Bind tefillin on the arm

The Literal Commandment

"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. (Deuteronomy 6:6-8)

 

The literal commandment is that we should bind G-d's words upon our hand.

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment when He spoke about the Law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

 

 

Pictures of Messiah

This particular commandment pictures Messiah in a unique way.

The disciple John tells us:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1, 14)

 

The Word of G-d became flesh in the person of Messiah.

When we take G-d's words and bind them upon our flesh we are (at G-d's own command) imitating the incarnation. In the fulfillment of this commandment, we draw near to G-d in a special way. We express our desire to have His holy and righteous Law (Rom 7:12) bind our flesh and conform us to the image of Messiah (Rom 8:29).

The binding of the tefillin upon the hand symbolizes our desire for all of the works of our hands to be conformed to G-d's standards and to glorify Him.

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

We know that Messiah was without sin (Hebrews 4:15) so we know that He fulfilled this commandment.

How He fulfilled this commandment is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, however, He likely followed the traditional manner of wrapping tefillin. Two facts lead us to this conclusion:

1) Archaeological discoveries at Qumran (the site of the Dead Sea Scrolls) uncovered ancient tefillin boxes that are dated 100-150 years before the first century. This indicates that tefillin existed prior to the first century and were a common part of Jewish religious observance at that time and ever since.

2) Messiah explicitly mentions them using the Greek word for tefillin, phylaterion:

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. (Matthew 23:5)

 

Note that Messiah does not condemn these men for wearing tefillin/phylacteries but for their hypocrisy while using them. They do not do this to honor and obey G-d. They do it to be seen by men.

 

Traditional Observance

399px-IDF_soldier_put_on_tefillin

This commandment is traditionally observed in a literal fashion: taking the words of the commandments and wrapping them on the arm and the head.

The commandment to "bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be tefillin between your eyes" is found in four places:

  1. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
  2. Deuteronomy 11:13-21
  3. Exodus 13:1-10
  4. Exodus 13:11-16

 

In the ancient form of dividing chapters and verses of Scripture, #3 and #4 were actually in different chapters and were considered two separate instances.1

These four passages are written (in Hebrew) on small pieces of parchment, folded, and placed into compartments within small leather boxes. Using leather straps, one box is "bound upon the arm" and another, similar box is "bound upon the forehead".

The manner of the wrapping and knotting of the straps forms the Hebrew letters Shin, Dalet, Yod which spell the Hebrew word Shaddai which means "The Almighty".

Before the tefillin are wrapped, traditional blessings are recited for both the arm tefillin and the head tefillin. The tefillin are wrapped at the beginning of the morning prayers and worn throughout the prayer service.

 

Other Notes

We are able to fulfill this commandment today and should "bind these words upon our hand".

 

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Footnotes

1. The Mitzvah of Tefillin, Being Jewish, taken 10/01/2011 from http://www.beingjewish.com/mitzvos/tefillin.html [back]

Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 80
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 2
  • Mishneh Torah Book Love
  • Mishneh Torah Category 8- Tefillin, Mezuzah, and Torah Scroll
  • Reference Deuteronomy 6:8
  • Scripture Book Deuteronomy
  • Chapter 6
  • Verse 8
  • English You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
  • Hebrew ח וּקְשַׁרְתָּם לְאוֹת, עַל-יָדֶךָ; וְהָיוּ לְטֹטָפֹת, בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ.
  • Greek 8 καὶ ἀφάψεις αὐτὰ εἰς σημεῖον ἐπὶ τῆς χειρός σου, καὶ ἔσται ἀσάλευτον πρὸ ὀφθαλμῶν σου·
  • Parashah 45- Va'etchanan
  • Positive/Negative Positive
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 421
  • Sef. Hach. Command The precept of the tefillin of the hand
  • Category Signs and Symbols
  • We can fullfill today Yes

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