BOUND BY G-D
Almost immediately after the exodus, Hashem commanded the Jewish people to commemorate the exodus by wearing Tefillin, which contain passages referring to the exodus in them.
Almost immediately after the exodus, Hashem commanded the Jewish people to commemorate the exodus by wearing Tefillin, which contain passages referring to the exodus in them. The Ramban, one of the leading Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, explains that by recalling the exodus, Tefillin serve as a sign of G-d's sovereignty and the fundamentals of Jewish faith are embodied in them.
The Torah gives us a reason for the mitzvah of Tefillin: "In order that the Torah of Hashem should be in your mouth" (Exodus 13:9). The Chofetz Chaim, a foremost leader of Jewry at the turn of the century, says that this implies that Tefillin are a prerequisite for the acquisition of the Torah. What is the connection between the Torah and Tefillin which signify the fundamentals of Jewish faith?
Rabbi Leon Mozeson, a noted author and student of the late Rav Yoseph Dov Soloveitchik, asks another question relating to Tefillin: How can Tefillin, which are to be worn on the weaker arm, symbolize the exodus which G-d executed "with a strong arm"? Rabbi Mozeson proposes that it may mean that during the exodus, G-d liberated the Jewish slave whose weaker arm was probably shackled to prevent his escaping, while his strong arm was left free to do work.
This idea can be taken further to answer our question. G-d's purpose in taking the Jewish people out of Egypt was not to free them from Egyptian servitude just to make them free. The purpose of the exodus was instead to give the Jewish people the Torah, our guidebook for life, thereby making us G-d's nation. It is through the exodus and the subsequent giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai that we left Egyptian servitude and, subsequently, entered into servitude of G-d.
Our sages teach that a Jew is only truly free if he follows the Torah. Perhaps this is what the Chofetz Chaim meant. Tefillin are the prerequisite to Torah because our relationship with the Torah must be understood within the context of what Tefillin represent the weakness of the Jew without Torah. The Torah is not a work of literature to be studied the way one would study Shakespeare. Nor is it simply a legal document to be dissected by the codifiers of Jewish law. It is, instead, the very essence of Jewish existence an existence which started at the time of the exodus. Without the Torah, we are a weak nation. May we merit to not only study much Torah, but to approach our Torah studies with the lesson of Tefillin in our conscience.
Dov Kroopnik is studying the philosophy, science, and art of Chiropractic at Life University in Atlanta.
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