Our Tefillin contain four passages from the Torah. The first two are taken from the Shema, like a Mezuzah. The other two are from this week’s Parsha – Bo. They are from the seventh Aliyah – Chapters 13:1–10 and 13:11-16. They are included in our Tefillin because the Mitzvah of donning Tefillin is mentioned in these pesukim.
When reviewing the Parsha, some questions about the Mitzvah of Tefillin come to mind:
1. Why are Tefillin boxes placed only on our upper arm, above the elbow and on our heads? Why not on any other place on our bodies?
2. Why are we commanded to place Tefillin on our weak arms (the left for most) and not on our strong arms?
3. Why do we don the Tefillin for the arm first and take it off last?
The commentators all expound on these topics. The Rashbam explains that wearing Tefillin is like jotting an important note that you do not want to forget on your hand. You take it with you wherever you go as a reminder. So, too, Tefillin contain the abbreviated story of our Exodus from Egypt which demonstrates G-d’s eternal love for the Jewish people. It is this message that we carry with us in our Tefillin.
The Kli Yakar explains that since we live in a physical world, we are inclined to depend upon our physical strength to protect us. Therefore, the Torah commands us to wear Tefillin on our weak hand to teach that our physical strength is not what fortifies us; rather it is G-d that sustains us and fortifies us against our enemies.
Finally, our sages remark that there are three parts of the body that can lead one towards a misdeed: the heart, the mind, and ultimately the hands. While the heart can be led astray, and the mind can make bad choices, ultimately the hands commit the wrongdoing. Although we place Tefillin on our arms next to our hearts and on our head, the Kli Yakar states that we place the Tefillin on our arms first and take them off last.