A Homily About Bar Mitzvah and Tefilin
Parents teach their children central concepts of Judaism on Passover during the Seder as well as every other day of the year. These concepts include the exodus from Egypt, that The Holy One Blessed Be He has the power and governance above and below to do as he pleases, the Unity of G-d and reward and punishment and more. After many years of Jewish Education when a lad reaches the age to follow Mitzvot the father symbolically ties these concepts on the child’s arm so that the concepts go into his heart and on his head so that these concepts permeate into his mind.
1.In the Mechilta what Pasuk teaches us that a father should get Tefillin for a son who knows how to care for them?
Mechilta – “You will keep this decree at its set time” why is this stated? Since it says “You will have a frontlet on your forehead” I would think that even children need to be included in the mitzvah to don Tefillin. Additionally, Mezuzah is a positive commandment just like Tefillin is a positive commandment. Children as well as adults perform the mitzvah of Mezuzah, therefore, one would think that Tefillin also needs to be donned by children just like adults. That is why the pasuk states “You will keep this decree” it only refers to a person who is responsible enough to keep Tefillin. From this they have stated, a child who is responsible enough to keep Tefillin should have a pair of Tefillin made for him.
2.According to Rashi, why does the pasuk state both with all your soul בכל נפשך and with all your might בכל מאדך ?
3.According to Ibn Shu’ib how do we follow the commandment of serving G-d with all of our might?
Rashi Devarim 6 – 5 -With all your heart, with you two inclinations, Yetzer Hatov and Yetzer Harah. Another explanation of “With all your heart,” that your heart should not be at variance with G-d. “With all your soul,” even if he takes your life. “With all your might,” with all of your property. There are people whose property is dearer than their lives therefore the pasuk states with all your might to include your property….
Ibn Shu’ib – This is paragraph [of Shma Yisrael] needs to be written and posted to the doorposts of ones home . This is because the home represents a persons property. Through posting the Mezuzah one follows the command to love G-d with all of his might. R. Joshua ibn Shu’ib was a student of R. Shlomo ibn Aderet (Rashba), a colleague of R. Yom Tov ibn Abraham Ishbili (Ritva), and the teacher of R. Menachem ben Zerach. R. Joshua lived in Spain ca. 1280-1340. His homilies (Derashot) were arranged according to the weekly Torah portions and the Torah readings for the Jewish holidays.
4.According to Shulcha Aruch what does one need to think about when accepting the yoke of heaven when donning Tefilin or saying Shema Yisrael? How does this reduce his pleasures?
Shulchan Aruch 25 – When donning Tefillin one should contemplate on the four paragraphs in the Tefillin that discuss 1 the unity of the Name of G-d 2 the Exodus from Egypt tied to the arm facing the heart and on the head near the brain so that we will 3 remember miracles and great events that He did for us that demonstrate his Unity, 4 That He has the power of strength and rule in the heavens above and below to totally do as he pleases. 5 He should dedicate all of the capabilities of his soul, which is in the brain and facing the heart, which contains the desires and thoughts. Through this he will remember his creator and reduce his pleasures (Rabienu Yona on Brachot 14 “Harotzeh Lekabel Alav”(
5.What kind of pen is used to write Sifrey Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzot? What moral lesson do we learn from this?
Kalah rabati 7 –1 also Taanit 19 . Always be dignified on entering and leaving. Be submissive to the members of your household; engage but little in worldly affairs and occupy yourself with the study of the Torah. It is reported’ of R. Shimon ben Eleazar that once, on returning from the house of his teacher in Migdal Gedor,’ he was riding on an ass along the sea-shore when he met an ugly man. He said to him, `How ugly you are! Maybe all your fellow-citizens are as ugly as you are’. Whereupon the man replied, `Go [and tell this] to the Craftsman Who made me’. When R. Shimon realized that he had done wrong, he got off of his ass and prostrated himself before him saying, `I beg your pardon, forgive me’. `By the Temple Service,” the man replied, `I will not forgive you until you go and tell the Craftsman Who made me, “How ugly is the vessel which You have made!”‘ R. Shimon followed him for three mil; his fellow townsmen met him, having gone out to meet him, and exclaimed, `Peace be upon you, master’. The man turned back to them and asked, `Who is he [whom you call] Rabbi?’ They replied, `He who is following behind you’. Whereupon he remarked, `If he is a Rabbi, may there be no more like him in Israel’. His disciples by whom he was beloved rebuked the man and asked him, `What has he done to you?’ He replied, `Thus has he done to me’. They said to him, `Nevertheless forgive him’. That day R. Shimon ben Eleazar sat in his big study hall and discussed: Be tender like the reed and do not be hard like the cedar. When the four winds of heaven blow, the reed bends with them, and when they subside, the reed remains standing in its place. Therefore the reed merited that Kulmus Pens should be made with them in order to write words of Torah. Not so the cedar: when the South / North wind blows, it overturns and uproots it. And what is the end of the cedar? Woodcutters come and cut it tile houses with it, and its cuttings they burn in the fire.