parts of the tefillin; if he did speak, he recites "le-hani'ach" on the shel yad and "al mitzvat" on the shel rosh.


            Rabbeinu Tam (in Tosafot there), the Rosh in the name of the Geonim, and the Maharam Mi-Rotenburg assert, in contrast, that under normal circumstances - i.e., if he did not speak - he recites "le-hani'ach" on the shel yad and another berakha on the shel rosh; if he did speak, he recites in addition to the "le-hani'ach" on the shel yad, another two berakhot ("le-hani'ach" and "al mitzvat") on the shel rosh.


            How do the Shulchan Arukh and the Rema rule?


            If one mistakenly said "al mitzvat" on the shel yad and remembered "tokh kedei dibbur" (this is a time period equivalent to the amount of time it takes to pronounce "shalom alekha rebbe," according to M.B. 206:12 and 487:4, though in 124:34 he brings the opinion of the Peri Megadim that it is really four words long - this requires further examination), then he should simply say "le-hani'ach tefillin" and continue on in the normal way (Eshel Avraham 25).  If he remembers only later, then if he follows the Rema he should say "le-hani'ach" on the shel rosh but before saying it he should touch his shel yad so that this berakha should apply to it as well; if he follows the Shulchan Arukh he should say no berakha at all over the shel rosh.  (In truth, there are many opinions among the Acharonim - see Kaf Ha-chayim 25:38-39 - but we have simply mentioned the ruling of the Mikhtam Le-david, responsa siman 12, brought in the Sha'arei Teshuva 25:5.)


SAYING "BARUKH SHEM KEVOD MALKHUTO LE-OLAM VA-ED:"  The source of this opinion is the Mahari ibn Chaviv (brought in the Beit Yosef).  Asks the Beit Yosef, If the second berakha is required then why say "Barukh shem?"  And if it is not required, then why say the second berakha at all - we know that in cases of doubt it is preferable to omit the berakha!  See M.B. 25:21, and also see there for the timing of "Barukh shem."


            [On the subject of "Barukh shem," contrast the Rambam, Hilkhot Berakhot 4:10, with the end of Hilkhot Shevu'ot.  And see the Arukh Ha-shulchan, end of siman 206.]


            One must be exceedingly cautious when saying "Barukh shem."  See M.B. 25:21, at the end.


            It is preferable to recite the berakha "al mitzvat" in a whisper, because there is some doubt as to whether one should answer "amen" to this berakha (Peri Megadim 25; Eshel Avraham 25:10; Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 10:4).  There are, however, those who say that one may recite it aloud (Responsa Ha-elef Lekha Shlomo OC 57).  In any case, one who hears this berakha should say amen (the Bi'ur Halakha 215 s.v. Assur demonstrates that a berakha which is not completely rejected in the poskim may be responded to with amen).




            The gemara in Menachot 46a reads:


"When one puts them on, he should put on the shel yad first and then the shel rosh, as it is written, 'And you shall bind them for a sign upon your arm,' and afterward, 'and they will be an emblem between your eyes' (Devarim 6:8)."


            Regarding tallit and tefillin, we saw that if he mistakenly encountered his tefillin first, he should put those on before the tallit.


            This is not the case with tefillin.  If one comes across his shel rosh first, he should leave it and put on the shel yad first, as indicated in the verse (Responsa of the Rosh;  Beit Yosef in accordance with Tosafot and the Rambam; but unlike the Nimukei Yosef who believes that the shel rosh should be put on first in such an instance).


            IF ONE PUT ON THE SHEL ROSH FIRST, according to the Avudraham (Hilkhot Betziyat Ha-pat p. 317) he did not fulfill the mitzva and therefore must take them off and put them on again in the proper order.  The Taz (684:4), however, asserts that the two parts of the tefillin are independent of each other; so if he put on the shel rosh he did fulfill that mitzva (albeit not perfectly) and he should not take it off because each moment that it is on he is fulfilling a mitzva.  In any case, he should make haste to put on the shel yad in order to fulfill the precept, "While the tefillin shel rosh are between your eyes they should be two."  See the Bi'ur Halakha s.v. Paga (at the end).  How does he rule?


            If the binding of the tefillin shel yad becomes loose and he wishes to remove it and retie or tighten it, must he also take off the shel rosh?  According to the Shevet Ha-levi (vol. III, 7), he does not have to.




            "Le-hani'ach" can mean both "to abandon" and "to lay down!"


            The word is endowed with multiple shades of meaning.  Consider the following examples: I "mani'ach" (place) a pen on the table; "Ha-meni'ach" (grants rest) to His people on His holy Sabbath day (tefillat leil Shabbat); I "mani'ach" (assume) that it will rain tomorrow.  What is the difference in vocalization of these examples?  See the Mishna Berura.




            The gemara reads in Menachot 35b:


"Said R. Huna, 'From when does one make the berakha over tefillin?  From when he puts them on [i.e., after he puts them on].'  Really?  Did not R. Yehuda say in the name of Shmuel, 'All the mitzvot should have the berakha recited over them before they are performed [over le-asiyatan]?!'  Abbaye and Rava both said, 'From the time of putting on until the time of tying [from the time he begins to put them on until he tightens the knot].'"


            The Shulchan Arukh rules in accordance with this gemara.  There are two additional points:

(1) Ideally one should say the berakha only at "the time of putting them on" and not before.  This is apparent in the gemara, in the Shulchan Arukh, and in M.B. 25:25.

(2) If one forgot to say the berakha and already finished tying his tefillin, then Talmidei Rabbeinu Yona rule (20a in the pages of the Rif) that be-di'avad he can still say it because the whole time he is wearing tefillin he is fulfilling the mitzva continuously and thus it still is "over le-asiyatan" (and so writes M.B. 25:26).  The Rashba (Sukka 46) adds that he should touch his tefillin before reciting the berakha.


            Incidentally, an interesting position is held by Rabbeinu Eliahu in Tosafot (there) that one should tie a new knot each day.  Other Rishonim content themselves with simply tightening the knot daily, as we do nowadays.




            The following gemara appears in both Sota 44b and Menachot 36a:


"One who speaks between tefilla and tefilla has committed a transgression."  (See the gemara and Rashi there, the Rosh Halakhot Ketanot siman 15, and the Gra in Kol Eliahu there.)


            Rashi explains (as brought also in Tosafot) that the transgression involved is that of putting on the shel rosh without a berakha (for the berakha he recited over the shel yad cannot apply to the shel rosh if he spoke in between).  However, if he says an additional berakha over the shel rosh, he commits no transgression but rather receives the reward of a mitzva and a berakha.


            On the other hand, Tosafot, the Rambam, the Rosh and other Rishonim believe that it is forbidden to speak even if he recites a second berakha - because this is an unnecessary berakha (berakha she-eina tzerikha).


            The Bi'ur Halakha s.v. Ve-im hifsik rules that even one word constitutes a hefsek (forbidden interruption).


            If one did speak, what berakha does he say on the shel rosh?  See above what we wrote in se'if 5 (the berakhot over tefillin).  The debate among the Rishonim in understanding the gemara there resulted in a disagreement between the Shulchan Arukh and the Rema, with the former believing that he should say "al mitzvat" on the shel rosh and the latter maintaining that he should say "le-hani'ach" and "al mitzvat."


            See M.B. 25:32 - what should one do in such a case between "le-hani'ach" and "al mitzvat?"


            By the way, the wording of the Mishna Berura is liable to be misleading.  Note that the words "af im lo hifsik" refer backwards, not forwards.


            Ideally, one should avoid any kind of interruption between the tefillin shel yad and the tefillin shel rosh - see M.B. 25:29.


            Regarding the kissing of the shel rosh before putting it on, the Shla (Mitzvat Tefillin p. 126) rules that it should not be done.  (See the Zohar Vayigash p. 205b which compares a hefsek between the shel yad and the shel rosh to a hefsek between ge'ula and tefilla!)  However, the Igrot Moshe (OC vol. IV, 10) reasons that kissing the tefillin is not an interruption at all because it takes so little time.


            If one interrupted for something which was necessary for the tefillin, see the Shulchan Arukh at the beginning of se'if 10, and M.B. 25:34.


            IF ONE HEARS KADDISH OR KEDUSHA BETWEEN THE SHEL YAD AND THE SHEL ROSH, there are three opinions in the Rishonim:

(1) The Rosh (15) believes that it is forbidden to respond, in order to prevent a berakha she-eina tzerikha over the shel rosh.

(2) The Rashba (responsa vol. V, 13) maintains that it is permitted to respond to devarim she-bikedusha - like kaddish and kedusha - and he should then say another berakha on the shel rosh.

(3) The Mordekhai (12:1) in the name of Rabbeinu Tam asserts that it is permitted to interrupt for the sake of devarim she-bikedusha, and there is no need for an additional berakha on the shel rosh.


            See the Shulchan Arukh se'if 10 for his ruling.  (Regarding his statement that one fulfills his obligation by listening - "shomei'a ke-oneh" - the Rashba (responsa vol. v, 13) wrote that this is considered a hefsek.  But see Tosafot Berakhot 21b, who even while adopting this approach, nevertheless ruled like Rashi in the matter of "shomei'a ke-oneh;" and so too is the case here.  However, this is beyond the scope of our discussion.)



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)