Simanim 37-38 The Time of Wearing Tefillin

  • Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Mishna Berura
Yeshivat Har Etzion

SHIUR #20:Simanim 37 - 38

Pages 129 - 133


by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon







Menachot 44a:


"Anyone who wears tefillin is granted a long life, as it is written, 'Hashem being upon them, they will live' (Yeshayahu 38:16) [i.e. he who bears upon himself the name of God - will live]."

The Shimusha Rabba (cited in the Tur 37) adds,

"And said Rava: Anyone who puts on tefillin and wraps himself in tzitzit and recites keriyat shema and prays - is guaranteed the world-to-come ...

"Rav Pappa says: I guarantee him that all his sins are forgiven."


(What does Rava add to the first statement? What does R. Pappa?  See the Prisha at the beginning of siman 37.)


            The Rosh writes (Hilkhot Tefillin 28), "The Sages taught (Rosh Hashana 17) that, come the Day of Judgment, if one had been careful regarding the mitzva of tefillin, then the side of merit prevails; for there is no greater positive commandment in the Torah than the mitzva of tefillin, since the whole Torah was compared to tefillin, as it says [with regard to tefillin], 'In order that God's Torah be in your mouth' (Shemot 13:9)."



Rosh Hashana 17a:


"'The Jews who sin with their bodies' - who are they?   Said Rav, 'A head (karkafta) who does not put on tefillin.'"


            This gemara may be explained in a number of different ways, and there are various versions of it in the Rishonim.


            The Ge'onim (cited in the Ittur, Tefillin 1:5) have the version "... who has not put on tefillin ever," as do Rabbeinu Chananel, the Rif, the Rambam, and others.


            The Smag (Positive Commandments 3) and the Rosh (Rosh Hashana 1:5) have simply, "... who does not put on tefillin."  The implication is that even if one puts on tefillin sometimes, but not daily, he is considered one of the "the Jews who sin with their bodies."


            Rabbeinu Tam asserts that if one does not put on tefillin because he fears that he will not be able to keep his body clean, he is not included in this category.


            The Yerei'im (399) has the most lenient interpretation of all:  One who does not put on tefillin out of wickedness - out of scorn for the mitzva - is considered a "karkafta," but if it is because of laziness, then he is not (though of course he is acting improperly).


            Chabad chasidim set up stands in the central bus station and similar places to encourage passersby to put on tefillin.  According to which of the above opinions is there special significance to a one-time act of this nature?



            Does the obligation of tefillin in principle last all day, except that we only wear them during morning prayers because of the requirement of a clean body etc., or rather does the Torah require only one moment of wearing tefillin?


            A. Tosafot (Sukka 45b s.v. Echad) say:


"Sukka and lulav are not the same regarding the berakha, for upon lulav one recites only one berakha a day, while regarding sukka - each time one enters it in order to eat or drink or sleep, even if it is ten times a day, he recites another berakha...  And such is the case with tefillin: their mitzva is to be upon the head and arm the whole day, but the essential mitzva of lulav is only once a day..."


            This view appears to be shared by the Levush, who writes, "The fact that it says simply 'and you shall tie them,' implies a permanent tying."


            The Gra (cited in Keter Rosh) "voiced regret over his generation who neglected the essence of the mitzva of tefillin, which lasts the whole day.  Were it in his power, he would cause the whole world to return glory to its proper place...  and there is no suspicion of vanity ("yuhar" - showing off) [in this behavior]; would that all who see would follow suit!"


            B. It appears from the Kesef Mishna (Hilkhot Yesodei Ha-Torah 5:1) that when one has worn tefillin even for a moment he has fulfilled his obligation.  This is implicit, as well, in the Tosefta Berakhot 6:17, "From when does one put them on?  In the morning.  If he did not put them on in the morning, he may put them on the entire day."  And so too in the Kaf Ha-chayim (37:8), citing the Ari.


            In practice, we do not wear tefillin the whole day.  However, this discussion does bear halakhic significance for us.  See M.B. 37:7 regarding the "men of deeds" - "anshei ma'aseh."



Sukka 42a:


"A minor who knows how to guard his tefillin - his father should buy him tefillin."

Rashi explains, "Who knows how to guard the sanctity of the tefillin, that he will not bring them into the bathroom."


            This implies that he need not be thirteen but rather merely at the "age of educatability" - chinukh.


            Rav Moshe of Coucy (in the Semag) writes that the child must know how to be "watchful of sanctity and purity, that he not sleep in them."  From this, too, one can infer that the age of chinukh is sufficient, though perhaps it is slightly higher than that of Rashi. 


            The idea that the age of chinukh is sufficient is mentioned explicitly by some Rishonim:  the Rashba (Berakhot 20a), the Ra'ah (Pekudat Ha-levi'im there), the Rosh, and the Mordekhai.


            In contrast, the Ba'al Ha-ittur writes that the relevant age is thirteen years and one day.


            See the rulings of the Shulchan Arukh and the Rema.  In light of the above-mentioned sources, the ruling of the Rema is difficult to understand - see the Biur Halakha s.v. De-hai katan davka.  See M.B. 37:12 for the halakha in practice. 


            Nowadays it is generally accepted to start one month before the bar-mitzva.  This opinion is found in the Arukh Ha-shulchan (37:4).  (However, the Arukh Ha-shulchan himself agrees with the simple interpretation of the Rema - at the age of thirteen.)  The Sha'arei Shalom offers the explanation that this minhag is akin to the practice of "inquiring and researching thirty days before the holiday."


            There is a minhag brought in the Yalkut Gershuni (37) that an orphan begins to wear tefillin a year before his bar-mitzva as a credit to his deceased father and mother.  Regarding this, the Arukh Ha-shulchan (37:4) writes, "I do not know any reason for this minhag, and it is not proper to do so."  So too writes the Maharshak (Responsa, Sta"m 30).







Shabbat 130a:


"Any mitzva which Israel did not choose to uphold upon pain of death during times of persecution, such as tefillin, is still weakly held by them;  as R. Yanai said, 'Tefillin require a body as clean as Elisha the winged one.'  What is this?  Said Abbaye, 'That one not pass gas in them.'  Said Rava, 'That one not sleep in them.'"


From here we learn the prohibition of passing gas while wearing tefillin.  What is the level of this prohibition?


            According to the Sha'agat Aryeh (40), it is biblically proscribed.  He learns this from the gemara in Shabbat (22a) which derives from the verse, "and he shall spill its blood and cover it with dirt" (Vayikra 17:13), that one may not do the covering with his foot, so that mitzvot not be scorned in his eyes ("With that which he spilled it he should cover it, that he should not cover it with his foot"). 


            Another proof is brought by the Sha'agat Aryeh from Rashi's statement in Sukka (26a) that the prohibition of sleeping in tefillin exists lest one pass gas in them.  Why did Rashi not say, "lest one remove his attention from them," for that too is prohibited, and when one sleeps this certainly will happen?  The answer is that the prohibition of removing one's attention is rabbinic in origin, and thus it would have been a case of a rabbinic decree being the reason for another rabbinic decree (which is not legitimate).  For this reason Rashi chose to mention the prohibition of passing gas, which is on the biblical level.  This viewpoint of the Sha'agat Aryeh is seconded by the Chayei Adam (68:2).


            On the other hand, the Peri Megadim believes that the verse, "and he shall spill its blood and cover it with dirt" is merely a support and not a true source, and the prohibition of passing gas is rabbinic.  This is the opinion of the Darkhei Teshuva (YD 28:58) in the name of the Ran.


            A nafka mina, (a practical difference whether this prohibition is biblical or rabbinic) will manifest itself in a case of doubt.  See the Shulchan Arukh 38:2 and M.B. 38:6.


            According to the Ben Ish Chai (in Od Yosef Chai, Chayei Sara 4), flatulence without a smell is not prohibited.  Moreover, the Eshel Avraham writes that flatulence without a sound is not considered scornful treatment of a mitzva.  And the Minchat Yitzchak (vol. VI, 13) sees fit to permit a situation where this consideration is joined with another leniency (e.g., when the tefillin are not in their proper place, or not tightened).



            Based on the previously mentioned gemara that "tefillin require a clean body," the Shibbolei Ha-leket (p. 382) in the name of R. Menachem writes that tefillin require a body which is clean of sin.  This is found as well in the Me'iri Berakhot 14a.


            The Orchot Chayim states (Tefillin 13):  "One who knows himself, that he will not be able to guard himself from bad thoughts... is forbidden to put them on."


            In contrast, the Sefer Ha-chinukh writes (mitzva 421), "... Every person, be he impure or a sinner, is obligated in the mitzva of tefillin, as long as he knows to be careful not to pass gas in them.  And perhaps, out of a constancy in the mitzva of tefillin, which are a great reminder to man of divine service, he will repent his evil ways and purify himself from all his desecrations..."

            With regard to flatulence we have seen that it can prevent one from wearing tefillin.  The status of improper thoughts, though, is dependent on the dispute of the Rishonim mentioned above.  In practice, if one knows that he will not be able to avoid them, should he really refrain from donning tefillin?   The Beit Yosef writes:


            "And it appears to me that they should not be exempted for this reason, but rather we should compel them with words and pull their hearts toward the fear of God in order that they free their hearts from vain talk which harms body and soul, and they will turn their hearts to accept upon them the yoke of the kingdom of heaven."


            How does the Shulchan Arukh rule?  Does the Rema agree with him?


            It is fitting, while tefillin are upon us, that the words of the Rambam be engraved on our hearts (Hilkhot Tefillin 4:25):


            "The sanctity of tefillin is very great, for all the while a tefilla is on one's head and one's arm, he is humble and Godfearing, and he is not attracted to lightheartedness by idle conversation, and he does not think improper thoughts, but rather turns his heart in the ways of truth and justice."



            On the day of his relative's death, the mourner is called an "onen" ("aninut" meaning sorrow, as in "ben oni" - what Rachel called Binyamin before her death - Bereishit 35:18).  The Torah mandates that an onen may not eat of sacrifices or other sanctified food.  In addition, the Sages exempted him from mitzvot, for two reasons:  (1) due to respect for the dead, and (2) because there is no one else to care for the dead (Yerushalmi Berakhot 3).  The distinction between these two reasons arises if there is someone else to care for the dead (in which case we rule that regardless, the onen is exempt - Gesher Ha-chayim).


            Aninut is in effect from the moment of death until the burial, ceasing immediately after the burial (Shach 341:2).  For tefillin, though, there is another source which indicates exemption:  tefillin are called "pe'er" - splendor - as it says, "Place your splendor upon you" (Yechezkel 24:17), and a mourner is referred to as "one whose strength is laid in the dust" (Iyov 16:15); it is unfitting to put splendor in the place of dust ("pe'er tachat efer").  According to this reason, the exemption from tefillin continues after the burial as well, until the end of the day.


            If the burial was postponed, then there is a consensus regarding the day of death that the mourner does not put on tefillin.  But the day of the burial is the subject of a debate among Acharonim.  The Maharit Tzahalon writes that he is obligated to wear tefillin.  However, most Acharonim believe that he does not put on tefillin on this day as well, and so rule the Mishna Berura (38:16), Kaf Ha-chayim (38:16), and Gesher Ha-chayim (vol. I, P. 175).  The Chayei Adam (14:14) and the Yabi'a Omer (vol. II, YD 27) rule that he should put them on without a berakha.



(This shiur was translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)