Bo – Importance of Tefillin
Perashat Bo – Importance of Tefillin
Why is the Mitzvah of putting on Tefillin viewed as being so important? During a Bar Mitzvah
it is a central part of the celebration. What is the purpose of donning Tefillin?
At the end of this weeks Perasha we find two of the four paragraphs which we write on
parchment and put into sturdy leather boxes which we call Tefillin. In its Tefillin oriented
commandment the first of these paragraphs uses a different syntax than the others.
It should a be sign for you on your hand and a remembrance between your eyes,
so that the teachings of G-d will be in your mouth since with a mighty hand
G-d took you out of Egypt.
Our rabbis of blessed memory have said that the Mitzvah of Tefilin is equal to the entire
Torah. (Torah Shelema) I believe that this Mitzvah is similar to tying a thread around your finger to remember
something. By donning Tefillin we should remember the concepts which we learn from the
Torah. A person who wears Tefillin should find it difficult to steal, yell at his mother, or think
licentious thoughts all of which are forbidden and are especially mentioned with regards to
In the Torah is a story about the first man who violated Shabat. There e is a Midrash
which remarks that Moshe Rabbienu said to G-d that the man sinned because it was Shabbat
when it is forbidden to wear Tefillin. He had no reminder of G-d’s presence. Under an Ideal situation
which has not yet occurred in Jewish History it is best to wear Tefillin all day. Some have said that
this applies more to those who are working than those who are immersed in Torah Study.
Some might say that it is childish to require a constant reminder but for busy people like ourselves we need secretaries
and all types of electronic gadgetry to remind us of what we need to do.
The concepts which are written on the parchments of the Tefillin discuss many topics
which are central to a Torah lifestyle. A central theme in the first two paragraphs (in our Perashsa)
is the final plague of the death of all of the firstborn which included man and beast. It is pointed
out that since the Jewish firstborn were spared they must be redeemed from the sanctity which
was then given to them. This demonstrates to us the greatness of G-d who differentiated between
Jewish households and Egyptians, he knew which of a set of twins was firstborn and which
animal was a firstborn. We use this to demonstrate G-d’s providence. G-d can guide us and
intervene in any of our plans. Additionally, we see this providence in the Tefillin with a mention
of G-d’s removing us from slavery in Egypt.
Concepts involving Passover and education of children are also mentioned several times.
On Passover we have a special Mitzvoth to tell our children how we were released from bondage
in Egypt. Indeed, the subject of education, both for us and our children is recurrent many times
in all four paragraphs. Knowledge of the Mitzvoth and all of the concepts in the Torah should be
a fundamental part of all of our lives. I have been known to say that Judaism does not thrive
The other two paragraphs inside the Tefillin are from the Shemah Yisrael. In these paragraphs
we meet up with concepts of monotheism, love of G-d, education for all, writing Mezuzot, the
tremendous rewards in store for us if we love G-d and follow the Torah, the punishment if we
don’t, and many more.
For those who don Tefillin and think about these concepts it is considered that he was
busy studying Torah. (Mechilta)