The source for wearing Tefillin is found in the book of Exodus 13:9; “These words will be a sign on your arm and a reminder between your eyes, so that G-d’s Torah will be in your mouth; for G-d brought you out of Egypt with a strong arm.”

Two questions arise from this verse. Firstly, how are Tefillin and the Exodus connected? Secondly, how does wearing Tefillin cause Torah to be in our mouths?

Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel (at the time it was still under the British Mandate), was a renowned Torah scholar and is recognized as one of the most influential thinkers in religious Zionism. His works are studied widely to this day especially among the religious Zionist camp in Judaism. The following is his explanation for the two questions presented above.

On the surface, the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt can be regarded as a one-off event. An event that was truly miraculous and may therefore be etched always in our national memory. However, the Exodus is actually an on-going process. The miracles performed by G-d openly at the Exodus revealed G-d’s light in the world in a way that is still affecting the world today.

“G-d brought you out of Egypt with a strong arm”- the word for arm in Hebrew, Zero’a is rooted in the Hebrew word zera which means seed. This demonstrates how the revelation at Egypt was a divine seed planted then yet still flowering until this day. As one wraps the Tefillin around the arm, one is reminded of the G-d that is found within that continues to develop and elevate the world around, striving towards the divine perfection.

There is a second metaphor used in the Torah to describe the Exodus from Egypt, “yad chazakah”- G-d’s strong arm. The Jewish people’s liberation from the forty-ninth level of impurity in Egypt required G-d’s  strong arm- no divine messenger could be used in this case- G-d’s mighty arm had to pull us out of the deep darkness. When fastening the Tefillin to one’s arm and head one is enabled to transform baseness into something that is strong, vital and beautifully holy.

In the same way that G-d uprooted us from our contamination in Egypt we need to make intense daily efforts to ensure that His Torah is what is guiding our actions and thoughts.

If we truly take a few moments each day before putting on Tefillin to focus on these messages, our performance of this commandment can be transformed from a daily, mindless, almost-second-nature kind of act to an uplifting and empowering experience.

Adapted from



The Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson lived from 1902 to 1994 and was the seventh leader in the Chabad-Lubavitch dynasty. He was an incredible Jewish personality who had thousands of followers and admirers world-wide. He used to receive people from all walks of life into his study to listen, advise and direct. The following is an interesting story of a conversation he had with Professor Avraham Polichenco which provides a unique take on Tefillin and their relevance in our lives today.

In the early sixties the “mainframe computers” were making their first appearances in businesses.  Professor Avraham Polichenco was a professor of computer science who introduced computers to Argentina. This pioneer was fortunate enough to visit the luminary Lubavitcher Rebbe and engage in conversation with him. In one of their conversations the professor asked the Rebbe the following:

“I know that everything that exists in the world, even something that we discover later in history, has its source somewhere in the Torah. So, where are there computers in the Torah?”

What was the Rebbe’s response? “Tefillin.” His answer baffled the professor so the Rebbe continued to explain. The Rebbe told the professor that there is nothing new about the computer. If one walks into a room with a computer one can simply see a variety of familiar machines such as a typewriter, tape recorder, calculator etc that are simply all connected by the cables running under the floorboards. Those cables enable the machines to run in unison.

Suddenly the professor understood and nodded excitedly. He had never thought of it in such terms but actually the Rebbe was right. A computer is simply an amalgamation of media and processing instruments!

The Rebbe continued to elucidate. He explained how the human being is made up of three separate entities- the mind, heart and hands. The role of the Tefillin is to connect these three “machines” first thing in the morning via it’s leather “cables”. Through the act of putting on Tefillin, one enables all three to work towards one goal. After putting on Tefillin in the morning, one is ready to face the world as a harmonized being working in perfect coordination.

Adapted from an essay by Rabbi Tzvi Freeman from

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