July 26, 2017
Rabbi Gershon Avtzon in #1078, Ha’yom Yom & Moshiach, Mivtza T’fillin

Dear Reader Sh’yichyeh,

It has been discussed at length and publicized that this year (5777) is the 50th year anniversary since the Rebbe began Mivtza T’fillin. This is the special campaign in which the Rebbe urges everyone to reach out to as many Yidden as possible to put in T’fillin. The results of this campaign are clear to all; there are so many Yidden who will testify that their first step back to Yiddishkait was by putting on T’fillin with a Chassid on the street. While the official campaign started in 5727, as is recorded in the edited biography of the Rebbe in the introduction to the HaYom Yom, the discussion of the Minhag Chabad of T’fillin starts in the HaYom Yom.

There are three stages of putting on T’fillin: 1) When to put on Rashi T’fillin, prior to the Bar Mitzva; 2) When to begin putting on Rabbeinu Tam T’fillin; and 3) Putting on four pairs of T’fillin.

The Rebbe writes (Beis Av): “A directive of general application: A boy should begin putting on T’fillin two months before his Bar Mitzvah — first, without reciting the blessing, and after a few weeks, with the blessing.”

There are two very interesting points here. Firstly, the description of being a directive “of general application” as distinct from the case of the Rebbe Rayatz, who began to put on t’fillin at age eleven (see Likkutei Sichos, Vol. 6, p. 281).

Secondly, the Rema (end of Orach Chaim Siman 37) writes, in the name of the Seifer HaItur, that one should not put on T’fillin before his Bar Mitzva. The Magen Avraham (ibid) writes, and is quoted in the Alter Rebbe’s Shulchan Aruch, that one can begin two to three months before Bar Mitzva. In this HaYom Yom, the Rebbe clarifies that it is our minhag to start two months before.

In a letter (see Shulchan Menachem Vol. 1 Siman 36), the Rebbe explains that the reason behind the minhag, as opposed to the ruling of the Rema, is to help bring Moshiach closer. Since we urgently want to bring K’dusha into the world, we want to start as early as possible. We still need to wait on the Bracha, though, to ensure that the boy knows how to put on T’fillin correctly.

Regarding Rabbeinu Tam T’fillin, without getting into the source of the argument, it is known that there has always been a disagreement as to what order the Parshiyos should be placed in the T’fillin. One opinion is known as Rashi and one as Rabbeinu Tam (who was a grandson of Rashi and one the famous Baalei Tosafos).

There is a fascinating story recorded in the Seder HaDoros (year 4930). Rabbeinu Tam and other Rishonim had a disagreement regarding how one should tie the knot of the T’fillin. Eventually, Moshe Rabbeinu himself was called down from Heaven and asked for his opinion. He testifies that he personally saw the back of Hashem’s T’fillin Shel Rosh, and it was unlike that of Rabbeinu Tam’s. But Rabbeinu Tam was not persuaded. In the words of the Seder HaDoros: “Rabbeinu Tam got up like a lion and said, ‘Moshe Rabbeinu, you are mistaken!’”

In a sicha (Yud Alef Nissan 5737) the Rebbe connects that story to the following story: The Chassid R’ Hillel of Paritch was a devoted follower of the Tzemach Tzedek. There was once a dispute amongst the Chassidim about how to interpret a certain point in one of the Rebbe’s discourses. When they asked the Rebbe himself what he meant, his response favored the other Chassidim’s approach and not R’ Hillel’s. However, R’ Hillel refused to retract from his position, explaining: “When the Rebbe says a Chassidic discourse, the Torah is being given from Sinai. But like all words of Torah, it is crucial that we understand them, and that means using our own brains. So the Rebbe has his understanding of the discourse – said this morning at Sinai – and I have mine.”

Despite this, the accepted opinion amongst Klal Yisroel is to put on the T’fillin according to the opinion of Rashi. Yet, the Alter Rebbe (Orach Chayim Siman 34:4) writes: “The halacha rules according to Rashi and those who subscribe to his view, and indeed, universal practice follows this view. Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Tam and those who subscribe to his view consider these t’fillin as invalid according to Scriptural Law. Hence [according to this view] a person [who puts on only such t’fillin] will have lived his entire life without [having fulfilled the mitzvah of] T’fillin. Every G‑d-fearing person should therefore endeavor to discharge his obligation according to both views.”

But he adds (Ibid 6): “Nevertheless, not everyone who desires to manifest spiritual distinction is permitted to do so. In a place where one’s conduct will be seen by others, only a person whose pious conduct is commonly accepted and known should observe this practice. Since it is universal custom [to wear only the T’fillin] of Rashi, if a person who does not have such a reputation undertakes this stringency, he appears to be pretentious unless he is similarly stringent in other areas.”

Based on the above it became the custom of Chassidim, who try to be Yerei Shamayim and be Mehader in Mitzvos, to put on Rabbeinu Tam T’fillin but only when they matured. When a Bachur would become 18, or get married, they would enter Yechidus and ask permission of the Rebbe to put on Rabbeinu Tam T’fillin.

This all changed on Purim 5736. By this historic Farbrengen, the Rebbe announced that as we get closer to Moshiach and we want to bring more light into the world, all boys should begin putting on the T’fillin of Rabbeinu Tam before Bar Mitzva. They do not need to ask permission anymore; they should put them on right away. The only condition is that they have their own pair, or access to one, so that they can do it every day.

While this was a new directive of the Rebbe, Chassidim point out that already in 5710, the Rebbe writes (Likkutei Sichos Vol. 2 pg. 507 footnote 39) that “it is to me a big wonder why Chassidei Chabad do not put on Rabbeinu Tam T’fillin right by Bar-Mitzva.”

While until now we discussed the accepted custom to putting on two pairs of T’fillin, the truth is that there are four opinions regarding the order of the Parshiyos of T’fillin should be, that of Rashi, Rabbeinu Tam, Shimusha Rabba and the Raavad.

The Rebbe writes (Likkutei Sichos Vol. 2 pg. 507) that putting on four pairs of T’fillin is not for everyone. It is only for people with a “guf naki beyoser – an especially clean body.” Illustrious Chassidim like Reb Hillel Paritcher and Itche der Masmid would put on four pairs of T’fillin. The Rebbe writes the he himself was afraid to put on four pairs of T’fillin until the Frierdike Rebbe told him to do it.

If it is the case that this is only for special people, an obvious question arises: Why in the HaYom Yom (19 Av), which is written for all Chassidim, does the Rebbe discuss the order of putting on four pairs of T’fillin?

Here is the HaYom Yom: “Those who put on four pairs of T’fillin in the course of the Morning Prayers should follow this order: (1) The arm-T’fillin and head-T’fillin of Rashi are put on before Eizehu Mekoman is recited, and while wearing them one continues with the Morning Prayers until one has completed the verse beginning “Ach tzaddikim.” (2) The head-T’fillin of Rashi are removed, and replaced — without a blessing — by those of [the author of] Shimusha Rabba. The Shema is recited until “Emes,” and chapters of T’hillim are recited as apportioned for the days of the month. Some punctilious Chassidim would study the daily reading of T’hillim with the commentaries of Rashi and Metzudos. (3) One [removes these T’fillin and] puts on the T’fillin of Rabbeinu Tam — without a blessing — and recites the Shema until “Emes,” the passage beginning “Kadesh,” and the Six Remembrances that appear in the Siddur. One then studies a chapter of Mishnayos according to his level of understanding. (4) The head-T’fillin of Rabbeinu Tam are removed, and replaced — without a blessing — by those of Raavad. One recites the Shema until “Emes,” and studies the part of the week’s Sidra (with the commentary of Rashi) that corresponds to the day of the week; that is, on Sunday until Sheni, on Monday until Shlishi, and so on.”

Perhaps we can answer based on the Sicha of Truma 5752, where the Rebbe says that when Moshiach comes, all Yidden will put on four pairs of T’fillin! The HaYom Yom is preparing us for Yemos HaMoshiach.

Wishing everyone much Hatzlacha with Mivtza T’fillin!


Rabbi Avtzon is the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati and a well sought-after speaker and lecturer. Recordings of his in-depth shiurim on Inyanei Geula u’Moshiach can be accessed at


Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (
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