Friday, January 22, 2010

The phylacteries or Tefillin

The phylacteries or TefillinTitle: Descriptive catalogue of a collection of objects of Jewish ceremonial deposited in the U.S. National Museum by Hadji Ephraim Benguiat. Authors: Cyrus Adler, Immanuel Moses Casanowicz. Publisher: Govt. Print. Off., 1901. Original from: Harvard University. Digitized: Jul 11, 2008. Length: 23 pages
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Phylacteries (feßliri).— (Plate 11, fig. 1, U.S.N.M. No. 154583.) The phylacteries, or Tefillin, are two square boxes of parchment. The boxes are fastened to a kind of a base made of thick parchment with a loop on one side, so as to let a narrow leather strap pass through (Plate 10, fig. 1). Into these boxes are inserted the following passages from the Pentateuch, written on strips of parchment: Exodus xiii, 1-10; Exodus xiii, 11-16; Deuteronomy vi, 4-9, and Deuteronomy xi, 13-21. By means of the straps the boxea are bound around the arm and head and worn by all male Jews who have attained religious majority—i. e., passed the thirteenth year of age—during morning prayers of week days; hence their Hebrew name ttffllin, from tefillah, prayer. The name phylacteries is derived from the Greek (frvkaiKTripia (phylacteria), which is used in the New Testament,1 meaning, properly, things that guard—i. e., amulets, talismans, which the Jewish tefittin are not. The New Testament name may be based upon an external resemblance between the fafillin and the Greek phylacterin. The obligation to wear tiffillin is derived from the command included in the extracts mentioned above: "And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand and for frontlets between your eyes.""

The teßlla for the head is embossed on two sides of the exterior with the Hebrew letter W nJiin. (sh), and inside is divided into four compartments, in each of which one of the four extracts from the Pentateuch is put, and the strap is tied at such a distance as to fit the head of the wearer, forming a knot shaped in the form of the Hebrew "1 daleth (d). The tefilla for the hand or arm has no letter impressed on the outside and no divisions inside, and the four passages it contains are written continuously on one strip of parchment. One end of the strap is made into a small noose, with a knot resembling the Hebrew > yod (y or i). The three letters thus exhibited on the outside of the tefillin constitute the Hebrew name of God ч*тФ Shaddai, rendered by the English versions: "Almighty."3 The materials used in making the tefittin must come from a clean animal, and the extracts from the Pen tateuch are written in the same manner as the Torah scroll.

In " laying the teflllm" (hanohath tefill/n) that of the arm is put on first. The box is fastened on the naked left arm above the elbow, and the strap is wound seven times around the arm below the elbow. Then that of the head is put on so that the box comes to rest on the forehead below the hair and between the eyes, the knot being at the root of the neck, while the ends of the ¡strap pass over the shoulders and hang down on either side, Next, the end of the strap of the tenUo of the arm is wound thrice around the middle ringer and around the hand. Each of these performances is accompanied by appropriate benedictions and the recitation of passages from the Scriptures. In taking off the Tefillin that of the head is removed first, then that of the arm. The straps are folded around the bases (Plate 10, fig. 2), and the Tefillin are reverently put into a bag, which is sometimes included in another, so that the sacred objects may be more carefully protected.

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