Parsha ideas from Brendan Stern:

From Brendan Stern.

Vaetchanan – Inside Out

The Torah calls the head tefillin, which are divided into four compartments, “Totafot” (Devarim 6:8). Chazal (Sanhedrin 4b) explain that this word is composed of two foreign words: “Tot” in Catfi and “Fot” in Afriki, each of which means “two”.

Why did the Torah utilise foreign languages to describe the tefillin?

Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovitz explained that there is an essential difference in purpose between the arm and head tefillin. The head tefillin are specifically revealed outward, to show the nations of the world that the name of Hashem is upon us (Berachot 6a). The Torah deliberately uses foreign languages to describe the head tefillin to emphasise the elements of Judaism that need to be shared with the outside world.

The arm tefillin, on the other hand, are specifically covered up; they are inner focussed – “a sign for you, but not a sign for others” (Menachot 37b). This highlights the aspects of Judaism that are private, particularistic and limited to Jews.

Says Chief Rabbi Jakobovitz, there are groups within Judaism that focus on both extremes. There are those who only wear the metaphoric “head tefillin” – solely focussed on relating to the world and nations around us. There are others who only wear the metaphoric “arm tefillin” –with no care or concern to what happens beyond their immediate orbit. Chazal (Sotah 44b), however, emphasise that there should be no interruption between the two!

The Shulchan Aruch rules (25:6) that if one inadvertently picks up their head tefillin before their arm tefillin they should “pass over” the head tefillin and first don the arm tefillin. Chief Rabbi Jakobovitz extrapolates from the chronological sequence a fundamental didactic message: we first need to build up ourselves – strengthening our core Jewish identity and knowledge – and only then take this to the rest of the world!


ELC – Parsha at 8am and shiur followed by seudah shlishit at 6.10, Ramban – shiur at 5.30, Shir Chadash on Emek – kiddush after davening, Shir Chadash by Gan Building, Yaakov Rubin #1  – kiddushat 11.15, Nitzanim -shiur after mincha.

Daf HaYomi – Hour before Shabbat out at Katamon Shteiblech.


Early davening: 5.40.

Regular times: 6.46, 7.05.

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