What are Tefillin and Phylacteries

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

In the US, airline security has become top priority. Perhaps security has become too much of a priority. The words Tefillin and phylacteries are unfamiliar to many people. I’d never heard of them until recently. In fact, unless you are an Orthodox Jew, you’ve probably never heard of the words either.

As it turns out, these items are religious relics worn by a 17 year old Jewish boy. Airline officials were unsure of what the items were, so in this cautionary tale, the boy was asked to evacuate the plane and was held for questioning. Fortunately, there were no charges filed, and sources say that the Jewish boy was very kind, understanding, and cooperative.

The question that remains, however, is this a situation in which airline officials exhibited too much caution? As an American who has and will continue to fly on American airlines, I am inclined to say no. I feel comforted knowing that airline officials are going to extreme measures to protect me. I am not Jewish, though. Perhaps if I were an Orthodox Jew, I may look at the situation in an entirely different manner.

These headlines have shown me that I am very ignorant of Jewish culture and religion, and in order to lessen my ignorance, I looked up Tefillin and Phylacteries on Dictonary.com.  The two words have the same definition, which is as follows:

phy⋅lac⋅ter⋅y

–noun, plural -teries.

1.

Judaism. either of two small, black, leather cubes containing a piece of parchment inscribed with verses 4–9 of Deut. 6, 13–21 of Deut. 11, and 1–16 of Ex. 13: one is attached with straps to the left arm and the other to the forehead during weekday morning prayers by Orthodox and Conservative Jewish men.

2.

(In the early Christian church) a receptacle containing a holy relic.

3.

An amulet, charm, or safeguard against harm or danger.

Continuing my quest to lessen my ignorance, I also looked up the Bible verses associated with these holy relics on BibleResources.org.

Passage Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

   4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

   5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

   6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

   7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

   8And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

   9And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

King James Version (KJV)

Public Domain

Passage Deuteronomy 11:13-21:

   13And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,

   14That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.

   15And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.

   16Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;

   17And then the LORD’s wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.

   18Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.

   19And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

   20And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:

   21That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth.

King James Version (KJV)

Public Domain

Passage Exodus 13:1-16:

Exodus 13

   1And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

   2Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.

   3And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place: there shall no leavened bread be eaten.

   4This day came ye out in the month Abib.

   5And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month.

   6Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD.

   7Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days; and there shall no leavened bread be seen with thee, neither shall there be leaven seen with thee in all thy quarters.

   8And thou shalt shew thy son in that day, saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.

   9And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD’s law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt.

   10Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.

   11And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,

   12That thou shalt set apart unto the LORD all that openeth the matrix, and every firstling that cometh of a beast which thou hast; the males shall be the LORD’s.

   13And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man among thy children shalt thou redeem.

   14And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What is this? that thou shalt say unto him, By strength of hand the LORD brought us out from Egypt, from the house of bondage:

   15And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem.

   16And it shall be for a token upon thine hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes: for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt.

King James Version (KJV)

Public Domain

Unfortunately, I fear most people will not take the time to read those verses. However, if you do, then you will realize that this young man certainly did nothing wrong. In fact, he was only following the commandments of the book he holds dearly. He was showing his devotion and obedience to a God and a religion that he holds so closely.

Though this situation may make me feel better about airline security, I cannot say that it makes me feel better about the human race.  I find it very disheartening that so many people, myself included, know so little about the Jewish faith- so little in fact that religious sacraments were mistaken for tools of torture.

From this story, I think we should apply a lesson. Though we may not agree with each other’s religions and beliefs, we can certainly respect them. And in order to do just that, we must be informed to some degree. Ignorance is never a legitimate excuse.

Unfortunately, I fear most people will not take the time to read those verses. However, if you do, then you will realize that this young man certainly did nothing wrong. In fact, he was only following the commandments of the book he holds dearly. He was showing his devotion and obedience to a God and a religion that he holds so closely.

Though this situation may make me feel better about airline security, I cannot say that it makes me feel better about the human race.I find it very disheartening that so many people, myself included, know so little about the Jewish faith- so little in fact that religious sacraments were mistaken for tools of torture.

From this story, I think we should apply a lesson. Though we may not agree with each other’s religions and beliefs, we can certainly respect them. And in order to do just that, we must be informed to some degree. Ignorance is never a legitimate excuse.

Share.

About Author

Leave A Reply