Simanim 28-31 Taking off the Tefillin

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #17: Simanim 28-31

Pages 77 - 80


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon







Menachot 36b:


"Said Rabba bar R. Huna, 'One must touch his tefillin at all times, and even more so look at them.  Regarding the tzitz (the kohen gadol's forehead-plate) which has in it only one name of God, the Torah says, "It must be on his forehead at all times," (Shemot 28:38) - i.e., that he not take his mind off it, how much more so tefillin in which the names of God appears many times!'"


[You can count up the number of names of God in tefillin, or alternatively look at the Rambam Hilkhot Tefillin 4:14.]


THE TIME OF TOUCHING:  The Beit Yosef in siman 25, citing the Ran, states that in Talmudic times it was known when the tefillin must be touched, but nowadays we do not know.  The Bach says that one should simply touch them each time he remembers, since it is impractical to have one's hand upon them the whole time that they are worn.  See M.B. 28:1 for his ruling;  but see also 28:2 and 44:3 for the times when one need not touch them (and cf. the Machatzit Ha-shekel and the Levushei Serad in siman 44).


            [There are some who have the custom of touching their tefillin at certain points in the tefilla.  See the Shulchan Arukh here;  M.B. 61:39;  M.B. 25:13;  Ta'amei Ha-minhagim pp. 548-549.  And there are those who have the custom to kiss them while touching them - see the Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 10:17.]




Yoma 33b:


"Said Rava, 'We can learn this from that which Resh Lakish [who says that one must not pass up a mitzva] said:  One should not pass over his tefillin shel yad.  What must he do?  Go from the tefillin shel yad to the tefillin shel rosh.'"


            The Rishonim debate the meaning of this gemara.  Two of these interpretations were accepted as halakha - one in se'if 1 and one in se'if 2.  The first interpretation is that of the Rosh (15) and the Mordekhai (12, citing Tosafot):  One must not pass over the touching of the shel yad in order to first touch the shel rosh;  rather, he should touch the shel yad first.


            The second interpretation will be discussed below under the heading "Arranging the tefillin in their bag."



Menachot 36b:


"When one takes [them] off, he takes off the shel rosh and then the shel yad...  From where do we know this?  Said Rabba, 'R. Huna explained it to me:  The verse says,"And they will be totafot between your eyes" - all the while they are between your eyes they will be two" ["they" implies two].'"


            The procedure is as follows:


            Before taking off the shel rosh, one should remove the three loops from his finger (M.B. 28:5).  There is a Kabbalistic reason behind this (but see Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav 28:6 where a different minhag is mentioned;  and Peri Megadim, Eshel Avraham.  And if he needs to pass gas he should take off the shel rosh before taking the loops off his finger (because the prohibition of  passing gas, according to some Rishonim, relates only to the shel rosh).


            The Shulchan Arukh states, "One should take off his tefillin shel rosh while standing."  Ashkenazim take off their shel yad while standing as well (M.B. 28:6). 


            Regarding taking tefillin off during kaddish, see M.B. 25:56 and M.B. 56:1.




This is the second interpretation of the gemara mentioned above.


            Rabbeinu Tam (cited in the Rosh and the Mordekhai) maintains that one may not put his tefillin shel yad in his bag underneath the shel rosh, since when he puts them on again, he will come across the shel rosh first.  He must, therefore, place his shel yad over his shel rosh.


            According to the Mishna Berura 28:7, the accepted minhag is to place them side by side - the shel rosh on the left and the shel yad on the right.  However, the Ot Chayim (28:3) reverses this order - putting the shel rosh on the right and the shel yad on the left - since a right-handed person will naturally stretch his hand out toward the left, and thus he will reach the shel yad first.  (The Kaf Ha-chayim 28:14 says that the most important thing in this matter is to be consistent.)


            One should be careful not to take off his shel yad until he replaces his shel rosh in the bag, in order to make sure that each will occupy its proper place (M.B. 28:8).







            The gemara in Nidda (51b and Yerushalmi 2:3) relates that bnei Ma'arava, upon taking off their tefillin, would recite the berakha". . . who has sanctified us with His mitzvot and commanded us to keep His laws (lishmor chukav)."  They were of the opinion that the removal of tefillin constituted a mitzva, since they thought that the Bible mandates that night is not the time for tefillin and thus one who wears tefillin at night transgresses a positive commandment, as it is written, "You will keep this law at its designated time from year to year ["mi-yamim yamima"]" (Shemot 13:10) - i.e., days and not nights.


            However, this opinion is not accepted (Tosafot there, Rambam, and Shulchan Arukh).  We rule that biblically, tefillin may be worn at night, but the Sages decreed that we not do so lest one come to pass gas.  Regarding Shabbat, it is a subject of debate whether it is forbidden to wear tefillin or merely unnecessary, since Shabbat itself is an "ot" - a sign - and none other is needed (tefillin are also referred to as "ot" in the Torah).  In practice, no berakha is recited when taking off tefillin even on erev Shabbat, since if one puts on tefillin on Shabbat not for the sake of the mitzva, all would agree that there is no prohibition involved (and therefore there is no mitzva in taking them off erev Shabbat).







            The gemara in Berakhot 9b, in discussing the beginning time of keriyat shema in the morning, states, "Others say, 'From when one sees his friend at a distance of four amot and can recognize him.'"  And further on, Abbaye says, "For tefillin [the halakha is] like 'others'" - meaning that this is the beginning time for tefillin.


            The Yerushalmi in Berakhot 1:2 discusses the "friend" who is to be identified:  "If it is one who is familiar to him, then even at a great distance he will recognize him, and if it one who is unfamiliar to him, then even close up he will not recognize him!  So, instead, we establish that it is one who is partially familiar, e.g., one who occasionally stays at an inn."


            The Shulchan Arukh accepts both the statement of Abbaye and the conclusion of the Yerushalmi as halakha.


            When is the time of "recognizing"?  In Sefer Eretz Yisrael (2:4) R. Tukatchinsky writes that the minhag in Israel is sixty minutes before sunrise.  Others believe that it is 52 minutes before sunrise (Nivreshet vol. I, p. 47;  and see also Biur Halakha siman 58 s.v. Kemo).




Eiruvin 96a:


"It was taught, 'You will keep this law ["chuka"] at its designated time from year to year ["mi-yamim yamima"]' (Shemot 13:10) - days and not nights, these are the words of R. Yosi Ha-glili.  R. Akiva says, '"Chuka" is said only for Pesach.'"


            In other words, according to R. Yosi Ha-glili the Torah determines that night is not the time for tefillin, while according to R. Akiva it is.


            Most Rishonim rule that night is indeed an appropriate time for tefillin, but a rabbinic decree prohibits donning them at night lest one pass gas while wearing them (Rosh 17, and others).  (The Rambam, while believing that night is biblically not a time for tefillin, still admits that one need not take them off at night;  however, one may not put them on at night.)



Menachot 36a:


"If one took them off to enter the bathroom... and the sun set, he may not put them on again."


            This indicates that one may keep his tefillin on, but may not don them at night (see the Rambam mentioned above).  The gemara (36b) goes on to relate that Ravina, while in the presence of R. Ashi, did not take off his tefillin when it got dark.  He explained himself by saying that he was interested  in keeping them safe.  Ravina, though, labelled this a ruse, saying that he could tell that R. Ashi had no intention of  guarding his tefillin.  In other words, he believed that one may indeed leave his tefillin on at night, but it falls under the rubric of "halakha ve-ein morin ken" - though it is halakha, we do not instruct others to act in this way.  It is for this reason that R. Ashi offered his "excuse."


            See the ruling of the Shulchan Arukh in se'if 2.




            Soldiers in the army who know that they will not be able to put on tefillin during the day should put them on the night before, reciting a berakha in order to demonstrate the seriousness of their intention to fulfill this mitzva.  However, the Igrot Moshe (OC, 10) says that a talmid chakham should put on tefillin without a berakha. 




Menachot 36a:


"One who arises early to set out on his way, and is afraid lest they get lost - may put them on, and when their time arrives he should touch them and recite the berakha over them."


            What is the reason for this dispensation to put tefillin on while it is still night?  The Rambam (as discussed in the Beit Yosef) maintains that it is due to extenuating circumstances.  Rabbeinu Peretz, however, points out that the ban against donning tefillin at night is related to the possibility of falling asleep and passing gas while wearing them.  Here, though, the individual is setting out on his way and it is therefore unlikely that he will fall asleep.  Most Rishonim agree with this reasoning but go one step further:  they omit the phrase "and is afraid lest they get lost," meaning that even without this condition one may put his tefillin on before setting out on a journey, since he will not sleep.  This is the accepted ruling (but the berakha should be recited only when the proper time arrives).








            The Mekhilta (Shemot 17) teaches that since Shabbat is referred to as an "ot" - a sign - and so are tefillin, one should not impose one "ot" upon another.  The Rishonim are divided on the question of whether there is simply no need to put on tefillin on Shabbat, or an actual prohibition to do so.


            The difference, of course, relates to the question of muktza:  are tefillin a "kli she-melakhto le-issur" or a "kli she-melakhto le-heter"?  The Rema (siman 308) rules leniently, but the Acharonim are stringent in this matter.  Consequently, one should not carry tefillin for no purpose, but if one wishes to remove his tallit or siddur from the tefillin bag he may do so (as is the case with any kli she-melakhto le-issur, which may be moved "le-tzorekh gufo" or "le-tzorekh mekomo" - if either the item or the space which it occupies is needed for a permissible purpose).  [However, the possibility remains that tefillin are muktza "machmat chesron kis" (due to their great value), and if so one may not not move them even le-tzorekh gufo or mekomo.  But this is outside the scope of our discussion.]



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)