My Holy Object is Tefillin. What exactly are tefillin? Some might call them a phylactery; but ultimately, they are small black boxes used for prayer. The small black boxes are filled with Hebrew parchment scrolls and come in a set of two, one for the head and one for the arm (Jewish Virtual Library). The one on the arm is wrapped around the bicep seven times and then tied in a special knot, left arm for right handed and the opposite for left handed, while the other box in worn at the hairline on the forehead with the straps connecting at the neck in the back of the head (MJL). They are worn this way because the box wrapped around the arm is to rest against the heart (i.e. emotions) and the other on the head to keep God in all thoughts; this helps to remember to keep God in all thing that are thought, felt, and done (What are Tefillin?). These prayer tools are made up of three parts; the scrolls, the box, and the strap (What are Tefillin?) They are worn because the Torah commands Jewish people to do so and it is considered to be a very powerful Mitzvah that is potentially life changing because wearing the Tefillin commands the wearing to create a bond between themselves and God (What are Tefillin?). The Torah has four separate mitzvah mentioning Tefillin; basically discussing the unity of God by describing God’s Miracles when the Israelites were taken out of Egypt and how God alone has the power and dominion to do whatever They want in both the physical and spiritual world, overall the mitzvah on Tefillin covers the fundamentals of the Jewish faith (What are Tefillin?). The main text relating to Tefillin would probably be Deuteronomy 6:5-8, “You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul… bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a frontlet between your eyes”, and though some people took it figuratively the Pharisees took it literally, and thus, the Tefillin was born (Jewish Virtual Library).  

Figure 1 Rabbinical Students wear Tefillin (Dolsten)

Tefillin are mainly worn by men in the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish congregations; but it is not uncommon to see women[1] wearing them in the Conservative congregation (MJL). Tefillin must also be kosher, and to insure that they are, there are multiple requirements that make them so; the scrolls inside are handmade from kosher animals written on in black ink by a sofer (a specially trained scribe), the sofer has to write 1594 letters in each of the boxes, and the boxes and straps must also be made from the leather of a kosher animal (What are Tefillin?). Tefillin can be worn at any point during the day (sunrise to sundown) and a blessing is recited, though it is customary to read the Shema; it is most traditionally seen worn during the weekday morning prayers and they are not worn during shabbat or major Jewish holidays (What are Tefillin?). Some people believe that once a Jewish person wears the Tefillin even just once they now fall into a different category of Jew (What are Tefillin?). 

Works Cited

Dolsten, Josefin. The Times of Israel. 15 April 2018. Article. 4 November 2019.

Jewish Virtual Library. 1998-2019. Article. 4 November 2019.

MJL. Tefillin (Phylacteries). 2002-2019. Article. 4 November 2019.

What are Tefillin? 1993-2019. 3 November 2019. 

Want to learn more?

Putting on Tefillin

Buyers Guide to Tefillin?

Spirituality and Tefillin


[1] See Figure 1 


Hi, my name is Crystal, I have been at ODU far too long in my opinion. I am working towards getting my degree in Biochemistry with a minor in Religious Studies. Knowing why things are the way they are, and understanding people is what brings me the most joy. I have a strong sense of justice and I am usually very quick to speak up when I think something is wrong. I think that through education, most issues can be reconciled and it is my goal to do my part to help be an educator