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Tefillin are two leather boxes containing hand-written inscriptions from the Torah (Jewish sacred writings) that are worn by observant Jewish men across the arms and forehead. Tefillin represent an important religious commitment and relationship for Jewish men, and wearing tefillin is one of the first mitzvot commandments that a Jewish boy partakes in.

Origins and Significance of Tefillin

The word tefillin is related to the word tefilah meaning prayer. Binding teffillin on the head and arms are two mitzvot, or commandments, practiced primarily by Jewish men. They are one of several symbols commemorating the Covenant between God and the individual, and function as a reminder of one�s constant obligation and dedication to God.

The mitzvot of the tefillin are found in four passages of the Torah including Deuteronomy, 6:4-8:

    "And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be an ornament for your head between your eyes"

The four biblical passages describing the tefillin mitzvot are stored in individual compartments on the headpiece, and all four are contained on a single parchment and stored together in the hand piece.

Wearing Tefillin

The scrolls of the tefillin are worn at the biceps, and leather straps attached to the boxes are wrapped along the arms extending to the hands. Another case is tied along the head with leather straps that hang down over the shoulders.

Tefillin are worn during weekday Morning Prayer services, during which time appropriate blessings are recited. The tefillin are removed at the end of the service. Tefillin function as daily reminders of the Covenant for an individual. For this reason, tefillin are not worn on Jewish holidays or on the Sabbath, as these days already function to commemorate the same religious bond between God and the individual.

Other symbols commemorating the Covenant include the mezuzah, which is attached to doorways and contains sacred scrolls, and the tzitzit which are fringes worn on the edge of garments.

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