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Obscure Halacha: Borrowing Tefillin

What Do You Do If You Only Have Lefty Tefillin?

Ella Goldstein

As Jews, most of us don’t bat an eye at the idea of someone wrapping small boxes with leather straps around their head and lower bicep during the morning prayers. To others who are not as familiar with this mitzvah, witnessing a bunch of people dressed in these phylacteries might seem a bit strange by itself. But the obscurity of the discussion around tefillin in Halacha doesn’t stop there; I bet you didn’t know that there are halachot that discuss wearing tefillin upside down! Let’s take a look. 

Aruch HaShulchan, Orach Chaim 27:17

 “אם האיטר צריך לשאול תפילין מאינו איטר – יהפוך המעברתא לצד חוץ, ובזה יבוא לו הקשר לצד גופו

“If a lefty needs to borrow Tefillin from someone who is not a lefty, he should flip the מעברתא (the passageway that the leather straps run through) on the Tefillin shel yad (Tefillin placed on the arm) to face the outside, [contradicting the typical ruling that the knot should be facing inside]. With that, the knot itself is facing the body.

The different parts of Tefillin.

דאילו יניחה כדרכה יהיה הקשר שלא לצד גופו, ודבר זה אי אפשר בשום אופן. אבל על המעברתא ליכא קפידא כל כך.

If he put [the Tefillin] on the usual way, the knot would be facing away from the body which cannot happen under any circumstances. But, if the מעברתא has to be moved, it is not so bad.

וכן מי שאינו איטר ששואל תפילין מאיטר יעשה כך.”

The same goes for when a non-lefty has to borrow Tefillin from a lefty.”

Even with Mr. Byron’s gentle reminders echoing through the halls of AJA on Thursday afternoons, I’m fairly sure that a few students have managed to “FORGET THEIR TEFILLINNNNNN!” in the Phylactery Learning Center (PLC). Although said students may have slightly thwarted Byron’s vision of an empty PLC, if they are able to get their hands on a set of tefillin, no matter what hand they are supposed to be worn on, the student should be all set after learning these rules! 

Editor’s Note: Palette is not advocating for students to leave their tefillin at school. Borrowing tefillin is never ideal, and certainly not when wrong-handness is involved. These laws should only be exercised if no other correct-handed tefillin are available.

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