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Tefillin reminds us of God’s love, deliverance

Posted on 15 March 2018 by admin

This is the second part of the answer to last week’s question about tefillin.
Dear Rabbi Fried,
Soon is my son’s bar mitzvah and I bought him tefillin to wear, because that’s what my father did for me at my bar mitzvah. To tell you the truth, that’s about all there is to it for all I know. The problem is that that’s not good enough for my little boy; he questions everything. He wants to know why we do this? What does it mean? Why are they black and you can’t order a set in your favorite color? Why are the knots the way they are? He doesn’t stop. And the bigger problem is that I have no idea what to answer any of his questions; can you please help me out here?
Ben
Dear Ben,
Last week, we addressed your question as to the sources in the Torah for wearing tefillin daily, the four Torah sections fitting into the four boxes of the head tefillin and the one arm box. We saw how the arm tefillin affects our actions and our hearts, the head one elevates our thoughts, all toward our belief in the Oneness of God, and that our thoughts, emotions and actions should reflect that belief.
Today we shall attempt to understand this further, by focusing upon two of the messages within the tefillin. First, the message of Love.
When two people love each other and treasure every moment together, they create constant reminders of that love. The sealing of an engagement and of a wedding is through the transfer of a ring, a sign to be worn perpetually as a constant reminder and sign of that love.
God loves His people deeply and intensely, as He proclaims through prophecy, “I have loved you with an infinite world of love” (Jeremiah 31:3). We return that love to Him through the mitzvah to love, which we proclaim twice daily in the Shema, “And you should love Hashem, your God, with all your heart, all your soul and all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5 and the second paragraph of the Shema, Deuteronomy 11:13).
This mitzvah of love is inscribed upon parchment and inserted into the tefillin, ensuring that the wearing of these special boxes serves as a type of “wedding band” for us to express and remember daily our love for the Al-mighty as He loves us. In fact, the verses we recite while wrapping the tefillin strap around our fingers are statements of love, reflecting God’s love for us and our binding that love upon our fingers, like a ring; “I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, justice, kindness and mercy. I will betroth you to Me with fidelity and you shall know God” (Psalms 145:16).
That love has taken us through the brightest and darkest of times. Countless numbers of Jews continued to clandestinely and miraculously don their tefillin even in the hellish camps of the accursed Nazis, showing their unshakable love and belief that all that happens to us, although beyond our comprehension, somehow happens out of love.
Another important theme of the tefillin is that of the Exodus from Egypt. The final paragraph of the Shema ends with the remembrance of that Exodus. This is not by chance; the belief in the Exodus is the foundation of our belief in the oneness and dominion of God. Only one who strongly believes in the Exodus can truly believe in the oneness of God (R’ Asher, Orchos Chaim). This is because seeing is believing. Nobody was present to witness the creation of the world; the entire Jewish people was present to witness the miracles of the plagues in Egypt, our miraculous deliverance from that land, the splitting of the sea, the clouds of glory, pillar of fire and the manna falling from heaven to sustain us.
For this reason, when God formally introduces Himself to us for the first time in the first of the 10 commandments, He opens by saying “I am the Lord your God Who has taken you out of Egypt, from the house of bondage.” He could have delivered a much more impressive introduction, “…Who created the stars, sun, heaven and earth…” but, rather, chose the Exodus from Egypt. This is because He was speaking to a nation whom had just witnessed and benefited from that very Exodus; seeing is believing. He was telling them, and us by the tradition that generation passed down to us, that the One who performed those miracles and redeemed us was none other than God. (R’ Judah Halevi, Kuzari, Book I).
This message of Exodus, the foundation of our belief, is also enwrapped in the parchments within the tefillin. In fact, the Code of Jewish Law instructs us that, when wrapping our tefillin, we need to have in mind that we are donning our tefillin Zecher l’yatzias Mitzrayim, as a remembrance of the redemption from Egypt.
This message is especially poignant for us now in the days and weeks leading up to the holiday of Pesach, punctuating the importance of the eternal message of our belief in the Exodus from Egypt.
Rabbi Yerachmiel D. Fried, noted scholar and author of numerous works on Jewish law, philosophy and Talmud, is founder and dean of DATA, the Dallas Kollel. Questions can be sent to him at yfried@sbcglobal.net.

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