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The head tefilin are supposed to go above the hairline, or above where the hairline was on someone whose hairline has receded.

The former situation is easy to deal with. A man whose hairline hasn't strayed from its original location can simply find its location every morning with his fingers.

Do you have any tips for how a man with a receded hairline should find this location? Are there any clues available to the fingers? I'm looking for practical advice, ideally advice that can be implemented without ready access to diagrams and mirrors.

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I wonder if he can tattoo a line where it used to be! ;-) –  Yahu Feb 18 '11 at 6:29
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That would help if a mirror's available, but not for fingers-only operation. A subtle line of stitches may be more effective for the latter. –  Isaac Moses Feb 18 '11 at 14:48
    
True! Rav Moshe Feinstein was against the use of a mirror for tefillin placement. As a Rebbi of adolescents and pre-adolescents I can totally understand why. –  Yahu Feb 20 '11 at 15:16
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4 Answers 4

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If you put your pinkie right above your eyebrow and you don't spread your fingers, then the bottom of your shel rosh should rest on the top of your index finger.

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Chanoch, do you mean putting the pinkie vertically or horizontally above the eyebrow? Horizontally makes sense but vertically places the top of my index finger about an inch below my hairline. –  Yahu Feb 21 '11 at 1:55
    
@Yahu. Horizontally. Position your hand like you're wiping sweat off your eyebrow. Your pinkie should be parallel to your eyebrow, and just above your eyebrow. –  Chanoch Feb 21 '11 at 17:13
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Could some men with unreceded hairlines please try this and let us know in these comments whether this trick works? –  Isaac Moses Feb 21 '11 at 17:57
    
Chanoch, that reaches about 3/4 of the finger width above my hairline. –  Yahu Feb 23 '11 at 2:17
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Yahu, So that's a little machmir. Sounds OK to me. –  Isaac Moses Mar 2 '11 at 3:04
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Yes there is a way. But first let me clarify something...

There is an upper and a lower boundary of where Tefillin may be placed. Anywhere between these two spots is fine. The area is rather large, to the extent that Chazal say that there is enough room on the head to put two pairs of Tefillin at once. (Indeed some sefardim and others weare Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam at the same time.)

Based on this, the best, surefire way to make sure your tefillin are placed properly is to find the upper boundary and put them slightly below it.

The good news is that the upper boundary can be pretty easily located on most people. It is a subtle dip around the middle of the top of your head, called the 'coronal suture'. If you feel along the top of your head, you should be able to find this dip.

Coronal Suture

Once you have located it, make sure that your tefillin are placed slightly below it, and you are guaranteed that your Tefillin are within the permitted zone (Unless your tefillin are gigantic).

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Raise your eyebrows to wrinkle your forehead. Your hairline starts where the wrinkles end.

I don't know if this is written anywhere, but this is what I was taught when learning the laws of tefillin before my bar mitzvah.

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If the person begins wearing tefillin before his hairline recedes, he can leave the straps as they are when his hair goes.

Caveats: 1) This only helps if he begins before the hair starts to go. If he starts later he'll need to estimate. 2) Due to the loss of hair, the tefillin will be slightly lower after losing hair than before, so if they were right at the edge before, he should tighten them a bit after losing some hair.

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Also, straps can loosen a bit over time. –  msh210 Jul 18 '11 at 4:08
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. . . especially if there is less hair under them. –  WAF Jul 19 '11 at 3:23
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