Who Is Obligated to Wear Tefillin?
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
Who is obligated and who exempt from wearing Tefillin?
- All men above the age of thirteen are required to put on Tefillin daily.
- A child who can be careful to keep his body clean and respect the holiness of Tefillin, should be taught to put on Tefillin prior to his 13th birthday. The poskim differ on the exact amount of time , but the common Minhag for ashkenazim is that a boy under the age of 13 wears Tefillin only 2 or 3 months before his Bar Mitzvah. Sepharadim typically begin a year or two before Bar Mitzva.
- A person who has a urinary catheter or an ostomy bag may wear tefillin, as long as there is no foul smell. Ideally all parts should be covered.
- Tefillin is a Mitzvah Aseh SheHaZman Grama (time bound mitzvah) therefore women are exempt. Generally women are allowed to perform time bound mitzvot, however, it is preferable for women not to fulfill the mitzvah of Tefillin. Some maintain strongly that women should not wear Tefillin.
- One who is shirtless cannot wear Tefillin.
- One who is unable to control his promiscuous thoughts is exempt from Tefillin.
- A mourner on the first day of Shiva does not wear tefillin.
- Rambam Sefer HaMitzvot (Aseh 12 and 13).
- The Torah mentions Tefillin twice when recalling the exodus from Egypt as in Exodus 13:9 it reads "And it shall be for a sign for you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that the law of God may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand did God bring you out of Egypt." and Exodus 13:16 "And it shall be for a sign upon your hand, and as totafot between your eyes; for with a mighty hand did God bring us forth out of Egypt." and twice in the first two paragraphs of Kriyat Shema as in Deuteronomy 6:8 it says "And you shall bind them as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes." and lastly in Deuteronomy 11:18 "You shall put these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall tie them for a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as totafot between your eyes."
- The Rambam (Sefer HaMitzvot Mitzvah Aseh 12 and 13) and Sefer HaChinuch (421) record this as a Mitzvah that applies to every male individual even nowadays. Rambam there says based on the gemara in Menachot 44a that one who is obligated to wear Tefillin but does not, transgresses eight commandments (four for the hand and four for the head).
- Rambam Hilchot Tefillin 4:13 and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 37:3, based on Sukkah 42a and Arachin 2b, write that when a child can treat his tefillin properly, his father should buy him a pair of Tefillin. It would seem to be addressing an under-bar-mitzvah-age boy, and this is indeed the understanding of the overwhelming majority of the early commentators. The Shulchan Aruch (OC 37:3) follows this opinion and rules that a minor who can follow the halachot of tefillin should be given a pair.
Although the Rama Orach Chaim 37:3 cites the approach of the Baal Haitur that there is no chinuch when it comes to tefillin, and the gemara refers to a child at the age of 13 or above, the Mishna Berura 37:12 writes that the common practice nowadays is to begin wearing them 2 or 3 months earlier. The Bach OC 37 questions why the Rama would follow the approach of the Baal Haitur against the approach of the majority
Chacham Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer OC 6:3 and Yechave Daat 2:4) writes that the practice among Sepharadim is certainly to begin putting them on at some point before the age of 13
- See Yechave Daat 2:4 for a variety of Minhagim. see also Ten Minute Halacha: How Long before Bar Mitzvah to Put on Tefillin and Chinuch for the Mitzva of Tefillin at greater length both by Rabbi Aryeh Lebowitz, and Halachically Speaking Vol 13 Issue 2
- Magen Avraham 37:4, Shulchan Aruch Harav 37:3, Mishna Berura 37:12, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 10:24.
- Shu"t Yabia Omer OC 6:3, Shu"t Yechave Daat 2:4, Yalkut Yosef Dinei Chinuch Katan pg. 40. see footnote there on pg. 44 where he writes that one should not allow a child to begin at the age of 9-10 because it is unlikely he will be able to treat them properly by keeping his body clean. Rav Mordechai Lebhar (Magen Avot, Orach Chaim 37:3) notes how there was a range of customs in Morocco regarding how early to start, most following the Shulchan Aruch.
- Igrot Moshe OC 1:27, Tzitz Eli'ezer 8:1, Tzitz Eli'ezer 9:6
- Shulchan Aruch and Rama Orach Chaim 38:3, Mitzvat Nashim (pg 35). Biur HaGra Orach 38:3 writes that it is forbidden for women to wear Tefillin. See Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel on Devarim 22:5 who includes a woman wearing Tefillin in the category of Lo Yehey Kli Gever Al Isha.
In "Kol HaEdah Kulam Kedoshim", Rav Hershel Schachter explains his position on this topic of women wearing Tefillin as follows:
- The Rabbis of the Mishna felt the need to display their disagreement with the Sadducees (Tzedukim) even when the Tzeduki opinion was a stringency, such as it was regarding Parah Adumah. Nonetheless, because the Rabbis noticed that their opinion was anti-Torah SheBaal Peh, in cases of disagreement the Rabbis made their position very evident.
- When developing new Minhagim such as women wearing Tefillin, Tzitzit, or a Kippah, there is an obvious need to consult with a leading posek of the generation. It is a mistake to think that everyone who went to Yeshiva and knows how to find the right seforim, sometimes by searching online, should be able to decide halacha. Real questions of Minhag and Halacha should be presented to a major posek, who deals with the difficult Halachic questions of the generation.
- Women wearing Tefillin is a symbol of the Conservative movement and it is crucial that the Orthodox community distinguishes itself. It is irrelevant to what extent woman can volunteer by the mitzvah of Tefillin because in our context, this is a clear symbol of the Conservative movement. As a precedent, Rav Soloveitchik absolutely forbade performing a Bat Mitzvah in the middle of davening similar to a Bar Mitzvah, the way the Conservatives did.
- Additionally, see Rabbi Mansour on dailyhalacha.com on this topic who also writes clearly that women should not wear Tefillin. See also Kaf Hachaim Orach Chaim 38:9
- See also Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Sh"t Iggerot Moshe OC 4:49) where he opposes any attempt to allow women to wear Tefillin.
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano siman 10, who is obligated in tefillin and who is exempt, seif 2
- Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, who is obligated in tefillin and who is exempt, seif 5
- Shulchan Arukh ,Yoreh De'ah 388