Wrapping Tefillin: Jews bind God’s word to their bodies

For many observant Jews, wrapping tefillin-   small, black  boxes  with leather straps, which contain Torah texts, tied to one’s arm and forehead–is a ritual during weekday morning prayer.

But on Sunday,  Lisa Levy of West Hartford came to understand the commandment stated in Deuteronomy 6:5-9 “And  you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your  soul, and with all your might ” in a profound way.

Levy was among the sixty people who attended World Wide Wrap XIV,  at the Emanuel Synagogue in West Hartford. The  program of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs is to teach and get Jews, including  women and children, throughout the world to wrap tefillin.

“I learned that tefillin is a reminder that God is always close, on our hands, and in our hearts and minds. This is part of my journey into Judaism that I’ve always wanted to take,” said Levy, 57, explaining that she never had the opportunity to don tefillin when she attended a Reform synagogue back in the 1960s.


Eric Goldberg, who organized the event and led wrapping demonstrations, explained that Jews who wear tefillin are literally and figuratively  obeying the Torah verses contained in the black boxes, which are taken from the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, where Moses, after receiving the ten commandments.

World Wide Wrap was organized to promote the use of Tefflin and make it accessible to everyone. While  women have been historically exempt from wearing tefillin, some Israeli and United States Orthodox women and girls are fighting to partake in the commandment.

Avigayil Halpern, who attends Hebrew High School of New England in West Hartford, was recently featured in  The Times of Israel as part of a growing  trend in modern Orthodox high schools  where females are allowed to don tefillin and “express their own Jewish  observance “as fully” as the males.”

Last month, two Modern Orthodox schools in New York announced they would allow girls to wear tefillin during prayer services.

Rabbi  D. Small said  wearing tefillin is open to all women and girls in his Conservative synagogue. In fact, he told the girls in  attendance that it was “their right to put on tefillin.”

Last year more than 10,000 individuals on five continents: Australia, Asia, India, Europe and both North and South America participated in the World Wide Wrap Day, according to Federation of Jewish Men’s Club’s  website.

For Levy, the experience was so meaningful that she’s thinking of purchasing a tefillin to pray at home.

4 Responses to “Wrapping Tefillin: Jews bind God’s word to their bodies”

  1. Rabbi David Small

    Ann Marie, thank you for a nice write-up of our Wrap. Not only Emanuel, but most Conservative Synagogues encourage women to put on tefillin. The Conservative Movement has been evolving to give full participation and rights to women over the course of my life. I appreciate living in a time when this is happening and am glad to help this process forward.

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