The Human Side of the Story

For the week ending 28 February 2004 / 6 Adar I 5764

What are "Phylacteries"?

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

"I havent missed a day in the last six years."

This was the proud boast of a recent visitor to Ohr Somayach in Jerusalem as he spoke of his dedication to the mitzvah of tefillin which he discovered in the middle years of his life in a most interesting way.

A professional musician for most of his adult life, he was overjoyed at receiving front row tickets to a Broadway musical from a close relative who was a member of the cast. It turned out that this production had a pronounced anti-Semitic and anti-religious flavor. As he watched a song and dance skit poking fun at Jews wearing phylacteries his blood began to boil. Although married out of his faith and even unaware of what phylacteries were, his Jewish soul rebelled against this sacrilegious satire and he decided to do something about it. After the show he called a rabbi with whom he had been studying in his quest to return to his Jewish roots and asked him to purchase for him the most expensive set of phylacteries, whatever they were.

"You mean tefillin," explained the rabbi, adding that a male adult Jew is obliged to put them on every day except for Shabbat and Holidays.

This did not weaken his resolve, and his commitment to tefillin eventually led him to a full Jewish life-style and marriage to a fine religious woman.

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