Posted on February 11, 2022
World Wide Wrap
This coming Sunday is the World Wide Wrap, the annual program of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs joined by the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism to focus on tefillin.
In our Torah portion for this week, parashat Tezaveh, we learn that as part of their installation as Kohanim in the Tabernacle, a ram was to be slaughtered, and they were each to sprinkle some of the blood on their right ears, on their right thumbs and the big toes of their right feet (Ex. 29:20). I am glad that was not part of my recent installation process!
We might wonder, why was the blood sprinkled on those particular parts of the body? Rabbi Levi ben Gershon, who was known as the Ralbag or as Gershonides and was from 14th century France, suggests that it goes back to when the people accepted the covenant with God and said: ”נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע” “We will do and we will hear.” The blood on the thumbs and the toes represents נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה, the doing. And the blood on the ears represents the hearing, נִשְׁמָֽע. The kohanim must do, and they must listen.
Tefillin is similarly put on the head and the arm. Tefillin is a symbol of the covenant between God and Israel. We wrap the tefillin on our arm, and we think about how God extends God’s arm as it were and feeds the world. We commit to Jewish action (נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה). We put the Tefillin on our heads, and we commit to God through our minds and through our learning (וְנִשְׁמָֽע).
Tefillin is not an easy mitzvah to fulfill. It takes some getting used to. I am grateful to the FJMC and the WLCJ for giving us this annual opportunity to focus on tefillin, learn more about it, and consider what it means to us.