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I see many Chaba"d shluchim have Jews put in tefillin. Wonderful work their doing. However, I read this in Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 27:20:

ומקום הנחת תפילין של ראש מהתחלת עיקרי השיער שעל המצח עד סוף המקום שמוחו של תינוק רופס ויש להזהיר לההמון על ככה, כאשר ראינו בעינינו שרבים נושאים השל ראש חציו על המצח. ואוי לאותו בושה, כי לא קיימו מצות תפילין מימיהם, ומברכים לבטלה, ועונשם גדול

Summarizing the above:

The proper place for the tefillin shel Rosh is from the top of the hairline until the point of where a baby's forehead is soft. One should be especially careful about placing the tefillin in the proper place, for if not, this is a terrible embarrassment to the mitzvah, they have made a blessing in vain and the punishment is great.

My question - the tefillin shel rosh strap is one size. Are the Chaba"d shlichim adjusting the strap for each person's head before they have that person say the bracha? If they aren't, how can they let that person say the bracha?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Jun 21 '19 at 22:58
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    I see many Chaba"d shluchim have Jews put in tefillin. These must be large tefillin to fit a whole person! – magicker72 Nov 21 '19 at 19:09
  • BTW @DanF, the embarrassment is to the person who missed out on the mitzvah and said many berachos livatalah, not to the mitzvah for being performed in an unpleasing way or something. – Mordechai Nov 21 '19 at 21:00
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    How is this off-topic? – DonielF Nov 22 '19 at 3:51
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As pointed out by @Noach in the chat, the Chabad minhag is to say only one beracha on tefilin. That is they say the beracha of lihaniach tefilin before tightening the tefilin shel yad, and no beracha on the tefilin shel rosh, unless one spoke or otherwise interrupted between the one tefila and the other. (This is also the Sefardic minhag. The Ashkenazi minhag is to always say the beracha of al mitzvas tefilin before putting on the shel rosh.)

A second point that must be kept in mind is that the two tefilin are two separate mitzvos, and one can fulfill one without the other. (O.C. siman 26)

Because of this, the Chabadnick does not need to be overly concerned about the tefilin shel roash. Of course he will try to make sure that it is tight and in the proper place, and probably would adjust the knot if it were obviously too big. But even if the shel rosh is not put on correctly, since no beracha is made, the one putting on tefilin is only better off that if the Chabadnick hadn't come along, having certainly fulfilled the mitzva of TSY and maybe also TSR without a safek beracha.

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  • I don't see how this answers my question. Since when does a bracha influence the proper performance of a mitzvah? It's usually the opposite. The bracha is there because of the mitzvah. I can't think of any situation where not saying a bracha would invalidate the performance of a mitvah. – DanF Nov 21 '19 at 22:32
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    @DanF Either way, the person has definitely fulfilled one mitzvah (of tefillin shel yad), which they wouldn't have done otherwise. Now, if the shel rosh is placed properly as well, then great - they've done two mitzvos. If not, and the Chabad minhag was to say a separate berachah on the shel rosh, then you'd have a point - not only has the person not fulfilled the mitzvah of tefillin shel rosh, but they've made a berachah levatalah. But since that's not the case, there's no berachah levatalah to worry about (so no "embarrassment"), just whether the person has fulfilled one mitzvah or two. – Meir Nov 22 '19 at 0:57
  • I'm not sure one can say this isn't a Bracha Levatalah just because the Bracha is only said on the Shel Yad. The Bracha on the Shel Yad goes on both the Shel Yad and the Shel Rosh. Granted, if one only has one, they say a Bracha on it, but perhaps if one has two Batim and one is not good, it counts as a sort of 'negative Kavana' that invalidates the Bracha. – Salmononius2 Nov 22 '19 at 17:32
  • No, this is like making a shehakol on soda and beer and then drinking the soda but not being able to drink the beer for whatever reason. Besides, the TSR are kosher, the straps just need to be adjusted, and having to retie the straps is not an interruption, as ruled explicitly in Shulchan Aruch. – Mordechai Nov 23 '19 at 19:05
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I believe they typically have multiple Tefillin bags at their booths for different head sizes and they are quite good at adjusting the knot on the shel rosh if needed. I believe they put Tefillin on people based on the Shulchan Aruch Harav and am not aware of any heter kiruv on this point that they hold by.

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  • I have to admit that I haven't been in their "tank" in a while. But most of the time, I see a few of them at the lobby of the Atlantic Ave. Brooklyn subway station on Friday afternoon. They have one or two sets of tefillin. – DanF Nov 21 '19 at 22:34
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There is some amount of space between the hairline as the forward most boundary and the fontanelle as the back boundary. It is presumably possible to size tefillin such that they will be in this range on most people, closer to the hairline on small heads, closer to the fontanelle on large ones. On my own head, it feels as if I can just barely fit 4 fingers in this range. Granted, because the tefillin must be entirely within these boundaries, one must deduct the size of the tefillin themselves from the range of acceptability (if there is say 3 inches of space, and tefillin are 2 inches, there is an inch between the furthest back tefillin may be and the furthest forward.)

There is a chart here of head circumferences in adults, which seems to be, somewhat unsurprisingly, a factor of height. Assuming one wants to get say the middle 50% of head sizes in men of all heights considered in that study, one finds only a range of 56 to 60 cm.

So there isn't huge variation in head size, and there is a range of acceptable sizes for any given man, so an average sized tefillin should fit most men.

The people who stand in public places encouraging men to put on tefillin are also well practiced at adjusting them.

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    Note Chabad Chasidim generally use ginormous Tefillin boxes, so it's a bit more of an issue for them – Double AA Nov 22 '19 at 14:30
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Sure, people have different sized heads, but the difference in size is never drastic. People more or less have similarly sized heads. That being said, it is not difficult to adjust the knot on the Shel Rosh at all.

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