Simanim 32-36 The Batim Part 2

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #19: Simanim 32 - 36, Part 2

Pages 80 - 128


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon



In these simanim, which are long and technical, we will hit the highlights and discuss the basic points which contain essential knowledge for everyone (not just for sofrim!).




            There are four parshiot in tefillin: 


- "Kadesh li" (Shemot 13:1-10) 

- "Ve-haya ki yiviyakha" (Shemot 13:11-16) 

- "Shema" (Devarim 6:4-9)

- "Ve-haya im shamo'a" (Devarim 11:13-21)


            Each of these contains a reference to tefillin, and Chazal have passed on the tradition that these are the parshiot of tefillin (Levush).  Also, see Shulchan Arukh 25:5 for other distinguishing features of these parshiot.


            In the tefillin shel yad, all four parshiot are written upon one klaf, each taking seven lines.  In the tefillin shel rosh, each has its own klaf, and each is four lines long (siman 35).



            Shabbat 108a states (Shulchan Arukh 32:44,49): "It is halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai that tefillin are bound with hair and batim are sewn with sinew."


            Yerushalmi Megilla 1:9 (Shulchan Arukh 32:44) states: "It is halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai that one must line it with lining."


            After the parshiot are writen, the klaf is folded (from the end of the parsha to its beginning - 32:44).  The klaf of the shel rosh is folded flat in order that it fit into the bayit, while the klaf of the shel yad is rolled up.


            After the folding, a hair of a calf is wound around each parasha ("tefillin are bound with hair") and in the shel yad - around all the parshiot together.  This hair is not tied into a knot;  rather, the end is twisted around itself until it is secured.


            Upon this calf's hair, a strip of klaf is placed ("line it with lining") and upon that another hair is tied.


            Why a calf's hair?  According to the Shimusha Rabba (cited in the Beit Yosef), it serves to remind us of chet ha-egel and deter us from sinning.


            The hair which binds "Ve-haya im shamo'a" should protrude from the base of the bayit on the right side of the parasha (Zohar parashat Bo; Shulchan Arukh 32:44; M.B. 32:212).



            According to Rashi, the arrangement follows the order in the Torah:  "Kadesh," "Ve-haya ki yiviyakha," "Shema," and  "Ve-haya im shamo'a."  (This order is from right to left, as would be perceived by a person facing the wearer of the tefillin.)


            According to Rabbeinu Tam, the order is:  "Kadesh," "Ve-haya ki yiviyakha," "Ve-haya im shamo'a," and "Shema."  (In tefillin shel rosh, this is externally distinguishable due to the calf's hair which protrudes from the middle of the bayit, to the right of "Ve-haya im shamo'a.")


            This machloket of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam, as well as other details of Rabbeinu Tam's tefillin, can be found in siman 34.


            Rabbeinu Tam agrees with Rashi regarding the order in which the parshiot are to be written.  In other words, as far as the writing of the parshiot in the shel rosh is concerned, there is no difference between Rashi tefillin and Rabbeinu Tam tefillin;  the only difference relates to the placement of the parshiot inside the tefillin.  In tefillin shel yad, though, there is a difference in the writing:  according to Rabbeinu Tam, the scribe will write "Kadesh" and "Ve-haya ki yiviyakha"; then, leaving an empty space, he will write "Shema," then return to the empty space and write in it "Ve-haya im shamo'a."


            [Incidentally, the "le-shem yichud" (with the order of "Shema," "Ve-haya im shamo'a," "Kadesh," and "Ve-haya ki yiviyakha") corresponds to neither of the opinions.]


            It is apparent that these opinions reflect varying traditions;  Rabbeinu Tam did not "invent" his version.  And see in Shut Min Ha-shamayim, siman 3 (by R. Yaakov of the Ba'alei ha-Tosafot) what he writes about the reason behind this disagreement ["havayot ke-sidran" are Rashi;  "havayot ba-emtza" are Rabbeinu Tam].


            The Sefat Emet (Siddur, p. 37) points out that "Shema" describes the acceptance of the yoke of the kingdom of Heaven;  "Ve-haya im shamo'a," the acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot.  In light of this, Rabbeinu Tam is saying that one should first purify the body with the aid of mitzvot and only afterwards is one prepared to accept the kingdom of Heaven.  Rashi, though, sees it the other way around:  first to accept the kingdom of Heaven, and then to perform mitzvot.



            There are several steps which must be performed "li-shma," for the sake of the mitzva.


            The writing of the parshiot:  If even one letter was written not li-shma, the parshiot are not kosher (M.B. 32:92).  How should a sofer behave?  "At the beginning of writing he should verbalize, 'I am writing le-shem kedushat tefillin'" (Shulchan Arukh 32:19).  [For a mezuza, he says, "le-shem kedushat mezuza;" for a sefer Torah, "le-shem kedushat sefer Torah."]


            The kedusha of God's name:  Before each time the sofer writes a name of God, he should say "le-shem kedushat ha-shem" (32:19).  "When he is writing the Name, even if a king of Israel asks after his health he may not answer him" (Shulchan Arukh YD 276:3).  "Some sofrim are careful not to write a holy name without purification of their bodies, and this is correct" (Kesset Ha-sofer 10:18).


            The lack of li-shma is likely to be a very problematic issue when buying tefillin from one who is not a Godfearing Jew; it cannot, after all, be detected by even the closest of proofreading.  See the Arukh Ha-shulchan YD 281:9.


            The requirement of li-shma also applies to the following steps:


1) the processing of the leather of the batim - le-khat'chila (32:37);

2) the processing of the klaf (32:8);

3) the processing of the straps (33:3);

4) the manufacture of the bayit - including all its parts (M.B. 33:23);

5) the winding of the calf's hair and the klaf around the parshiot (Biur Halakha 39:2 s.v. Be-khol);

6) the sewing of the bayit (M.B. 34:23);

7) the blacking of the batim - le-khat'chila (33:4 and M.B. there);

8) the blacking of the straps - even be-di'avad (ibid.);

9) the making of the yud-shaped kesher in the shel yad and the dalet in the shel rosh (M.B. 32:132).  And here too "le-shem kedushat tefillin" should be said.



            Menachot 29a teaches: "Any letter which is not surrounded (mukaf) by blank parchment (gevil) on all four sides is invalid."  And so rules the Shulchan Arukh 32:4.


            Consequently, a letter which reaches the edge of the klaf is invalid, since it does not have klaf completely surrounding it.  This is frequently the case with letters in the top and bottom rows, and especially when the letter is long (32:16).


            If one letter touches its neighbor, even the slightest bit, then they are both invalid, since they are not mukafot - surrounded by - gevil on all sides (32:4 and M.B. there).


            If there is a hole or a tear in the klaf which touches a letter, the letter is invalid, since it is not mukaf gevil at that point (32:16).  Even if the hole is within the letter it is invalid (32:13 and M.B. 32:32).  But if the ink of the letter completely surrounds the hole, it is valid (M.B. there).



            The writing must be done in a positive, constructive manner.  If one scratches away ink from an inkblot until a letter is formed, it is invalid, since it was made not by writing but by chakika - engraving (he dug ["chakak"] inside ["toch"] the letter and around it - M.B. 32:66).


            The laws surrounding "chak tochot" are detailed (Shulchan Arukh 32:17, 18).  Consequently, a sofer must be extremely careful not  to fix a letter by means of erasure unless he is certain there will be no problem of "chak tuchot."  The Chayei Adam (klal 14:1) writes, "Therefore I always stipulate with the sofer that he will write my tefillin in such a way that he will not 'wave upon them iron,' i.e., that he will not erase any letter and will not need to drag with his knife, and thus it is fitting to do."


            A situation of "chak tochot" can come about when a drop of ink is scraped until it acquires the shape of a letter, or if a letter is written improperly (e.g., if a drop of ink fell upon the letter such that it is unrecognizable, or if the sofer wrote a dalet instead of a resh) and an attempt is made to fix it by scraping the ink (for example, erasing the top of the dalet until it looks like a resh - Shulchan Arukh 32:17).


            As we mentioned, the rules of "chak tochot" are complex.  Generally speaking, if there are two letters whose shape is acceptable except for the fact that there is a line connecting them, it is not considered "chak tuchot" to erase the line (though while the line is there they are invalid).  More details can be found in Shulchan Arukh 32:17 and 18, and the Mishna Berura there; and in Mishna Berura siman 36 in "Mishnat Sofrim" under the heading, "Od devarim achadim me-inyan chak tochot."



            The Mekhilta (end of Bo) teaches that tefillin must be written ke-sidran (in order).  [This is the case with a mezuza as well, but not with a sefer Torah.]  And so rules the Shulchan Arukh, 32:1. 


            This means that the parshiot must be written in the order in which they appear in the Torah:  "Kadesh," "Ve-haya ki yiviyakha," "Shema," and "Ve-haya im shamo'a" (see above, under the heading "The order of the parshiot in the batim").  Consequently, if "Kadesh" becomes disqualified, all the parshiot must be rewritten (even in tefillin shel rosh)!  [Sometimes, though, one can find at a sofer old parshiot, which were certainly written before those of one's present pair of tefillin.]


            Each individual parasha, also, must be written ke-sidra.  Therefore, if one wrote tefillin and only afterwards saw that a letter was invalid, he may not fix it (32:23).  The only thing that can be done is to erase all the letters after the faulty one and then rewrite it.  But if he in the meantime wrote a name of God, nothing can be done (since names of God cannot be erased).  Even if the letter was written properly and only became ruined later - it still cannot be fixed without erasing all that was written after it.


            The details of what is considerd not "ke-sidran" are many.  They can be found in M.B. 32:114.  In general, if the form of a particular letter is recognizable except that there is a line connecting it to another letter, or a small gap within the letter, it can be fixed without worrying about the issue of ke-sidran (since this is not considered the formation of a new letter, it being already recognizable).



            The knot of the tefillin is halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai.  In the tefillin shel yad, one must make a kesher shel yud (see above in siman 27) and in the tefillin shel rosh, a kesher shel dalet (32:52).


            There are those who make the kesher shel dalet as a real dalet, and those who make it as a double dalet (a square).  The Mishna Berura prefers the former option (32:233).


            Before making the knot, one should say, "le-shem kedushat tefillin" (M.B. 32:232).


            Ideally, one should make the knots in the following order:  after making the shin in the bayit of the shel rosh, he should make the dalet (in the strap of the shel rosh) and then the yud (in the strap of the shel yad).  This way it spells out shin-dalet-yud (Shulchan Arukh 32:52).  Since this is only le-khat'chila, if the kesher of the shel rosh became untied, one need not untie the shel yad (M.B. 32:235).



            Tefillin which have a chazaka (presumed status) of kashrut need never be checked (Shulchan Arukh 39:10).   However, if they are not used on a regular basis, they must be checked twice every seven years (ibid.).  If they are used regularly but were left in a damp place or the like, they should be checked (M.B. 39:26). 


            According to the Shimusha Rabba and the Or Zarua, one should check tefillin twice every seven years in any case.  And the Mishna Berura (ibid.) writes in the name of the Magen Avraham that they should be checked even if worn regularly, because of sweat.


            It must be noted that checking is especially crucial if the tefillin have never been looked at by a professional (as is the case with many new "bar-mitzva" tefillin).

            A mezuza must be checked twice every seven years (Shulchan Arukh YD 291:1).



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)