Rav Ronen Neuwirth
Former Central Shaliach of World Bnei Akiva in North America
Currently Rav of Kehillat Ohel Ari in Raanana and Member of Beit Hillel

The Secret of the Teffilin

וְהָיָה כִי יְבִיאֲךָ ה’ אֶל אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי … וְהָיָה לְךָ לְאוֹת עַל יָדְךָ וּלְזִכָּרוֹן בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ לְמַעַן תִּהְיֶה תּוֹרַת ה’ בְּפִיךָ …
וְהָיָה כִּי יְבִאֲךָ ה’ אֶל אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לְךָ וְלַאֲבֹתֶיךָ וּנְתָנָהּ לָךְ:… וְהָיָה לְאוֹת עַל יָדְכָה וּלְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ כִּי בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ ה’ מִמִּצְרָיִם:

And it shall be when the LORD shall bring you into the land of the Canaanite…
And it shall be for a sign to you upon your hand, and for a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand had the LORD brought you out of Egypt…
And it shall be when the LORD shall bring you into the land of the Canaanite… And it shall be for a sign upon your hand, and for frontlets between your eyes; for by strength of hand the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt…(Shemot 13:5, 9, 11, 16)

Twice in our Parasha we encounter the same phenomenon – there is a commandment on the Tefilin and this commandment is always followed by an introduction that relates to the entrance to Eretz Israel. This lead Chazal to the following conclusion: “Why does the Torah mention ‘bringing [to the Land]’ in regards to tefilin? This is needed as taught in the academy of R. Yishmael: Do this mitzvah so that in its merit you will enter the Land” (Kiddushin 37a).

Why is the Mitzvah of Tefilin more related to Eretz Israel than any other commandment? How does this Mitzvah give us the privilege to reacquire Eretz Israel?

Rav Kook in his essay on the Tefilin provides a profound insight on this matter; The secret of the Tefilin lies within the verse that describes the goal of the Tefilin: “למען תהיה תורת ה’ בפיך”. The Tefilin, says Rav Kook, are designated to inject and infuse the Kedusha (sacredness) into our physical entity – our own flesh and blood. Therefore we are instructed to put the Tefilin directly upon our body without any חציצה (partition). The Tefilin, which are made of a skin of an animal, bring the Kedusha directly from the Tefilin’s portions through our skin and straight into our body. Perhaps that’s the reason why there is a unique Halacha regarding the Tefilin which rules that “תפילין צריכים גוף נקי” i.e. Tefilin requires bodily purity. While most of the commandments are addressed to our soul in order to overcome the bodily interference, this Mitzvah of Tefilin in particular is addressed to our body, and is aimed to uplift it and make it more spiritual.

This is exactly the secret of “Eretz Israel”. The difference between Eretz Israel and all other countries is equivalent to the disparity between the Tefilin and most of the other commandments. In the Diaspora, one has to subdue his bodily inclinations in order to achieve a spiritual level. “Whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a G-d, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no G-d”
(Kethuboth 110b). The land of Israel is the land of perfection, the land of completeness. The Torah of Eretz Israel assists us in finding the path of completion between heaven and earth, the course where there is no contradiction between our physical inclinations and our spiritual obligations.

This Mitzah of Tefilin is supposed to teach us the secret of Torat Eretz Israel, the ultimate path of integration and completeness. Through this Mitzvah we are practicing each and every day the atmosphere of Eretz Israel and therefore this Mitzah gives us the right to re-enter the gates of Eretz Israel, which are – literally – the gates of heaven

“עשה מצוה זו שבשבילה תיכנס לארץ” – Fulfil this Mitzva, for due to it’s merit you will enter The Land.