‘Talis and Tefillin’
People tend to think of ‘Talis and Tefillin’ as a “set”! While they are, in fact, two distinct mitzvos, they are both typically worn during the morning tefila. Accordingly, there are several halachos that address the relationship between the two.
In this introductory lesson, we will learn about four issues involving both the talis and tefillin:
1) Which is donned first?
2) How should they be placed in the bag?
3) When and where should they be donned?
4) How long must they be worn?
1) Which is donned first?
The talis should be donned before the tefillin (i.e. assuming that both are at hand). Do you know why? (Think first…)
The reason given in the Shulchan Aruch is actually the same as the reason that we light a new candle every night of Chanukah: In matters of ‘kedusha’ (holiness), we go up, not down. Indeed, the tefillin are more holy than the talis: firstly, because they contain words of the Torah written on parchments (i.e. ‘Shema’ and ‘v’Haya im shamo’a’, and secondly, because the letters of Hashem’s name – Sha –d--ai - are molded into the head-tefillin box and tied into the straps. Thus, we start by donning the less holy and ascend to the more holy.
2) How should the ‘Talis and Tefillin’ be placed in the bag?
The rule of thumb is based upon the previous point: the talis should be the one which one’s hand touches first when he reaches into the bag, and here’s why: Since we wish to put the talis on first, were we to touch the tefillin first, we would be “forced” to put it down, or pass it over, in order to take the talis first. This is not respectful to the tefillin – or to any mitzvah, for that matter – as our Sages teach, “One should not pass over a mitzvah.” Practically, this means either that the talis should be placed on top of the tefillin, or that the tefillin should be placed further back in the bag from its opening than the talis is. (Note: What we have just learned is the ideal. In the final analysis, if one did happen to touch the tefillin first, it is better that he put them on first - thus forgoing the preferred order – than that he pass over the tefillin by putting them down and picking up the talis!
3) When and where should the ‘Talis and Tefillin’ be donned?
Technically, they could be donned in the shul or room where one is davening. However, it is meritorious to don them both in an outside hallway or anteroom, and then enter the davening place already “cloaked in his talis” and “crowned with his tefillin”.
4) How long must the ‘Talis and Tefillin’ be worn?
Ideally, they should be worn throughout the entire morning davening. (Ed: In a later lesson, we will learn more about what to do if one must take them off early.) At the very least, one should be wearing them (particularly the tefillin) when he recites Krias Shema and davens Shemoneh Esrei, if at all possible (without going over the appropriate times for their recitation). Besides the centrality of these two sections in the morning service, there is an additional reason for this - which is unique to Shema: since the Shema includes the mitzvah to wear tefillin, one who recites the words of this mitzvah without fulfilling them is “giving false testimony”, as it were, in his declaration!