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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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6 Answers 6

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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 rechovot.blogspot.com/2009/08/… –  Shalom Oct 12 '10 at 19:23
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Please summarize the link in your answer, since we don't know for sure that the link will remain active. –  Martha F. Dec 27 '11 at 18:05
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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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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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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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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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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
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