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On which arm do we wrap the Tefillin?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein

  

Library » Life Cycle » Bar/Bat Mitzvah » Tefillin | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Tefillin are wrapped on the weaker arm, which for most people is the left arm. If you are left handed you put Tefillin on your weaker arm, which is your right arm.1 The hand with which you write is considered your stronger arm.

The sages in the Talmud2 highlight a number of textual indications that point to this law:

A. When it comes to Tefillin the Torah3 says "and you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand" without indicating which hand. However, throughout the Torah when referencing the right hand the Torah states clearly either "right" or "right hand", which would imply that "hand" on its own is the left hand.

B. In the section of Tefillin and Mezuzahs the Torah4 says both "You shall write them" and "you shall bind them", comparing the binding to the writing; i.e. you bind with the hand that you write. Which means the Tefillin are bound upon on the other hand.

C. In Exodus 13:16 the Torah says "you shall bind them upon your hand as a sign" but it uses an irregular word for "your hand". Instead of using the standard Yud Daled Final-Chaf (Yadecha) the Torah uses Yud Daled Chaf Hey (Yadchah). Our sages say this unique word is actually comprised of two words: Yad Chei'ah - "weak hand".

Footnotes

  • 1. The straps attached to the Tefillin are set according to the hand they will be placed upon. Before purchasing Tefillin specify what hand you will be putting them on. Standard Tefillin is for right-handed people; meaning it is tied to be placed on the left hand.
  • 2. Talmud tractate Menachot 36b-37a
  • 3. Deuteronomy 6:8
  • 4. Ibid.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Tefillin

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.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
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.
Exodus
1. The miraculous departure of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage in 1312 BCE. 2. The second of the Five Books of Moses. This book describes the aforementioned Exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the erection of the Tabernacle.
Mezuzahs
Plural form of Mezuzah. Rolled up scrolls containing certain verses from the Torah which are affixed to the right-hand doorposts of doorways in Jewish homes.