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Why do we put tefillin first on the arm and then on the head?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

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Donning the arm piece first follows the order of the verse which says: “They shall be as a sign for you on your arm and as a totafot on your head.”

And why does the verse have it in that order?

When G-d offered the Jews the Torah they replied with the famous, “We will do and we will listen.” In other words, we accept to do whatever it is You want even before we hear it and understand it. If You think it’s a good idea, then there’s a good chance that it is.

When we put on tefillin, we’re saying the same thing. The human mind is great, but it can only grasp up to a certain point. And we can’t always wait until the mind grasps an idea before we start to practice it. So first we put on the tefillin on the arm, which represents deed and action; then we move on to the head.
When we put on Tefillin, we’re saying the same thing. The human mind is great, but it can only grasp up to a certain point. And we can’t always wait until the mind grasps an idea before we start to practice it. So first we put on the tefillin on the arm, which represents deed and action; then we move on to the head.

Furthermore, actually fulfilling the deed leads to a better understanding of the intellectual and emotional side of the Mitzvah.


(This does not mean that we should do things irrationally with blind faith. We're talking about where you know with your heart that you should do a certain thing but you've got these mental blocks that won't allow you to do it. That's where we say: Just do it.)


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Tefillin

Posted by: Chris on Apr 17, 2005

I saw this practice on a recent airplane trip home from Ecuador. I found it very interesting and am glad your site gave me an explaination and better understanding of your customs. Thank you.

RELATED CATEGORIES

Life Cycle » Bar/Bat Mitzvah » Tefillin

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Tefillin
Black leather boxes containing small scrolls with passages of the Bible written on them. Every day, aside for Sabbath and Jewish holidays, the adult Jewish male is required to wrap the Tefillin--by means of black leather straps--around the weaker arm and atop the forehead.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.