The bracha that appears in all modern siddurim that I'm aware of for the tefilla shel rosh (whether normally or in case of interruption between the two tefillin) ends with the phrase al mitsvat tefillin (על מצות תפילין). This is also what appears in our printings of the Babylonian Talmud at Brachot 60b and Menaḥot 36a.

However, the manuscripts of Menaḥot that we have uniformly have the text b'mitsvat tefillin (במצות תפילין). See also Dikdukei Sofrim, where it's also noted that b'mitsvat is the text of Halachot Gedolot (Hilchot Tefillin), Rif (Tefillin 8a in manuscripts), HaEshkol (Vol 1 p228 ed. Albeck), HaIttur (Hilchot Tefillin Ḥelek 8), and Or Zarua (Siman 582). On top of that list, I found that Rosh (Pesachim 1:10), Rashba (Hameyuḥas leHaRamban 202), Kol Bo (146:95), Halachot Ketsuvot, and Geonic Responsa have b'mitsvat, and Rosh and Kol Bo explicitly prefer it over al mitsvat.

My question: What is the history of b'mitsvat since the end of the Rishonic era? Is there any trace remaining? Has anyone dealt (historically or halachically) with b'mitsvat vs. al mitsvat since the Rishonic era? Has anyone from any era discussed this explicitly and come down on the side of al mitsvat? (I'm not interested in a preference for al mitsvat by simply omitting b'mitsvat, eg. Rambam in Mishne Torah; I'm interested in explicit discussions of the preference.)

  • I remember something about "al mitzvat" generally referring to rabbinic mitzvos. (I think it was in context of asking why Menorah is "lhadlik" and not "al"). Not sure the source. I believe it was a machlokes if there should be a second brachah on Tefillin so perhaps this plays in to it.
    – Gre''i
    May 17 '20 at 7:49

Did some searching for you...

Note in Oz Vehadar:

Oz vehadar notes

Kol Bo: Kol Bo

Footnote 543: footnote header

Kol bo footnote

Birkei Yosef:

birkei yosef A birkei yosef B

  • 1
    An English-language summary would improve the quality of this already very good answer
    – Josh K
    May 17 '20 at 11:28
  • I think the Hida, Hatam Sofer, and Birkei Yosef are the relevant parts of this answer. Seeing the first two inside (or at least with a link) and having an English summary would make this better. It's also hard to know on which the Birkei Yosef prefers, since both Rif and Bahag have both girsaot in different manuscripts/printings/citations.
    – magicker72
    May 17 '20 at 14:47
  • 2
    Without at least an English summary, this is not an answer and may be removed. This is an English language site and all content must be minimally accessible in that language. (Additionally, please avoid using images of text instead of straight text.)
    – Double AA
    May 17 '20 at 16:17
  • I'm not sure I fully understand the new "community wiki" privilege that I received but does it make sense for me to convert it to that? I am not up to fully preparing this answer...
    – Gre''i
    May 18 '20 at 8:46

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