Online Torah

Back to Shiurim List

Bo 5765

By: Rav Ari Shames

This week I would like to share an idea presented by Rav Soloveichik (in a recently published volume by Mosad Harav Kook "Shiurei Hagrid-AL inyanei Tefilin Sefer Torah mezuzah vetzitzit" Jerusalem 2004).
In the concluding verses of our Parsha we read two of the four parshiot that are contained in Tefilin- "Kadesh Li" and "Vehaya Ki ". The other two parshiot are the first two parshiot of Shema- "Shema" and "Vehaya Im Shamoa". There is a famous debate between Rashi and Rabenu Tam as to the correct placement of the four parshiot in the Tefilin. According to Rashi they are to be placed in the order in which they appear in the Torah (1.Kadesh 2.Vehaya Ki 3.Shema 4.Vehaya Im). Rabenu Tam on the other hand (no pun intended as we are talking about the shel rosh!! According to most Rishonim) believes that the correct order is 1.Kadesh 2.Vehaya Ki 3.Vehaya Im 4. Shema.
The Gemara in Menachot when dealing with this issue states:
"(Source I)How should one place them? Kadesh and Vehaya Ki on the right Shema and Vehaya Im on the left. Is this indeed true did we not learn the opposite(Source II)? Abbai answered: One is from the right of the reader and one is from the right of the one who put the tefilin on and the reader can read them in order"
Rashi explains the passage to mean that Source I was discussing things from the perspective of the reader (i.e. someone looking at the person wearing the Tefilin) while Source II who placed Kadesh and Vehaya Ki on the left was viewing the mirror image from the side of the one wearing the Tefilin.
In any event according to Rashi the final result is that the "reader" will see all four parshiot in the order in which they appear in the Torah.
Despite the logic in the order of the sections, according to Rashi, a very simple question should be raised. Why do we arrange the parshiot from the perspective of the person looking at the Tefilin while ignoring the individual who is wearing the Tefilin himself?
It would seem that we are being taught an important lesson as to the purpose of the mitzvah of Tefilin. The Tefilin are not only there to effect a change and spiritual influence on he who wears them, but they are also declarative in nature. The Tefilin are meant to not only be worn but to be "read", to be seen, noticed and reckoned with. The four sections of the Tefilin are a billboard advertising Kabalat Ol Malchut Shamayim- the acceptance of the yolk of heaven, and as such are arranged in the most obvious manner so that they can be "read".
Rabenu Tam had a different reading of the Gemara. According to Rabenu Tam there is not one series of parshiot but rather there are two. The two parshiot that appear in Bo are one unit while the two in Sefer Devarim are a separate unit. Each of the units is written in the correct order however the "Shemot Unit" is placed facing the "reader" while the "Devarim Unit" is placed through the eyes of the one wearing the Tefilin. The result is 1.Kadesh 2.Vehaya Ki 3.Vehaya Im 4. Shema.
In principle Rabenu Tam agrees with Rashi that the sections must be placed in a coherent logical and readable fashion. The debate revolves around who is reading!!
While Rashi sees one integrated and uniform reading of the Tefilin Rabenu Tam views two separate vantage points and purposes in the Tefilin.
Rav Soloveichik explains that the major point of Tefilin is, as mentioned above, Kabalat Ol Malchut Shamayim- the acceptance of the yolk of heaven. The most clear declaration of this ideal is the passuk of Shema Yisrael , in its most simple form this is a statement of faith made by an individual first and formost to himself. We refer to the Mitzvah as "Kabalat." The "acceptance". Our entire focus is on ourselves and it is therefore only natural that these two parshiot be "readable" from the Tefilin-wearer perspective.
The two sections that appear on our parsha stress a different form of Kabal Ol Maochut Shamayim. In both of the sections the mitzvah of Tefilin is followed by an explanation "because God took us out of Egypt". The mitzvah of Tefilin is to serve as a form of "persumei nissa" the publicizing of the miracle (of Chanukah fame). Our pledge of allegiance to God is not simply a personal matter but is meant to be a drawing card for all to see. We are thankful and appreciative and we wear our Tefilin as a sign of our gratitude. This is a message that we primarily spread to others. It is a message that should be "read" by others and therefore the order of these two sections is right to left from the perspective of the "reader".
The dual purpose of the Tefilin, as a message to ourselves while at the same time being a message to others can serve as a model for our entire spiritual quest in our lives. It is critical that we work on ourselves, constantly striving to improve our own level of closeness with God. This alone however is not sufficient. We must be looking around us and be aware of our responsibility to project awareness of God and appreciation for all that he has given us.


Midreshet HaRova

Location: 50 Chabad Street, Old City, Jerusalem

Mailing Address: P. O. Box 1109, Jerusalem 9101001, Israel

Telephone: 972-2-626-5970    Fax: 972-2-628-4690    Email:

© 2020 All rights reserved.  Design by Studio Bat Amit, Development by Coda