1) The number of lines of text in the Tefillin parchments
1) Precision in the writing of the letters
2) Parts of letters that must touch
3) Adding the crowns (Heb, ‘tagin’) to certain letters
At this point, the Mishnah Berura adds an entire section called ‘Mishnas Sofrim’ (“The Teaching of Scribes”), which details the procedure for the correct writing of every single letter in the Aleph-Beis. This section is introduced by a concise digest of general halachos for the scribe.
MBY 37:1-3 The time of the mitzvah of tefillin
“The reward due he who fulfills the mitzvah of tefillin is great, and the punishment for he who does not fulfill it is severe.” (paraphrased from Shulchan Aruch) What is meant by “does not fulfill”? Does it mean that –
- he never put on tefillin in his life?
- he does not put them on regularly?
- he skipped one day (with an unexcused absence)?
- he wore tefillin that were not kosher?
- he wore kosher tefillin but not on the correct spot?
YES! So, please learn these halachos, make sure that your tefillin are kosher, make sure you put them on in the right spot (Ed: There are so many people, unfortunately, whose ‘tefillin shel rosh’ drop below their hairlines. I once heard that the ‘yetzer harah’ – evil force in the world – has a stronghold on this mitzvah – chas veshalom!) Above all, realize the tremendous reward and merit awaiting anyone who wears tefillin every day!
Note: Besides having kosher tefillin, which is a must, one should also try to beautify the mitzvah to the best of his ablility, which is a general precept of mitzvah-performance. With regard to tefillin, this includes: obtaining tefillin that were made by expert and pious artisans, particularly with respect to the writing of the ‘parshiyos’ (Torah passages) - i.e. using beautiful script, and high-quality inks, quills and parchments.
What is the time-frame for the mitzvah of tefillin? You know that the English language uses the term “phylacteries”, which literally means “prayer boxes”. This suggests that the time for tefillin is when one davens. This is a misnomer! The mitzvah of tefillin, in principle, has nothing to do with davening! (Ed: I can prove it to you: You know that we learned in the halachos of tefilla that there are some authorities who maintain that there is no Biblical command to daven every day – only rabbinic. Yet, there is clearly a mitzvah to wear tefillin every day that is not Shabbos or Yom Tov!)
OK, so why do the vast majority of Torah-observant Jews wear tefillin only during davening - only shacharis, in fact?
In theory, the mitzvah of tefillin applies all day long (and, by Torah law, even at night, according to the halacha). However, we are required to treat the tefillin with such respect and holiness that it is considered disgraceful to do things such as divert one’s attention from them while wearing them, and even more so to have unclean thoughts, or sully them through bodily functions such as passing gas, etc. That is why the Sages ordained that we should limit our wearing of tefillin to a minimum, so that we can concentrate on maintaining the physical and mental cleanliness that are due them. Over time, this limited wearing became relegated to the time of morning davening (when are bodies and minds are empty and clean), particularly during the recitation of Shema and Shemoneh Esrei. Indeed, if a person wishes, and is able, to leave them on a bit longer, e.g. if he learns after davening, etc., that is praiseworthy. Know, however, that even if, for whatever reason, a person cannot daven one day, or did not have tefillin at the time of shacharis, he is nevertheless obligated to don his tefililn at least once during each day, even if only for a few minutes, and even if he does not say a word of tefilla while doing so!
By the way, the above explanation is the reason that tefillin is unique among mitzvos (with the possible exception of fasting on fast days), in that pre-Bar Mitzvah boys are not encouraged – in fact, not permitted – to “train” for it during their formative years as a ‘katan’ (minor). We are not confident that they have the capacity to maintain a clean mind and body while they wear their tefillin. Customs vary as to when they may be allowed to begin wearing their tefillin, most commonly ranging from three months before the Bar Mitzvah date to the actual date of their thirteenth birthday!