Tefillin: Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad

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By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

In addition to the Tefillin of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam (which was discussed here: link), there are in fact two additional types of Tefillin that are somewhat rare. These are the Tefillin known as “Shimusha Rabba”[1] and “Ra’avad”. The former are what can be called the mirror image of the Rashi Tefillin, while the latter mirror the Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin.[2] Although there are actually scores of opinions on how Tefillin should be prepared, there are generally only four types of Tefillin which are worn today. The commentators teach that the Hebrew words of the verse “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace”, refer to these four types of Tefillin.[3] It is interesting to note that according to Torah law there may be no true obligation to wear Tefillin every single day, though of course, doing so has become normative practice.[4]

As is the case with Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin, the issues surrounding Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad Tefillin concerns the order of the parshiot, though there are also some subtle differences in the style of writing used in Shimusha Rabba Tefillin.[5] The Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad Tefillin are essentially unrelated to any practical halachic disputes and are only intended for those individuals attracted to mystical practices. Wearing these Tefillin also requires one to be exceptionally pure in both mind and body.[6] Only the most pious individuals wear these Tefillin. It is reported that when Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson had encouraged his son-in-law Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson to begin wearing all four pairs of Tefillin he told him that it should remain a secret.[7]

It is taught that the Tefillin of Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad relate to a higher level of Divinity than those of Rashi or even of Rabbeinu Tam.[8] The Tefillin of Rashi relate to a level of Divinity known as “Mochin D’imma” in Kabalistic literature while the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam relate to a level known as “Mochin D’abba”. The Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad Tefillin relate to the highest level of Divinity known as “Keter”. It is for this reason that a blessing is only recited when putting on Rashi Tefillin.[9] The great spiritual energies that are aroused when wearing the other pairs of Tefillin transcend the need for a blessing to be recited upon them.

Not everyone who wears the Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad Tefillin does so with a complete set. For example, the Rebbes of Chabad advise that those who choose to wear Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad Tefillin merely use the shel-rosh of these sets. According to this approach, one wears the Rashi Tefillin for the entire Shacharit service. Following Shacharit, one removes only the shel-rosh of the Rashi Tefillin and replaces it with the shel-rosh of the Shimusha Rabba Tefillin. The Shema should be recited at this time. Afterwards, one puts on the Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin and again recites the Shema. Finally, the head piece of the Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin is removed and replaced with the shel-rosh of the Ra’avad Tefillin and the Shema is recited once more.[10] There are a number of other suggested readings one can undertake while wearing the different sets of Tefillin as well.

In some circles the custom is to wear the Tefillin of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam at Shacharit and the Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad Tefillin at Mincha. The Shimusha Rabba Tefillin are always made exceptionally large in order to comply with his view that the Tefillin boxes must be a minimum size of two fingers by two fingers. It is interesting to note that according to some opinions there is actually no difference between Rashi and Shimusha Rabba Tefillin other than the size of the Tefillin boxes. According to this approach, the order of the parshiot is identical.[11] It is for this reason that some individuals use very large boxes for the Rashi Tefillin. In this way one is able to accommodate both the view of Rashi and Shimusha Rabba at once according to the view that the only difference between them is the size of the boxes.


[1] Some the halachot as to the writing and placement of Shimusha Rabba Tefillin can be found in the Halachot Ketanot of the Rosh in the back of Masechet Menachot as well as in Ot Chaim 34.

[2] The order of Shimusha Rabba Tefillin is: V’haya Im Shamoa, Shema, V’haya Ki Yeviacha, Kadesh. The order of Ra’avad Tefillin is: Shema, V’haya Im Shamoa, V’haya Ki Yeviacha, Kadesh

[3] Tehillim 37:37, Pri Etz Chaim, Sha’ar Hatefillin 10

[4] Teshuvot V’hanhagot 2:7

[5] Orchot Chaim 34:2, cited in Ta’amei Haminhagim

[6] See Igrot Harames, sec. 5: “The Tefillin of Shimusha Rabba… require an untainted body, and pure and clean thoughts.” R. Menachem Azariah of Fano writes in his Responsa that “these Tefillin plumb such deep mysteries that permission was barely granted to use them.” Accordingly, as Ot Chaim (sec. 34) writes at length, most people do not put them on. The author of Emek Hamelech writes in Sha’ar Kiryat Arba. 68: “There is no one who can put on those Tefillin, which relate to [the transcendent level of Divinity known as] Arich, and which are arranged according to the teachings of the author of Shimusha Rabba… no man can put them on.” Cited at: http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/proceeding-together-1/02.htm

[7] It is well known that all the Rebbes of Chabad wore four pairs of Tefillin regularly. In this case, however, Rabbi Menachem Mendel was being told to begin wearing all fours pairs of Tefillin long before he was to become the Rebbe of Chabad. It is believed that Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak’s directive was a hint that Rabbi Menachem Mendel would be the next Rebbe of Chabad.

[8] Cited at: http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/proceeding-together-1/02.htm#n32

[9] The Atzei Eden on Menachot chapter. 4 writes that a beracha should be pronounced over the Tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam when they are being used alone. The author of Matzat Shimurim holds that the same applies to the Tefillin of Shimusha Rabba. There are also views cited in Ta’amei Haminhagim that one could recite a blessing over Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin. See also Torah Or, Shemot 52b

[10] Hayom Yom, p. 80; see also Likutei Sichot, Vol. II, p. 507ff.

[11] Piskei Teshuvot 34:1 n.8. According to Sefer Ma’amar Mordechai, cited in Ta’amei Haminhagim, this is the only difference between Shimusha Rabba and Rashi Tefillin. It is recorded that this was the opinion of the Ari, as well.

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

39 comments

  1. lawrence.kaplan

    Re the text supposedly documented in note 7 “It is reported” by whom? This seems the sheerest historical revisionism.

  2. R’ Lawrence-

    This “is reported”/circulates among the older Chassidim of Chabad. Folklore, if you will.

    Ari Enkin

  3. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Psalms 37:37 is my back-of-the-Artscroll-siddur name-passuk!

    Help me out here please, is this correct?

    “Shmar tam” — easy, Rabbeinu Tam.
    “Ur’ay yashar” — Rashi’s style is straight, textual order.
    “Ki acharis” — Shimusha rabba starts with “acharis”, v’haya im shamoa is textually last.
    “L’ish Shalom” — Raavad, by process of elimination; but why?

  4. Shalom Rosenfeld

    “The great spiritual energies that are aroused when wearing the other pairs of Tefillin transcend the need for a blessing to be recited upon them.”

    The Litvak in me is tearing kriya.

  5. Actually, there *are* many other types of tefillin worn, namely, Sephardi, Yemenite, etc. etc.

  6. Nachum –

    Yes, but they too are either “Rashi”, “Rabbeinu Tam”, etc.

    Ari

  7. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Um okay,

    Shmar Tam — Rabbeinu Tam
    Ur’ay yashar — Rashi
    (so far so good)

    Ki acharis — (sefer didn’t say)

    L’ish Shalom — Shimusha rabba, as it’s attributed to Rav Sar Shalom.

    By elimination, “ki acharis” is Raavad … because um … it’s backwards Rabbeinu Tam? ??? Help?

  8. Shalom Rosenfeld

    R’ Joel,

    “a new market niche?”

    No no you got it all wrong. Pay the right tzedaka $180 (or $160 with groupon), and they’ll have tzadikim put on 64 sets on your behalf.

    I especially like how Tu B’Av went from “girls, go out and dance and tell guys why you’re worth it” to “pay a tzadik to daven for you, segulah bucks.”

  9. Re: wearing Rashi tefilin on the hand and another type on the head, the shitah mekubetzes on the daf in menachos cites the view to wear Rashi tefilin for the shel yad and Rabeinu Tam for the shel Rosh.

  10. “I especially like how Tu B’Av went from “girls, go out and dance and tell guys why you’re worth it” to “pay a tzadik to daven for you, segulah bucks.””

    I especially like how Tu B’Av went from “girls, go out and dance and tell guys why you’re worth it” to “women-only dance event in Shilo.”

  11. >“L’ish Shalom” — Raavad, by process of elimination; but why?

    Irony. (Hasagos ha-Raavad.)

  12. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Anon 11:30,

    That thought had occurred to me, Raavad as “ish shalom.”

    Pardon my amaratzus, is the Tefilin-Raavad the Rambam’s Raavad (I think known as “Raavad III”, wait was that the one where he fights Nuclear Man?), or a different rishon known as Raavad?

  13. The Rambam’s Raavad. Tefillin 3:5.

    The first Raavad was more of a historian and a philosopher than a halachist. The second one was the Eshkol, so presumably people would call it that if this is the source.

  14. Skeptic-

    You are right. The citation is not accurate. I an often unable to read my own writing.

    It should read 2:30.

    Ari Enkin

  15. I love how the Pri Etz Chayim becomes “THE commentators”.

  16. It’s better than “the seforim.”

    Or maybe its not.

  17. “It is interesting to note that according to Torah law there may be no true obligation to wear Tefillin every single day, though of course, doing so has become normative practice.”

    What do you mean by that? I don’t see anything similar in the mentioned source.

  18. It would be good if you corrected the citation in the post in order to avoid more questions like Shimon S.’s

  19. Skeptic, I’m talking about TvH 2:30…

  20. R’ Enkin, I note that you premise your post by assuming that the order of parshiot in the Shimushei Rabba differs from that described in peirush Rashi in Menachot 36b. Only in the last paragraph do you mention that some consider the order to be the same (including the Ari). Actually, this view comes from the evident reading of the Tosafot Vehakoreh on that page. The Tosafot author concludes that the Shimushei Rabbah order follows that of Rashi. The question of whether the order is that associated with Rashi (the order in the torah) or its mirror image is dependent on how the sofer holds the bayit when he inserts the parshiot into consecutive compartments. The Shimushei Rabbah was an authoritative Ashkenazi work prior to Rashi, and it is likely that both followed the order prescribed by ancient Ashkenazi tradition. That tradition presumably stems from Italy which witnessed the emigration of rabbinic notables to Ashkenaz during the reign of Charlemagne. The Italian tradition then stems from Judea since Jews came to Italy from Judea during Roman times. The Kesef Mishne’s commentary on the Rambam’s hilchot tefilin, cites a letter of the Rambam to the sages of Lunel (southern France) wherein he states that he too originally wore head tefilin with parshiot in the order prescribed by Rav Hai Gaon (also Rav Sherira Gaon – the so-called Rabbenu Tam order) since that was the practice in Moslem Spain as well as in southern France. However, he later became convinced by the sages in Israel when he visited there that the original order was the order of the parshiot in the torah (so-called Rashi tefilin). In practice, then, the Rambam ruled that the parshiot follow the order associated with Rashi. This order became nearly universally accepted given the ancient Ashkenazi tradition, the ruling of the Rambam, and the fact that Spanish sages became familiar with Ashkenazi sages and practice with the reconquest of Spain by Christians.

    The view of the Raavad is the mirror image of the so-called Rabbenu Tam order since he read the gemara according to the perspective of the right and left of the wearer. As support, he cited Rav Sherira Gaon’s dictum, the shins have to be adjacent. With his order the shin of ‘kadesh’ is next to the shin on the bayit to his right, while the shin of ‘shema’ is next to the one on his left. That may or may not have been the old tradition in southern France (Provence). However, Jewish scholarship there and their customs did not survive the persecutions during the Albigensian crusade against what the Catholic church considered a heretical sect.

  21. Sorry, Shimon S. — Make sure you are looking at the right tshuva — the whole thing discusses the Brisker Rav’s view that the mitzvah is constant but not dependent on the day and thus if he misses a few days (e.g. Chol haMoed) he can make up by wearing the tefillin longer on other days after Yom Tov.

  22. Thanks, I see it now. A Brisker chiddush indeed…

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20026&st=&pgnum=36

  23. “The great spiritual energies that are aroused when wearing the other pairs of Tefillin transcend the need for a blessing to be recited upon them.”

    Please. We don’t make a blessing on these because we rule like Rashi and Rambam.

  24. Reuven Margolis has some very interesting notes in Teshuvos MinHaShomayim on this issue. I recall that he quotes Gra who opines that we only wear Rashi tefillin because we would need 64 pairs to meet all the deos.

  25. “I recall that he quotes Gra who opines that we only wear Rashi tefillin because we would need 64 pairs to meet all the deos.”

    Not exactly. He held that Rashi’s order is the halacha. The 64 pairs were mentioned as one of the answers about not wearing “Rabbeinu Tam tefillin”.

  26. “It is taught that the Tefillin of Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad relate to a higher level of Divinity than those of Rashi or even of Rabbeinu Tam.[8]

    [8] Cited at: http://www.sichosinenglish.org/books/proceeding-together-1/02.htm#n32

    Give me a break. That is like quoting a Chabad source that those people who crush their hats into a triangle are of a higher level of Divinity then those that don’t.

    Wait! Is that not what they claim? That the original hat-crusher was divine. 😀

  27. To follow on my previous post: If a sect performs a specific act because they claim that the act is “of higher spirituality/divinity” does not make it valid. And quoting it gives it false legitimacy.

  28. “If a sect performs a specific act because they claim that the act is “of higher spirituality/divinity” does not make it valid.”

    I’m not sure what you mean. It is a basic modus operandi of the Safed school of kabbalah (and later of the Chassidic movement) to attach higher spiritual meaning to things that were previously done because of a safeik or were minhagim of unknown origin.

  29. Just to add:

    I heard the Re’eh Yashar is a hint to Rashi, as it is the same letters.. Yud, Shin, Reish = Reish, Shin, Yud

    For those interested, it is known that the Lubavitcher Rebbe instructed Rabbi Greenglass to use put the extra two Shimusha Raba and Raavad. He passed away this year at an advanced age. A rabbi at the Lubavitch Yeshiva in Montreal. He was deeply involved in the study of Chassidus and Kabbalah. The Rebbe is said to have referred to him endearingly as “my mekubal”. I think there were several other who were instructed in the four sets of tefillin as well, but I do not know who.

  30. Here the English translation for the hayom cited here:

    Those who daven with four pairs of tefillin follow this procedure:

    1. Put on Rashi hand – and head – tefillin before saying Chapter Eizehu (p. 23), and daven in them until after ach tzadikim… (p. 85).

    2. Remove the Rashi tefillin from the head and put on – without a b’racha – Shimusha Raba tefillin for the head. Recite sh’ma… until emet; then recite the daily portion of Tehillim (as the Tehillim is divided into the days of the month). The meticulous would study those chapters with the commentaries of Rashi and Metzudot.

    3. Then put on – without a b’racha – Rabeinu Tam tefillin,1 recite sh’ma… until emet, then chapter Kadeish… (p. 85) and the Remembrances printed in the Siddur (p. 86). Then study a chapter of Mishna, each according to his comprehension.

    4. Remove the Rabeinu Tam tefillin from the head and put on the Ra’avad tefillin for the head – without a b’racha. Recite sh’ma… until emet; study the day’s portion of Chumash with the commentary of Rashi – on Sunday (the first parsha) until sheini, Monday the second parsha, etc.

    FOOTNOTES
    1. It is critical to note that the Rebbe of righteous memory has instructed and requested all of Bar-mitzva age and older to regularly put on Rabeinu Tam tefillin. Viz. sichot of Purim 5736, Motza’ei Va’eira 5739, Pekudei 5741.

  31. Even telling gullible non-religious kids to buy a second pair, as I’ve witnessed.

  32. …..as a former Montrealer I am always lookign for Rav Greenglass stories. And I didnt know that one.

    Thanks!

    Ari Enkin

  33. …some really neat and eclectic comments this week!

    Ari Enkin

  34. B”SD

    “In some circles the custom is to wear the Tefillin of Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam at Shacharit and the Shimusha Rabba and Ra’avad Tefillin at Mincha”

    (1) Do they also merely use the shel-rosh of these sets during Mincha?

    (2) Isn’t it true that it is more common practice to use Shimusha Rabba shel-rosh ONLY on Mincha (and not Ra’avad at all)?

    Kol tuv

  35. Rav Avraham-

    1 – Those who do the shel yad of one and shel rosh of the other only do so at Shacharit. These people dont have any explicit minhag to wear any tefillin at mincha.

    2. I have never heard or seen ever using only a shel-rosh at any time for any type of tefillin. It is not logical for such a minhag to ever have been established.

    Ari Enkin

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