Tefillin are two, small, black boxes which contain a written scroll each with the corresponding commandments that tell Jews to wear them. The boxes have four, hand-written sacred texts in which Jews are commanded to wear certain words on the hand and between the eyes.
The texts are Exodus 13:1-10, 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:12-21. The arm Tefillin has all four writings on one parchment, whereas the head Tefillin has four compartments with each portion written on them.
Tefillin are part of the dress custom for Shacharit (morning prayers) along with the Tallit in all branches of Judaism.
Tefillin boxes are made with hanging black leather straps which go around the arm and around the head. The head tefillin is called Tefillin Shel Rosh, and the arm Tefillin is called Tefillin Shel Yad. Each one is wrapped for daily morning prayers as the pictures show, except for Shabbat when we are not allowed to tie knots.
- Tefillin Shel Yad (tefillin of the hand)
- This Tefillin is put on first. It has a very long strap that needs to be wrapped around the arm seven or eight times, depending on your Minhag (tradition) and another few turns around your hand and fingers, each Minhag has its own way to wrap the strap around the hand. A prayer is said after you first fasten the box onto you arm and before the seven wraps around the arm. A different prayer is said when you wrap the finger.
- Tefillin Shel Rosh
- Just when you are about to wrap the strap of the Shel Yad on your hand, you put on your Tefillin Shel Rosh no higher than an inch behind your hairline. Sephardim don’t say a prayer when they put this tefillin on (although it won’t hurt if you do), while Ashkenazim do. After you have put on your head Tefillin, you proceed to finish putting on your hand strap.