The laws governing the wearing of phylacteries were derived by the Rabbis from four Biblical passages (Deut. vi. 8, xi. 18; Ex. xiii. 9, 16). While these passages were interpreted literally by most commentators (comp., however, Ibn Ezra and RaShbaM on Ex. xiii. 9), the Rabbis held that the general law only was expressed in the Bible, the application and elaboration of it being entirely matters of tradition and inference (Sanh. 88b). The earlier tannaim had to resort to fanciful interpretations of the texts in order to find Biblical support for the custom of inscribing the four selections in the phylacteries (Men. 34b; Zeb. 37b; Sanh. 4b; Rashi and Tos. ad loc.). There are more laws—ascribed to oral delivery by God to Moses—clustering about the institution of tefillin than about anyother institution of Judaism (Men. 35a; Yer. Meg. i. 9; Maimonides, in "Yad," Tefillin, i. 3, mentions ten; Rodkinssohn, in "Tefillah le-Mosheh," p. 20, ed. Presburg, 1883, mentions eighteen; comp. Weiss, "Dor," i. 74-75). Thus, even if most Jewish commentators are followed in their literal interpretations of the Biblical passages mentioned above, rabbinic interpretation and traditional usage must still be relied upon for the determination of the nature of the tefillin and the laws concerning them (see Phylacteries—Historical, and
Phylacteries, as universally used at the present time, consist of two leathern boxes—one worn on the arm and known as "shel yad" (Men. iv. 1) or "shelzeroa'" (Miḳ. x. 3), and the other worn on the head and known as "shel rosh"—made of the skins of clean animals (Men. 42b; Sanh. 48b; "Yad," l.c. iii. 15). The boxes must be square (Men. 35a); their height may be more or less than the length or the width ("Yad," l.c. iii. 2); and it is desirable that they be black (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 32, 40). The boxes are fastened on the under side with square pieces of thick leather (; Men. 35a) by means of twelve stitches made with threads prepared from the veins of clean animals (Shab. 28b), and are provided with loops (; Men. 35a) at the ends, through which are passed leathern straps () made of the skins of clean animals (Shab. 28b) and blackened on the outside (Men. 35a; comp. "Sefer Ḥasidim," ed. Wistinetski, § 1669). The strap that is passed through the head-phylactery ends at the back of the head in a knot representing the letter ד; the one that is passed through the hand-phylactery is formed into a noose near the box and fastened in a knot in the shape of the letter ש (comp. Heilprin, "Seder ha-Dorot," i. 208, ed. Maskileison, Warsaw, 1897, where a wonderful story in relation to the laws governing the making of these knots is told). The box containing the head-phylactery has on the outside the letter ש, both to the right (with three strokes: ש) and to the left (with four strokes: ש; Men. 35a; comp. Tos., s.v. "Shin"; probably as a reminder to insure the correct insertion of the four Biblical passages); and this, together with the letters formed by the knots of the two straps, make up the letters of the Hebrew word "Shaddai" ( = "Almighty," one of the names of God; Men. 35b; Rashi, s.v. "Ḳesher"). The measurements of the boxes are not given; but it is recommended that they should not be smaller than the width of two fingers ('Er. 95b; Tos., s.v. "Maḳom"; Men. 35a; Tos., s.v. "Shin"). The width of the straps should be equal to thelength of a grain of oats. The strap that is passed through the head-phylactery should be long enough to encircle the head and to allow for the knot; and the two ends, falling in front over either shoulder, should reach the navel, or somewhat above it. The strap that is passed through the hand-phylactery should be long enough to allow for the knot, to encircle the whole length of the arm, and then to be wound three times around the middle finger ("Yad," l.c. iii. 12; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 27, 8, 11).Contents.
Each box contains the four Scriptural passages Ex. xiii. 1-10, 11-16; Deut. vi. 4-9, xi. 13-21 (comp. Zohar, ed. Amsterdam, 1789, to Bo, p. 43a, b), written with black ink (Yer. Meg. i. 9) in Hebrew square characters (; Meg. 8b; Soferim xv. 1) on parchment (Shab. 79b; Men. 32a) specially prepared for the purpose (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 32, 8; comp. "Be'er Heṭeb" and "Sha'are Teshubah," ad loc.) from the skin of a clean animal (Shab. 108a).Arrangement of Passages.
The hand-phylactery has only one compartment, which contains the four Biblical selections written upon a single strip of parchment in four parallel columns and in the order given in the Bible (Men. 34b). The head-phylactery has four compartments, formed from one piece of leather, in each of which one selection written on a separate piece of parchment is deposited perpendicularly. The pieces of parchment on which the Biblical selections are written are in either case tied round with narrow strips of parchment and fastened with the thoroughly washed hair of a clean animal (Shab. 28b, 108a), preferably of a calf ("Yad," l.c. iii, 8; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 32, 44). There was considerable discussion among the commentators of the Talmud (Men. 34b) as to the order in which the Biblical selections should be inserted into the head-phylactery. The chief disputants in this case were R. Solomon Yiẓḥaḳi (Rashi) and R. Jacob b. Meïr Tam (Rabbenu Tam), although different possible arrangements have been suggested by other writers ("Shimmusha Rabba" and RABaD). The following diagram shows the arrangements of the Bible verses as advocated respectively by Rabbenu Tam and Rashi (comp. Rodkinssohn, "Tefillah le-Mosheh," p. 25):
|R. Tam||Ex. xiii. 1-10,||Ex. xiii. 11-16,||Deut. xi. 13-21,||Deut. vi. 4-9,|
|Rashi||Ex. xiii. 1-10,||Ex. xiii. 11-16,||Deut. vi. 4-9,||Deut. xi. 13-21,|
The prevailing custom is to follow the opinion of Rashi ("Yad," l.c. iii. 5; comp. RABaD and "Kesef Mishneh" ad loc.; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 34, 1), although some are accustomed, in order to be certain of performing their duty properly, to lay two pairs of tefillin (comp. 'Er. 95b), one prepared in accordance with the view of Rashi, and the other in accordance with that of Rabbenu Tam. If, however, one is uncertain as to the exact position for two pairs of tefillin at the same time, one should first "lay" the tefillin prepared in accordance with Rashi's opinion, and then, removing these during the latter part of the service, without pronouncing a blessing lay those prepared in accordance with Rabbenu Tam's opinion. Only the specially pious wear both kinds (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 34, 2, 3).Mode of Writing.
The parchment on which the Biblical passages are written need not be ruled ("Yad," l.c. i. 12), although the custom is to rule it. A pointed instrument that leaves no blot should be used in ruling; the use of a pencil is forbidden (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 32, 6, Isserles' gloss). The scribe should be very careful in writing the selections. Before beginning to write he should pronounce the words, "I am writing this for the sake of the holiness of tefillin"; and before he begins to write any of the names of God occurring in the texts, he should say, "I am writing this for the sake of the holiness of the Name." Throughout the writing his attention must not be diverted; "even if the King of Israel should then greet him, he is forbidden to reply" ("Yad," l.c. i. 15; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 32, 19). If he omits even one letter, the whole inscription becomes unfit. If he inserts a superfluous letter at the beginning or at the end of a word, he may erase it, but if in the middle of a word, the whole becomes unfit ("Yad," l.c. ii.; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 32, 23, and "Be'er Heṭeb," ad loc.). The letters must be distinct and not touch each other; space must be left between them, between the words, and between the lines, as also between the verses (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 32, 32, Isserles' gloss; comp. "Magen Abraham" and "Be'er Heṭeb" ad loc.). The letters where they occur in the selections are adorned with some fanciful ornamentation (Men. 29b; see Tos., s.v. "Sha'aṭnez"); some scribes adorn other letters also (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 36, 3, and "Be'er Heṭeb," ad loc.). In writing the selections it is customary to devote seven lines to each paragraph in the hand-phylactery, and four lines to each paragraph in the head-phylactery (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 35).How Put on.
In putting on the tefillin, the hand-phylactery is laid first (Men. 36a). Its place is on the inner side of the left arm (ib. 36b, 37a), just above the elbow (comp. "Sefer Ḥasidim," §§ 434, 638, where the exact place is given as two fist-widths from the shoulder-blade; similarly the head-phylactery is worn two fist-widths from the tip of the nose); and it is held in position by the noose of the strap so that when the arm is bent the phylactery may rest near the heart (Men. 37a, based on Deut. xi. 8; comp. "Sefer Ḥasidim," §§ 435, 1742). If one is left-handed, he lays the hand-phylactery on the same place on his right hand (Men. 37a; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 27b). After the phylactery is thus fastened on the bare arm, the strap is wound seven times round the arm. The head-phylactery is placed so as to overhang the middle of the forehead, with the knot of the strap at the back of the head and overhanging the middle of the neck, while the two ends of the strap, with the blackened side outward, hang over the shoulders in front (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 27, 8-11). On laying the hand-phylactery, before the knot is fastened, the followingbenediction is pronounced: "Blessed art Thou . . . who sanctifieth us with His commandments and hast commanded us to lay tefillin."The Blessings.
Before the head-phylactery is fastened the blessing is repeated with the substitution of the phrase "concerning the commandment of tefillin" for "to lay tefillin." Some authorities are of the opinion that the blessing on laying the head-phylactery should be pronounced only when an interruption has occurred through conversation on the part of the one engaged in performing the commandment; otherwise the one blessing pronounced on laying the hand-phylactery is sufficient. The prevailing custom, however, is to pronounce two blessings, and, after the second blessing, to say the words, "Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever," lest the second benediction be pronounced unnecessarily. If he who lays the tefillin has talked between the laying of the hand-phylactery and that of the head-phylactery, he should repeat both blessings at the laying of the latter (Men. 36a; "Yad," l.c. iv. 4, 5; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 25, 5; Isserles' gloss, 9, 10; comp. ib. 206, 6). Then the strap of the hand-phylactery is wound three times around the middle finger so as to form a ש and the passages Hos. ii. 21 and 22 are recited. The seven twistings of the strap on the arm are then counted while the seven words of Deut. iv. 4 are recited. A lengthy prayer in which the significance of the tefillin is explained and which containstraces of cabalistic influence is recited by some before putting on the tefillin. After the tefillin are laid Ex. xiii. 1-16 is recited. In removing the tefillin the three twistings on the middle finger are loosened first; then the head-phylactery is removed; and finally the hand-phylactery (Men. 36a). It is customary to lay and to remove the tefillin while standing; also to kiss them when they are taken from and returned to the phylactery-bag (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 28, 2, 3).
Originally tefillin were worn all day, but not during the night (Men. 36b). Now the prevailing custom is to wear them during the daily morning service only (comp. Ber. 14b). They are not worn on Sabbaths and holy days; for these, being in themselves "signs," render the tefillin, which are to serve as signs themselves (Ex. xiii. 9, 16), unnecessary (Men. 30b; 'Er. 96a). In those places where tefillin are worn on the week-days of the festivals (see Holy Days), and on New Moons, they are removed before the "Musaf" prayer (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 25, 13).
The duty of laying tefillin rests upon males after the age of thirteen years and one day. Women are exempt from the obligation, as are also slaves and minors (Ber. 20a). Women who wish to lay tefillin are precluded from doing so (Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 38, 3, Isserles' gloss); in ancient times this was not the case ('Er. 96a, b). A mourner during the first day of his mourning period (M. Ḳ. 15a; Suk. 25b), a bridegroom on his wedding-day (Suk. l.c.), an excommunicate, and a leper (M. Ḳ. 15a) are also exempt. A sufferer from stomach-trouble (Ḥul. 110a), one who is otherwise in pain and can not concentrate his mind ("Yad," l.c. iv. 13), one who is engaged in the study of the Law (R. Jonah to Alfasi on Ber. ii. 5, s.v. "Le-Memra"), and scribes of and dealers in tefillin and mezuzot while engaged in their work if it can not be postponed, are also free from this obligation (Suk. 26a; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 38, 8-10). It is not permitted to enter a cemetery (Ber. 18a) or any unseemly place (ib. 23a; Shab. 10a), or to eat a regular meal or to sleep (Ber. 23b; Suk. 26a), while wearing tefillin. The bag used for tefillin should not be used for any other purpose, unless a condition was expressly made that it might be used for any purpose (Ber. 23b; Sanh. 48a).
Maimonides ("Yad," l.c. iv. 25, 26) concludes the laws of tefillin with the following exhortation (the references are not in Maimonides):
"The sanctity of tefillin is very great (comp. Shab. 49a; Masseket Tefillin, toward the end; Zohar, section "Wa'etḥanan," p. 269b). As long as the tefillin are on the head and on the arm of a man, he is modest and God-fearing and will not be attracted by hilarity or idle talk, and will have no evil thoughts, but will devote all his thoughts to truth and righteousness (comp. Men. 43b); "Sefer Ḥasidim," § 554). Therefore, every man ought to try to have the tefillin upon him the whole day (Masseket Tefillin, l.c.; comp. Sifre to Deut. v. 9); for only in this way can he fulfil the commandment. It is related that Rab (Abba Arika), the pupil of our holy teacher (R. Judah ha-Nasi), was never seen to walk four cubits without a Torah, without fringes on his garments ("ẓiẓit"), and without tefillin (Suk. 29a, where R. Johanan b. Zakkai and R. Eliezer are mentioned; comp. Meg. 24a, where R. Zera is mentioned). Although the Law enjoins the wearing of tefillin the whole day, it is especially commendable to wear them during prayer. The sages say that one who reads the Shema' without tefillin is as if he testified falsely against himself (Ber. 14b, 15a). He who does not lay tefillin transgresses eight commandments (Men. 44a; comp. R. H. 17a); for in each of the four Biblical passages there is a commandment to wear tefillin on the head and on the arm. But he who is accustomed to wear tefillin will live long, as it is written, 'When the Lord is upon them they will live'".
- Masseket Tefillin, published by Kirchheim in his edition of the seven smaller treatises of the Talmud, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1851;
- Rosh, Hilkot Tefillin, in Halakot Ḳeṭannot, and Shimmusha Rabba, published with Menaḥot in most editions of the Talmud;
- Kol Bo, § 21, Fürth, 1782;
- Hamburger, R. B. T. ii., s.v. Tephillin;
- Hastings, Dict. Bible;
- Friedländer, The Jewish Religion, pp. 331-334, London, 1900;
- Rodkinson, Tefillah le-Mosheh, Presburg, 1883;
- Zunz, G. S. ii. 172-176, Berlin, 1876.
The only instance of the name "phylacteries" in Biblical times occurs in the New Testament (Matt. xxiii. 5), whence it has passed into the languages of Europe. In rabbinical literature it is not found even as a foreign word. The Septuagint renders "ṭoṭafot" (A. V. and R. V. "frontlets"; Ex. xiii. 16 and Deut. vi. 8) by ἀσαλευτόν (= "something immovable"); nor do Aquila and Symmachus use the word "phylacteries." The Targumim (Jonathan, Onḳelos) and the Peshiṭta use "tefillin" (Ex. xiii. 9, 16; xxviii. 37; Deut. vi. 8, xxviii. 10; Ezek. xxiv. 23; Cant. viii. 1) or "ṭoṭafot" (II Sam. i. 10; Ezek. xxiv. 17 et seq.). The terms "tefillah," "tefillin" only are found in Talmudic literature, although the word "ṭoṭafah" was still current, being used with the meaning of "frontlet" (Shab. vi. 1). The conclusions in regard to the tefillin which are based on its current name "phylacteries," therefore, lack historical basis, since this name was not used in truly Jewish circles.
In regard to their origin, however, the custom of wearing protecting coverings on the head and hands must be borne in mind. Saul's way of appearing in battle, with a crown on his head and wearing bracelets, is connected with this idea. The Proverbs reflect popular conceptions, for they originated in great part with the people, or were addressed to them. Prov. i. 9, iii. 3, vi. 21, and vii. 3 (comp. Jer. xvii. 1, xxxi. 32-33) clearly indicate the custom of wearing some object, with or without inscription, around the neck or near the heart; the actual custom appears in the figure of speech. In view of these facts it may be assumed that Ex. xiii. 9, 16, and Deut. vi. 8, xi. 18 must be interpreted not figuratively but literally; therefore it must be assumed that the custom of wearing strips inscribed with Biblical passages is commanded in the Torah. "Bind them as signs on thy hand, and they shall be as ṭoṭafot between thy eyes" assumes that ṭoṭafot were at the time known and in use, but that thenceforth the words of the Torah were to serve as ṭoṭafot (on signs see also I Kings xx. 41; Ezek. ix. 4, 6; Psalms of Solomon, xv. 9; see Breast-plate of the High Priest; Cain).Epoch of Introduction.
It is not known whether this command was carried out in the earliest time, and if so, in what manner. But from the relatively large number of regulations referring to the phylacteries—some of them connected with the names of the first tannaim—and also from the fact that among the fifty-five "Sinaitic commands" ("halakah le-Mosheh mi-Sinai") eight refer to the tefillin alone and seven to the tefillin and the Torah together, it follows that they were used as early as the time of the Soferim—the fourth, or at least the third, century
Josephus ("Ant." iv. 8, § 13) also regards them as an ancient institution, and he curiously enough places the tefillin of the head first, as the Talmud generally does (comp. Justin, "Dial. cum Tryph." ed. Otto, ii. 154). The tefillin are mentioned in connection with Simeon b. Sheṭaḥ, brother-in-law ofAlexander Jannæus (Yer. Ḥag. 77d); and Shammai produces the tefillin of his mother's father (Mek., Bo, § 17 [ed. Friedmann, 21b]; the parallel passage Yer. 'Er. 26a reads "Hillel"). The date here given is the seventh decade of the first century
Tefillin resembled amulets in their earliest form, strips of parchment in a leather case, which is called either "bag" or "little house." Tefillin and "ḳeme'ot" are, in fact, often mentioned side by side (Shab. vi. 2; Miḳ. vi. 4; Kelim xxiii. 9; et al.), and were liable to be mistaken one for the other ('Er. x. 1 et al.). As in the case of the Torah roll, the only permissible material was parchment, while the "mezuzah" was made of a different kind of parchment (Shab. viii. 3 et al.); for this reason a discarded tefillah could be made into a mezuzah, but not vice versa (Men. 32a). It was made square, not round (Meg. iv. 8). The head-tefillah consisted of four strips in four compartments, while the hand-tefillah consisted of one strip. The former could be made out of the latter, but not vice versa; and they were independent of each other (Kelim xviii. 8; Men. iii. 7, iv. 1, 34b; Yer. Ḥag. 77d et passim). The heretics had a way of covering the tefillah with gold, wearing it on the sleeve and on the forehead (Meg. iv. 8). The straps (Yad. iii. 3) were made of the same material as the boxes, but could be of any color except blood-red; they were sometimes blue or of a reddish purple (Men. 35a).
The most important tefillah was the head-tefillah (Kelim xviii. 8 et passim). It was put on according to rule (Sheb. iii. 8, 11; Men. 36a) and was worn from morning until night, with the exception of Sabbath and feast-days (Targ. to Ezek. xiii. 10; Men. 36b); some wore tefillin also in the evening, as did Akiba ('Er. 96a), Abbahu (Yer. 'Er. 26a), Rabba and Huna (Men. 36b) during the evening prayer, and Ashi (beginning of 5th cent.).
The head-tefillah was the principal one, because the tefillah worn on the arm was not visible (Men. 37b). A Jew was recognized by the former, which he wore proudly, because, according to Deut. xxviii. 10, all peoples knew thereby that the Name of the Eternal had been pronounced over him (Men. 35b; Targ. Esth. viii. 15; comp. Cant. viii. 1; Ezek. xxiv. 17, 23). Jerome says (on Galatians iv. 22) that the Jews feared to appear in the cities, because they attracted attention; probably they were recognized by the tefillah. It was not worn in times of danger ('Er. x. 1). The law in regard to tefillin, therefore, which did not demand obedience at the peril of life, had not taken such a deep hold upon the people as other laws (Shab. 130a; R. H. 17a; Yer. Ber. 4c; Pesiḳ. R., ed. Friedmann, p. 111b). However, it must not be inferred from this statement that the tefillah was not worn to any great extent (Rodkinson, "Ursprung und Entwickelung des Phylacterien-Ritus bei den Juden," p. 5), but merely that it was not generally worn.Tefillin and Magic.
The tefillin have been connected with magic, as the name "phylacteries" primarily indicates. Friedländer takes the tefillah to be a substitute for the "signum serpentinum" of the antinomistic Gnostics. The tefillin, however, originated at a time prior to that of the Gnostics, as has been shown above. Although the institution of the tefillin is related in form to the custom of wearing amulets, indicating the ancient views regarding that means of protection, yet there is not a single passage in the old literature to show that they were identified with magic. Their power of protecting is similar to that of the Torah and the Commandments, of which it is said, "They protect Israel" (Blau, "Altjüdisches Zauberwesen," p. 152). One of the earliest tannaim, Eliezer b. Hyrcanus (b. 70
The tannaitic Midrash, indeed, takes pains to prove that the Decalogue has no place in the tefillin (Sifre, Deut. 34, 35; Ber. 11b). Jerome, therefore (to Matt. xxv. 3), is not correct in saying that the tefillin contain also the Ten Commandments; although this may have been the case among the "minim," or heretics. The newly discovered Hebrew papyrus with Shema' and Decalogue belonged, perhaps, to the tefillah of a "min." The Samaritans did not observe the command to wear the tefillah (Men. 42b, above). They are ranked with the pagans, therefore, as persons not fit to write them (ib.).In the Diaspora and Post-Talmudic Times.
Although the tefillin were worn throughout the day, not only in Palestine but also in Babylon, the custom of wearing them did not become entirely popular; and during the Diaspora they were worn nowhere during the day. But it appears from the Letter of Aristeas and from Josephus that the tefillin were known to the Jews of the Diaspora. At this time it may have become customary to wear them only during prayer, traces of this custom being found in Babylon (Men. 36b). In France in the thirteenth century they were not generally worn even during prayer (Rodkinson, l.c., quoting Tos. Shab. 49a; comp. "Semag," CommandmentNo. 3; Grätz, "Gesch." vii. 71). The difference of opinion between Isaac (Rashi; d. 1105) and his grandson Jacob Tam (d. 1171) in regard to the arrangement of the four sections indicates that no fixed custom in wearing them had arisen. Rashi and Tam's tefillin are referred to; scrupulously pious persons put on the tefillin of R. Tam after prayer (Men. 34b; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 34). There were differences of opinion between the Spanish and the German Jews in regard to the knot in the strap (see illustrations in Surenhusius, cited below). At the time of the Reform movement, in the first half of the nineteenth century, especially in Germany, the custom of wearing the tefillin, like other ritual and ceremonial ordinances, was attacked, calling forth the protests of Zunz.
- The chief works are: Klein, Die Totaphot nach Bibel und Tradition in Jahrb. für Protestantische Theologie, 1881, pp. 666-689, and M. L. Rodkinson, Ursprung und Entwickelung des Phylacterien-Ritus bei den Juden, Presburg, 1883 (reviewed in R. E. J. vi. 288);
- idem, History of Amulets, Charms and Talismans, New York, 1893. For description and illustrations see Surenhusius, Mishnah, vol. i., Amsterdam, 1698 (before p. 9), and Bodenschatz, Kirchliche Verfassung der Heutigen Juden, iv. 14-19;
- see also Winer, B. R. 3d. ed., i. 56, ii. 260;
- Hamburger, R. B. T. ii. 1065, 1203-1206;
- Hastings, Dict. Bible, iii. 869-874;
- Z. Frankel, Ueber den Einfluss der Palästinischen Exegese auf die Alexandrinische Hermeneutik, pp. 90 et seq., Leipsic, 1851;
- M. Friedländer, Der Antichrist in den Vorchristlichen Jüdischen Quellen, pp. 155-165, Göttingen, 1901;
- M. Grünbaum, Gesammelte Aufsätze, pp. 208 et seq., Berlin, 1901;
- Herzfeld, Gesch. des Volkes Israel, iii. 223-225, Nordhausen, 1857;
- A. Krochmal, 'Iyyun Tefillah, pp. 24 et seq., Lemberg, 1885;
- S. Munk, Palestine, p. 268;
- O. H. Schorr, in He-Ḥaluẓ, vol. iv.;
- Schürer,Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 484 et seq.;
- Zunz, G. S. ii. 172-176 (Tefillin, eine Betrachtung). See earlier Christian bibliography in Schürer, Gesch.
The etymology of the term—from the Greek θυλακτήριον, itself derived from θυλάσσειν (= "to guard against evil," "to protect")—indicates the meaning, in the Hellenistic period, to have been "amulet" (an object worn as a protection against evil). The language of the four passages in which a reference occurs to "sign upon the hand" and "frontlets," or "memorials," "between the eyes" (Ex. xiii. 9, 16; Deut. vi, 8, xi. 18, Hebr.) proves that among the Hebrews the practise of wearing objects of this kind around the forehead and on the hand must have prevailed. Later rabbinical exegesis regarded the figurative reference and simile in Deut. vi. 8 and xi. 18 as a command to be carried out literally. Comparison with Ex. xiii. 9, 16, where the same terminology is employed, suffices to demonstrate that in Deut. vi. 8, xi. 18 the writer expressed himself figuratively, with allusion, of course, to a popular and wide-spread custom. It is plain that a sound construction of the Deuteronomic passages must reject the interpretation which restricts the bearing of the phrase "ha-debarim ha-elleh" (Deut. vi. 6) to the immediately preceding Shema', or of "debarai elleh" of Deut. xi. 18 to the preceding verse. In the phraseology of Deuteronomy, "these my words" embrace the whole book, the Torah, and it would have been as impossible to write the whole book on one's hand as it was to carry the sacrifice of the first-born (Ex. xiii.) as "a sign on one's hand." Prov. i. 9, iii. 3, vi. 21, vii. 3, and Jer. xvii. 1, xxxi. 33 illustrate in what sense the expressions "write" or "bind" in this connection are to be taken. As a matter of fact, phylacteries as described by the Rabbis did not come into use before the last pre-Christian century; the Samaritans knew nothing of them.
That amulets and signs were in use among the ancient Hebrews is evident from Gen. iv. 15 (Cain's sign), I Kings xx. 41, and Ezek. ix. 4-6 (comp. Rev. vii. 3; xiii. 16; xiv. 1, 9; Psalms of Solomon, xv. 10). Originally, the "sign" was tattooed on the skin, the forehead ("between the eyes") and the hand naturally being chosen for the display. Later, some visible object worn between the eyes or bound on the hand was substituted for the writing on the skin.
But the original practise is still discernible in the use of the word "yad" (hand) to connote a "token" (Ex. xvii. 16) with an inscription, the "zikkaron," which latter is the technical term, appearing in Ex. xiii. and Deut. xi. 18. This fact explains also the original value of the word "yad" in the combination "yad wa-shem" (hand and name; Isa. lvi. 5). The passage from Isaiah just quoted plainly shows that such a yad wa-shem was effective against that the Semite dreaded most—oblivion after death. The words "ot," "shem," and "zeker" are often used interchangeably (e.g., Isa. lv. 13 and Ex. iii. 15), and it is probable that originally they designated visible tokens cut into the flesh for purposes of marking one's connection with a deity or a clan (see Circumcision; Covenant; Totemism). The common meanings of these words, "sign," "name," and "memorial," are secondary. The phrase "to lift up the name" in the Decalogue indicates fully that "shem" must have been originally a totemistic sign, affixed to a person or an object.
The etymology of "ṭoṭafot," which, probably, should be considered singular and be pointed "ṭoṭefet," is not plain. The consensus of modern opinion is that it designates a round jewel, like the "neṭifot" (Judges viii. 26; Isa. iii. 19), therefore a charm, though others believe its original meaning to have been "a mark" tattooed into the flesh (Siegfried-Stade, "Lexicon"). It is to the habit of wearing amulets or making incisions that the law of Deuteronomy refers, as does Ex. xiii., advising that only God's Torah, as it were, shall constitute the protecting "charm" of the faithful.
- Das Kainzeichen, in Stade's Zeitschrift, 1894;
- G. Klein, Totaphot nach Bibel und Tradition, in Jahrbuch für Protestantische Theologie, 1881;
- Hastings, Dict. Bible.