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The Black Boxes

Wednesday, 21 January, 2015 - 7:27 am

Hi Rabbi Kushi, Mike here, you often ask me to wrap tefillin with you and have invited me to the Men’s tefillin club in the past. What is this tefillin thing? Why is it so important?


Hi Mike,

You are in luck, the next “Men’s tefillin club” is this Sunday at 8:00 AM (I hope you can make it).  Tefillin is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah. In this week’s Torah portion it is written “And it shall be for a sign upon your hand and for ornaments between your eyes”. When this was told to Moses, the details of the specifics were passed down orally and committed to writing only in the times of the Mishna and the Talmud.


A concise overview: there are two black boxes containing four portions of the Torah written on parchment. The boxes are placed on the upper arm, on top of the muscle, and on the head above the hairline, in the center of the eyes. While wearing Tefillin, we are taught to remember its sanctity and respect it.  

The kavanah, intention, is “I am putting on tefillin because G-d commanded me to wear tefillin  to demonstrate that I am binding my heart and mind to G-d and therefore minimize my indulgences in selfish acts”.

Why is it so important?

Because it is a mitzvah, a way to connect to G-d. There are two reasons I find it an especially important mitzvah; 1) Israel 2) personal spiritual growth.

Major General Ariel Sharon, Head of IDF's Southern Command during the Six Day War, puts on tefillin at the Western Wall

Israel – Tefillin protects and causes fear in the enemy 

In 1967, The Rebbe of blessed memory, launched a new campaign – the Tefillin campaign. He asked Chabad followers worldwide to go out to the streets and offer Jewish men and boys the opportunity to don Tefillin. This was based on the Talmudic statement that “one who puts on Tefillin, will live long.” And even more, the Rebbe pointed out, the Talmud says, “When one puts Tefillin on his head, he projects fear over our enemies wherever they are.” Ariel Sharon put on Tefillin at the Kotel (the western wall) shortly afterwards.

Personal Spiritual Growth

Doing an act as a daily ritual (excluding Shabbos and Holidays), showing the need to bind the heart (and all its desires) and the head (and all its meshugas) to G-d, helps us connect on a deeper level as well as gives us a reminder of who we are. When this is done in the morning, it gives focus to our whole day.

I hope this helps (see ya Sunday?)

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

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