#19. Phylacteries (T'Fillin) - Head.
#20. Phylacteries (T'Fillin) - Arm.
#21. Mezuzah on the Doorpost.
Jewish law demands that, during certain prayers and services, men wear actual phylacteries, of a specific type, shape, construction. Any man who does not wear these specific phylacteries during particular prayers or services will likely be excluded from, or asked to leave, an orthodox Jewish synagogue. Furthermore, some Sages believe the Shema, that most important commanded prayer, is not accepted by God unless one wears these specific phylacteries while praying.
Conversely, the great rabbinic scholar, Rashbam, grandson of the great Sage Rashi, asserted that the commandments do not demand one wear actual phylacteries, that they are figurative or metaphoric. For one thing, Torah does not include any specifics regarding the type, shape, construction, or other rules concerning any particular phylacteries. For another thing, the Sadducees apparently did not wear phylacteries.
Does this mean we can wing it? If we do, we should not expect to be accepted by the Jewish community. If you were to wear, for example, amulets instead of phylacteries, you would be shunned and likely branded a pagan.
Even though there are no Torah instructions for the construction and use of phylacteries, why not follow what is already established? Is it so difficult to do? Technically, that is not an argument. For there are many things not difficult which, in aggregate, weigh down a man's faith, delight, and energy. Why burden a Jew one iota further than necessary? Are not the commandments time-consuming enough? Why ask for even more?
Did God make a mistake? Why add to Torah, when Torah commands not to add?
Going further, requiring phylacteries as a sign of great piety is like mandating a Jew preen like a peacock with feathers. Jesus noted that some of the Pharisees wore very broad phylacteries, to show they were more pious, more righteous, or, bluntly, more powerful than everyone else. Such strutting about is certainly not the reason for the commandment, or for the whimsical creation called phylacteries. The reason for the commandment is to remember the commandments!
How is the commandment fulfilled without wearing phylacteries? Since the phylactery boxes contain miniature parchments of Torah, the box on the forehead signifies Torah in the mind. Therefore, to think constantly about Torah, the objective of the commandment, fulfills that part of the commandment. The box on the arm signifies Torah action. Therefore, to refrain from transgressing Torah, and to fulfill commandments, fulfills that part of the commandment. Is this what it means to "bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead"?
Is anyone more likely to think about or perform Torah, or refrain from sin, by wearing boxes? Possibly. However, wearing boxes does not substitute for living a Torah life, it only puts forward an image of it.
Jewish law also demands mezuzah be affixed to the doorposts and gates of every Jewish home. There are many rules for mezuzah (SEE here), but what minimum does Torah command?
What is a mezuzah? Is it the familiar metallic object which contains a Torah scroll or parchment, or can a substitute be used? Why would you want to use a substitute?
Is it truly every gate and doorpost of the house which requires a mezuzah, or is one or two sufficient?
In any case, once accomplished, the mezuzah requires very little attention or maintenance. It is not a hardship.
The mezuzah is also not a point of vanity or superiority. No one wears a mezuzah, and no one boasts of their mezuzah. Unlike phylacteries, mezuzah are not generally associated with sinat himan.
Much more in today's lesson.
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