BOND, TEFILLIN BOND
Twice in this week's Torah portion, the daily mitzvah of tefillin is linked to the exodus from Egypt. First the Torah commands, "It shall be for you a sign on your arm and a reminder between your eyes. . .that Hashem removed you from Egypt" (Exodus 13:9).
Twice in this week's Torah portion, the daily mitzvah of tefillin is linked to the exodus from Egypt. First the Torah commands, "It shall be for you a sign on your arm and a reminder between your eyes. . .that Hashem removed you from Egypt" (Exodus 13:9). Several verses later, we again read: "It shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes, that with a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt" (ibid. 13:16).
What is the connection between the wearing of tefillin and the exodus from Egypt? Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, explains that it is the exodus from Egypt that should be remembered through the wearing of tefillin, since amongst the paragraphs inscribed in the tefillin boxes are two from this week's Torah portion which discuss the exodus. Writing these paragraphs and binding them upon our arms and heads serves as a daily reminder of G-d's role in our exodus from Egypt. This critical message must be continually reinforced, as if it were written directly on our hands and heads.
To fully understand the connection between tefillin and the exodus, we must first grasp the meaning and symbolism of these two concepts individually. The exodus from Egypt signaled the onset of the process whereby an eternal bond was forged between Hashem and the Jewish nation. Hashem freed the Israelites from the hands of their bondsmen, split the sea, and gave them the Torah with the entire world watching. These miraculous events were a sign to the world that G-d had selected the Jews as His chosen people. Thus, the commandment to remember the exodus from Egypt is essentially a commandment to remember the origins of our connection to Hashem.
Similarly, the mitzvah of tefillin acts as a reminder of our connection with Hashem. Tefillin are the physical manifestation of the Jewish people's bond with the Creator. As the Talmud says, "Man always needs a sign of his bond with G-d. . .on weekdays this sign is tefillin" (Tractate Eruvin 96a). Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, in his book entitled Tefillin, explains that the windings around the middle finger symbolize the bond of love between G-d and Israel. In a sense, the straps on the hand represent a wedding ring. We literally bind ourselves with G-d's love. Through the tefillin we can actually see and feel this bond. When we bind tefillin to our bodies, we relive the bond of love that was forged at Mt. Sinai between Hashem and His people.
This physical representation is not only a sign for others to see, but it is a constant reminder to us of our unique relationship with G-d. In fact, every mitzvah that we perform provides us with an opportunity to appreciate this extraordinary bond. Yet, the mitzvot of remembering the exodus from Egypt and of tefillin are different in that they are daily obligations that represent our special relationship with G-d. We should approach these commandments with the love and enthusiasm befitting a chosen people.
Ezra Cohen, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is spending his third year of rabbinic ordination studying at the Gruss Kollel in Israel.
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