The Kotel: Putting on and wearing Tefillin…

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When heading to the men’s area of the Kotel, members of the Lubovitch sect of Hassidism, will stop and ask if you want to put on tefillin before heading to the wall to pray. The tefillin consist of two black leather boxes and straps to hold them on. One is worn on the biceps, and its strap, which is tied with a special knot, is wound by the wearer seven times around the forearm and hand—on the left arm for right-handed people and on the right for those who are left-handed. The second box is worn on the forehead at the hairline, with its straps going around the back of the head, connected at the top of the neck with a special knot, and hanging in front on each side.

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Four passages in the Torah call upon the Israelites to keep God’s words in mind by “bind  them as a sign upon  hands and making them totafot between eyes.” Tefillin, as ordained by the rabbinic leaders of classical Judaism, are intended to fulfill that commandment. Inside the tefillin are handwritten parchments with texts from the four passages mentioned earlier.

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Tefillin are worn during morning services except on Shabbat or festivals. Most men wear tefillin in Orthodox and Conservative congregations, as do some women in Conservative congregations. The use of tefillin is less prominent in Reform and Reconstructionist congregations by both men and women. Inside the tefillin are handwritten parchments with texts from the four passages mentioned above. At the Kotel I guess about 30% of the men praying wore tefillin.

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