Tefillin: Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

The Tefillin consist of scriptural passages, known as “parshiot”, written upon parchments which are placed inside the square Tefillin casings which are known as “batim”. Within the Tefillin that is placed upon the arm, these four scriptural passages are written upon a single scroll. Inside the Tefillin which is placed upon the head, each of these passages is written on its own scroll and inserted into its own distinct compartment.[1] The four scriptural sections which are contained in the Tefillin are: Kadesh Li,[2] V’haya Ki Yeviacha,[3] Shema,[4] and V’haya Im Shamoa.[5] The Tefillin which goes upon the arm is known as the “shel-yad” and the one which is placed upon the head is known as the “shel-rosh”.

Contrary to popular misconception, the names of the various types of Tefillin, such as “Rabbeinu Tam”, “Shimusha Rabba”, “Raavad”, and even the standard “Rashi Tefillin” do not refer to Tefillin that are prepared according to the specifications of these sages. Rather, the only association between these sages and the Tefillin called by their name is merely the order in which the parchments are inserted into the Tefillin. The procedures relating to all other aspects of Tefillin production and assembly are essentially universal, culled and compromised according to the views of the majority from among dozens of sages over the millennium.

Click here to read moreTo name but one example of the above, the only practical difference between Rashi Tefillin and Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin is, as mentioned, the order in which the parchments are inserted into the Tefillin. However, if one truly wanted to fulfill the mitzva of Tefillin according to the view of Rabbeinu Tam, one would be required to lay the parchments in the Tefillin horizontally, not vertically, as Rabbeinu Tam so instructs us to do. So too, according to Rashi, there is no reason to put the crowns on the letters “shatnez-getz” as is customary in even Rashi Tefillin. Hence, Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin are not Tefillin which are prepared according to the rulings of these sages, rather merely according to their views on what order the parchments should be inserted into the shel-rosh. As such, Rabbeinu Tam likely did not wear the Tefillin we call “Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin”. Although all Tefillin are virtually identical on the outside, there are some significant differences on the inside.

There is actually considerable debate among the commentators of the Talmud as to the order in which the parshiot should be arranged in the shel-rosh.[6] As one might suspect, there are in fact, four different views on how the four parshiot should be arranged. The rabbis most prominent in this dispute were Rashi and his grandson Rabbeinu Tam. Due to the uncertainty as to the proper order of the parshiot, many authorities recommend that one put on two sets of Tefillin, one according to the view of Rashi and the other according to Rabbeinu Tam

According to Rashi,[7] the parshiot are to be written and arranged in the Tefillin shel-rosh in the same order as they appear in the Torah.[8] Rabbeinu Tam,[9] however, disagrees and argues that the two parshiot that each begin with the word “V’haya” are to be placed side by side.[10] There are dozens of great rabbis who have sided with either view.[11] The Arizal is reported to have ruled that both views were correct and as such, one is required to wear two pairs of Tefillin in order to properly fulfill the mitzva of Tefillin.[12]

Those who are especially meticulous in their observance of mitzvot will often wear the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam. A blessing is not reciting when putting on the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam.[13] It is interesting to note that some authorities suggest that wearing Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin is only appropriate for one who lives in the Land of Israel.[14]

The Shulchan Aruch[15] rules that one is only required to concern himself with wearing Tefillin according to Rashi’s view. Nevertheless, the Shulchan Aruch recommends that “God fearing individuals” be sure to wear the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam as well.[16] One who is not known to be especially meticulous in the performance of mitzvot should not wear Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin in public, unless one finds himself in a community where the custom is for all to do so.[17]One should not store the Tefillin of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam together in a single case.[18] Only one who wears Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin should write the parchments for them.[19]

Those who wear two pairs of Tefillin should recite the Shacharit prayers while wearing the Rashi Tefillin. At the conclusion of Shacharit one removes the Rashi Tefillin and puts on those of Rabbeinu Tam and recites the Shema.[20] Some also recite the other scriptural passages which are contained in the Tefillin as well.[21] There are Sefardic Jews who follow the practices of the Arizal[22], who have the custom to wear both Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin simultaneously, in which case each set is made exceptionally small.[23]One should not switch Tefillin during the course of the Shacharit prayers.[24] Many authorities advise that one who is not married should not wear the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam.[25]

Most Chassidim have the custom to begin wearing the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam only after marriage, as these Tefillin are deemed too sacred to be worn by young men,[26] though there are Chassidim who begin wearing them from their Bar-Mitzva. Most other communities are not particular concerning the wearing of Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin, considering it a chumra reserved for only the most pious. Those who wear Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin should endeavor to study Torah while doing so, as it is a segula for wisdom and retention.[27] The Chafetz Chaim only began wearing Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin later in life after he had moved to a Chassidic community which wore Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin not out of minhag, or even chumra, but out of basic halachic requirements.[28]The Vilna Gaon himself was not in favor of wearing Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin as he felt that if one was going to attempt to fulfill the mitzva of Tefillin according to every possible opinion one would have to wear at least 64 pairs of Tefillin each day.[29]

NEXT WEEK: “The Fast of Esther”. Please send me your lesser-known and obscure sources as well as anecdotes for inclusion. I truly thank and appreciate all those who sent me tidbits in preparation for this article. [email protected]


[1] Rashi;Menachot 34b
[2] Shemot 13:9
[3] Shemot 13:6
[4] Devarim 6:8
[5] Devarim 11:18
[6] Menachot 34b, Rambam Tefillin 2:1, O.C. 32:2,45
[7] Rashi;Menachot 34b
[8] From left to right on the wearer: Kadesh, V’haya Ki Yeviacha, Shema, V’haya Im Shamoa
[9] Tosfot;Menachot 34b
[10] From left to right on the wearer: Kadesh, V’haya Ki Yeviacha, V’haya Im Shamoa, Shema. It is interesting to note that although Rabbeinu Tam arranges the parshiot in a manner not consistent with the order they appear in the Torah, he does insist however that when a scribe sits down to write the parshiot they must be written in the order they appear in the Torah. See Rema O.C. 32:1
[11] Those who agreed with Rashi: Mechilta Bo, Rambam, Ramban, Rabbeinu Yona, Rashba, Shibbolei Haleket, and the Rosh, among others. Those who agreed with Rabbeinu Tam include: Rabbi Sa’adia Gaon, Sherira Gaon, Rabbeinu Chananel, and the Ra
vaad, among others.
[12] Sha’ar Hakavanot;Tefillin;6. There was a statement in Baer Heitev Hayeshanim (cited in Mishmeret Shalom 4) that a person who does not put on the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam falls into the category of “a head that has not put on Tefillin.” Nevertheless, Rabbi Schneur Zalman writes in his Siddur that wearing Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin is a stringency beyond the required Halacha. See: http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/proceeding-together-1/02.htm#n32
[13] Some authorities actually write that a blessing should be recited over the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam: Atzei Eden;Menachot 4. The author of Matzat Shimurim holds that the same applies to the Tefillin of Shimusha Rabba. See also Torah Or, Shemot 52b
[14] Divrei Shaul to Megilla 16b, cited in Tefillin, by Rabbi Tzvi Cohen
[15] Rambam Tefillin 1:1,3:5, O.C. 32:1,34:1
[16] Tur O.C. 34, O.C. 34:2, Igrot Moshe O.C. 1:13, 4:9
[17] O.C. 34:3
[18] O.C. 34:4
[19] Keset Hasofer 26
[20] O.C. 34:2, Mishna Berura 34:14,15
[21] Pri Megadim Eishel Avraham 25:6
[22] Sha’ar Hakavanot;Tefillin 6
[23] O.C. 34:2, Ben Ish Chai Vayera 1:21. See Yabia Omer 1:3 who opposes this practice and Yaskil Avdi O.C. 8:22 who justifies it. Eruvin 95b
[24] Pri Megadim M.Z. 34:2
[25] Minhag Yisrael Torah 34:2
[26] Ot Chaim 34:10
[27] Bnei Yissaschar Iyar:1
[28] “Tefillin” by Rabbi Tzvi Cohen, Chapter 27, See footnote 12.
[29] Not only does there exist a dispute as to the order of the parchments, but there are disputes concerning the angle in which the parchments are to be laid, which side of the parchment the parshiot are to be written, the sewing arrangement, and more.

About Ari Enkin

Rabbi Ari N. Enkin, a resident of Ramat Beit Shemesh, is a researcher and writer of contemporary halachic issues. He is the author of the “Dalet Amot of Halacha” series (8 volumes), Rabbinic Director of United with Israel and a RA"M at a number of yeshivot. www.rabbienkin.com


  1. re: note 13
    Blessing for Rabbeinu Tam

    Perhaps it is for this reason Chabad custom is not to pause with any talking between Rashi and Rabeinu Tam is so that the Bracha that was said on Rashi carries over to Rabeinu Tam.

    I don’t recall the source, but am I correct that if one has only Rabbeinu Tam tefillin he does make a bracha?

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