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I remember in yeshiva one day as a bris was about to start after minyan, someone came around and told everybody, "take off your tefilin!"

Recently I saw R' Moshe Feinstein explaining why we leave them on. R' Moshe writes (IIRC) that we don't have tefilin on shabbos because both are signs of the covenant, but circumcision is 24/7 so by nature it's non-exclusive, and in fact it is therefore appropriate to keep tefillin on at a Bris.

(I'm talking here about the ordinary people watching in shul. I certainly understand why the father, mohel, and sandek would have theirs off, as they're busy dealing with a baby!)

So which is it? On or off? Why? Is R' Moshe differing with some well-known posek here, or common practice?

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8 Answers 8

The Shearim Metzuyanim B'Halacha brings a Machlokes whether one should wear Tefilin at a Bris. The Shach, Magein Avraham, Chida, Taz and others say you should. However the Aters Tzvi and others say you should not.

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Rabbi Shimon Eider's English-language book on the laws of t'filin (not the "student edition") has the rule that one takes the t'filin off after the b'ris and a citation. I don't have the book, and don't remember the citation, but seem to recall that it's to a source that indicates that Shabas is an os so we remove the t'filin, whereas b'ris is an os only now being effected so it's appropriate to keep the t'filin on until it's effected (then remove it, as with Shabas). Anyone have R' Eider's book?

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Your question made me curious, so I googled it and found this book called Law and Custom in Hasidism by Aaron Verthaim. I'm not familiar with the author, but it's a referenced starting point.

The custom for wearing tefilin at a bris is because of their relationship of both being called an Os (a sign) and is brought by Shach (YD end of 265:24)and Magen Avraham (OC 25:28) in the name of the Hagahos Minhagim. The author sources the custom to remove them as R' Shmelke Horowitz of Nikolsburg who compared the situation to wearing tefilin on Shabbos, where Shabbos is an Os and precludes tefilin as a second Os. He also writes that R' Horowitz's disciples- R' Moshe Leib of Sasov and R' Yaakov Yitzchok, Chozeh of Lublin -followed their teacher's ruling as well.

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So R' Moshe is defending the practice of the Shach and Magen Avraham against that of Hassidim including the Chozeh of Lublin. Makes sense. As for the rumors circulating my (non-hassidic) yeshiva ... well it happens sometimes. See… –  Shalom Oct 12 '10 at 19:23
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Summarizing from others' answers:

Classical glosses to the Shulchan Aruch say to leave tefilin on. (Shach YD 265:24, Magen Avraham OC 25:28).

However some Hassidic thinkers said they should be removed. (Appears to originate with R' Shmelke of Nikolsberg, and is cited in the Ziditchover Rebbe's "Ateres Tzvi" as the practice of the Chozeh of Lublin and the Sassover Rebbe.)

Yet other Hassidic authorities left their tefilin on. (Os Chayim 25:18 quoting Bnei Yissoschar and Divrei Chaim (the Sanzer Rebbe).)

So all the non-Hassidic sources say to leave them on; the Hassidic sources are mixed on the issue.

The simplest reason to remove them would be that circumcision is already a sign of the covenant, so no need to double it up with tefilin -- just as tefilin aren't worn on shabbos (both signs of the covenant).

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein writes in defense of the leave-tefilin-on practice that circumcision is inherently 24/7 and hence doesn't conflict with other signs of the covenant.

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Could you expand on R' Moshe's reasoning? –  YDK Dec 27 '11 at 23:28

The Aruch HaShulchan writes (Y.D. 265:38):

וכתבו במנהגים שמלין קודם "עלינו", ואין חולצין התפילין עד אחר המילה (ש"ך סעיף קטן כ"ד). וגם אומרים פיוטים (שם). ואצלינו לא נהגו בפיוטים, וכן למול קודם "עלינו" אין נוהגים, וכן בחליצת התפילין, משום דעל פי רוב אין מלין בבית הכנסת רק בבית המילה. ולכן גם כשמלים לפרקים בבית הכנסת אין המנהג כן.

That the custom mentioned in the Shach (brought in other answers) to leave on the Tefillin is no longer operative because the Bris is no longer regularly done in Shul. Thus even when, on occasion, it is done in Shul the Tefillin are not left on.

This does not explain announcing that one should specifically take them off, though.

The Kaf HaChayim (25:92) actually says that the Sandek, Mohel and Father specifically should put Teffilin on for the Bris (by implication even if the Bris is not being done right after a Shacharis minyan, where everyone else - it is obvious, he says - would not have them on). Right after a Shacharis minyan, he expects everyone to keep them on for the Bris. But they should not be put back on on Rosh Chodesh for the Bris (25:96) (until Mincha) for Kabbalistic reasons.

Kitzur S.A. Yalkut Yosef (O.C. 28:10) says that if the Sandek or Father leave their Teffilin on they have what to rely on (although some object to this), but the accepted (Sefardic, I guess) practice as seen by many great Rabbis is to not wear Teffilin during the Bris. In any event he says that on Rosh Chodesh Tefillin should not be put back on for the Bris.

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Why is it that they should not be put back on? What prohibition is there? –  Double AA Apr 27 at 19:53
@DoubleAA, Kabbalistic reasons (which the Kaf HaChayim elaborates on at the link). –  Yishai Apr 27 at 20:20
Incidentally I think most Brises I've been to have been in Shuls. –  Double AA Apr 28 at 2:45

My recollection is that Hassidic practice with regard to this old minhag (of keeping the tefillin on during the bris) is not uniform and that some Hassidim go along with it. The objectors do not represent all Hassidim.

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To the best of my knowledge you leave them on till after the Bris. I have made a Bris in a Chasidishe shul and in a Litfishe Yeshiva and in both cases they were left on till after the Bris.

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Ariz"al holds that one should remove teffilin by bris

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Hi yigal, and welcome to Mi Yodea. If you can source where the Ariz"al says this, it would add significantly more value to your answer. –  Yishai Apr 27 at 16:01

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