Monique Susskind Goldberg
Can you send me some descriptive literature on how to lay tefillin? I understand there are several different approaches based upon where people come from. I have been away from prayer for a long time, I have a brain injury, and cannot follow the verbal instruction I am given.
Here is a description on donning tefillin. It is according to the Ashkenazic tradition, which I assumed is yours (according to you name).
I do hope you can follow the instructions, maybe the first few times with someone helping you. Do not hesitate to write again if there is any problem.
Laying tefillin is a very important mitzvah, and I admire you for your strong will.
Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg
Instruction on laying Tefillin
This explanation is according to the Ashkenazic tradition. The following is a translation of the explanation appearing in the Prayer Book "Va'ani Tefillati" (Published by the Masorti Movement in Israel)
The tefillin are put on after the tallit.
First step: putting on of the "hand tefillah" ( shel Yad in Hebrew)
1. The "hand tefillah" is put on the left hand. Remove watch and jewelry, and roll up the sleeve. The place to put on the "hand tefilla" is at the level of the bicep muscle.
2. Take the "hand tefillah" out of the bag, unroll the strap completely, and take off the cover (on which is written "yad "). Pay attention to the shape of the "hand tefillah ": the base is wider that the box (the cube), and the upper part of the base has a notch through which the strap is passed.
3. Hold the "hand tefilla" so that the box is facing upward, and the notch is directed toward the upper part of your arm. Widen the strap's loop, and pass your left arm through the loop - while the box is still directed upward, and the notch is still directed toward the upper part of your arm. Pull the tefillah upward until it reaches the bicep muscle and turn the box so that it faces your body in the general direction of the heart. You have to be sure that the knot of the tefillah is still situated near the notch. Say the blessing before tightening:
Baruh ata Adonai Elohenu Melekh hoalam
Asher kideshanu bmitzvotav vetzivanu lehaniakh tefillin
4. Tighten the loop around the arm by pulling on the strap (pay attention that the tefillah does not move from its place while tightening the loop). You have to tighten the loop fairly strongly, so that it does not loosen during prayer.
5. Hold the strap in your right hand close to the "hand tefillah", with the black side of the leather upward. Pull the strap under the arm and then wind it above and around the arm (toward the body) - one wrapping between the tefillah and the elbow; then do seven wrappings in the same direction, around the arm between the elbow and the wrist. Those wrappings must also be fairly tight so that they will not loosen with every movement of the arm during prayer.
6. What remains of the strap, wrap temporarily around the hand so it does not disturb you during the next step.
Second step: putting on of the "head tefillah"
7. Take the "head tefillah" out of the bag, unroll the strap completely, and take off the cover (on which is written "rosh"). There are differences between the "head tefilla" and the "hand tefillah". The first difference: the box of the "head tefillah" is divided into four compartments inside, while the other box is not divided. The second difference: the strap of the "head tefillah" is bound in a permanent loop, which creates two ends and not one.
8. Hold the strap of the "head tefillah" with two hands so that the loop is very wide, and say the blessing:
Baruh ata Adonai Elohenu Meleh hoalam
Asher kideshanu bmitzvotav vetzivanu al mitzvat tefillin
[in a whisper] Baruh shem kevod Malhuto lolam va'ed
9. Put the tefillah on the head in the following way: the knot of the tefillah has to be in the back, down, on the nape of the neck, the two loose ends being made to hang down in front. Put the "head tefillah" on the hair, in a way that the down part is on the meeting place between the hair and the brow (hairline). One should not put the "head tefilla" on the brow!
10. Pay attention that all around the head, the black side of the strap is visible, and not the inside of the leather. Drape both straps over the shoulders, one on each side, with the black side up.
Third step: formation of the "letter" on the hand
11. Unwrap, up to the wrist, the strap that was bound around the hand in step 6 (the rest of the strap hangs down from the side of the arm close to the body).
12. Hold the left hand with the inside of the hand directed downward, pull the strap underneath the hand from the wrist to the third finger. Wound the strap three times around the third finger, once under the low finger knuckle, and twice above the knuckle. Bring the strap under the hand and on the fourth finger, above the hand to the angle created by the binding between the thumb and the hand.
13. Pull the strap under the hand up to the binding between the hand and the wrist (on the side of the little finger), pull the strap above the hand back to the angle between the thumb and the hand. Pull the strap under the hand in the middle of the hand, pull the strap above the hand back to the angle between the thumb and the hand. Verify that the strap forms on the hand the letter shin (\ I /).
Whatever remains from the strap can be bound on the middle branch of the shin (\ I /), the tip is pushed under the wrapping on the inside of the hand.
Ve'erastikh li leolam
Ve'erastikh li betsedek uvemishpat uvekhesed uverakhamim
Ve'erastikh li be'emuna, veyadat et Adonai