These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Putting on Tefillin for the First Time

Posted on February 7, 2014 by Jessica Baverman

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

jesbavThere has been a lot of hype around women wearing tefillin lately (see hereherehere, and here). Since I just started taking the “Women and Mitzvot” class, this is a topic that I have followed. I’ve also been intrigued by the whole idea of tefillin for a while now.

For most of my life, I saw tefillin as something that Orthodox men do. It was never part of my life, nor did I ever see anyone wearing it. I just knew that they were boxes that Orthodox men wore when they prayed. This year, I saw other women wearing tefillin, both at Women of the Wall and in the Pardes minyanim. My curiosity peaked. What was special about tefillin? Did it really change the way one prayed? Does it make the person feel more focused during prayer?

When I was 13 and becoming a bat mitzvah, I received my first (and only) tallit, but I haven’t worn it since. Whenever I have prayed, it is just me, nothing else. But I started thinking about how wearing tallit or tefillin could make that prayer space special and separate it out from the rest of the day.

I decided early in the year that I wanted to try tefillin. To see what it felt like and how it might affect the way I relate to prayer. This week, I got that chance. My friend Sam who blogs here graciously showed me how to put on tefillin.

I felt like I was doing something that had been forbidden – like getting a cookie out of the cookie jar in the middle of the night. I can’t tell you all my feelings about putting on the tefillin, only that it was really cool. I felt like I was connecting with the past and the future. I felt like part of the Jews. Not that I don’t feel that on any other day – I do, but this was different.

Because I didn’t actually pray with them on, I don’t think I got the real feeling of wearing tefillin.  I’m looking forward to the next time I could try praying with tefillin. I wonder if that will affect the way I pray or how I feel connected to prayer. When I get my tallit from my parents’ house, I want to start praying with that, too, so that I will especially mark out the time in prayer as different. I think creating a special prayer space will enhance my prayer so much more. Shabbat shalom!