May a non-Jew or a person who is in the conversion process don tefillin? If not, what are the reasons that they cannot?

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    Ger, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for this interesting question! I look forward to seeing you around.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 11:53
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    Ger I'll remind you to use the information you learn here as background for a discussion with a qualified rabbi, and not to rely just on the answers here.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 13:42
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    This is anecdotal, but of the three gerim I knew well during their geirus, two were instructed not to wear tefilin until they were megayer and one was due to a safek on his status as a Jew in the first place.
    – yoel
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 16:16

3 Answers 3


A non-Jew certainly may wear tefillin (in other words, there is no law against them doing so), but they will not be fulfilling a mitzvah. From that perspective, they might be viewed in the same way that one views a Jewish woman who lays tefillin: the Shulchan Arukh (Orach Chaim 38:3) exempts her but allows her to wear them if she wishes. Note, however, that the Rema does not permit women to wear tefillin (although he does not comment on a non-Jewish man doing so), and you can see the explanation of the Magen Avraham for this in situ.

The Shulchan Arukh prohibits non-Jews from writing the scrolls that go into tefillin (Orach Chaim 39:1), but it also mentions that if a non-Jew is in possession of tefillin one makes the assumption that they are kosher. Nowhere, however, does it refer to non-Jews who choose to wear them.

That said, the Rambam does speak about non-Jews choosing to perform mitzvot in which they've not been commanded (Hilkhot Melachim 10:10), and even suggests that they receive some measure of reward for doing so. If you look at what the Radbaz has to say on this point, you'll see that he mentions tefillin in particular:

ומכל מקום במצוה שצריכין קדושה וטהרה כגון תפילין ס"ת ומזוזה אני חוכך להחמיר שלא יניחו אותם לעשותן

In any case, when it comes to mitzvot that require sanctity and purity, such as [wearing] tefillin or [writing] a sefer Torah or a mezuzah, I deliberated and am stringent¹: we should not allow them [non-Jews] to do so.

In other words, while the law appears to be in favour of them doing so, if they should wish to do so, and while it may even be possible to construe the Rambam's words as suggesting that they even receive some degree of merit (despite not performing a mitzvah), there is also scope for a less lenient position, as per the Radbaz, and as per a possible extrapolation from the writings of the Rema and the Magen Avraham.


¹ The expression that I have translated above as "I deliberated and am stringent" appears in the Mishna, Nedarim 1:1. It literally translates to "I hesitate to be stringent", but its meaning is as I have rendered it above (cf: Jastrow, חכך II; Kehati, Ned 1:1).

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    The Shulchan Aruch YD 291 does prohibit giving a non-Jew a mezuzah; it's hard to imagine why one would be allowed to give a non-Jew tefillin.
    – Curiouser
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 19:46
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    Does the prohibition of giving a non-Jew a Mezuzah extend to all non-Jews (i.e. even those who are practicing the seven laws of Noach)?
    – chaimp
    Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 3:05
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    I was surprised recently to learn that Rabbi Barry Fruendel, who has worked on behalf of the Rabbinical Council of America to align conversion standards with those of Israel's, told a candidate for conversion that he should wear a tallis and teffilin before officially becoming Jewish as part of his training. When I converted in 1980, the Rabbinical Council would not let me wear a tallis or tefillin, or even keep Shabbos fully, until my conversion was final. Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 15:17
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    The term "non-Jew" is being used in a highly vulgar way by most of the commenters of this fine answer. The stam(plain) "goy" that the Rambam writes about is actually the idolator(see Hilchot Maachalot Assurot 11:8). The shomer sheva mitzvot bnei Noach however, are obviously not this type of goy since avodah zarah is forbidden and not done by (shomer sheva mitzvot) bnei Noach. It's this same misunderstanding and vulgarity that allow neo-Nazi's and other similar groups to cherry-pick goy halacha as being hateful to the non-Jew.
    – EhevuTov
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 10:18
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    @EhevuTov: Agreed. So many religious Jews who were taught in Yeshiva about all the bad goyim, have a very twisted view on the gentiles. It may take years to weed it out and for them to learn the true Torah perspective on these things. Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 1:45

Rabbi Barry Fruendel, who has been representing the RCA in negotiations with the Israeli rabbinate to establish standards for American conversions acceptable to the Israel rabbinate, instructed one convert I know to put on tefillin and to wear a tallis (he was married) before completing his conversion. Frankly, I was suprised. When I was working to get an Orthodox conversion -- I had a Conservative conversion first and thereafter wore tefillin -- I had to stop wearing tefillin until I completed my conversion.

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    I'm very curious about this issue. If a ger is required to wear tefillin starting on the day of his conversion, how can he do the mitzvah if he's wholly unfamiliar with it. Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 22:16
  • Also, it seems to me that a distinction should be drawn between tallit and tefillin. We don't sell tefillin to a non-Jew because we don't trust him to be careful enough when it comes to kedushas tefillin, but the Gemara gives a very different reason (really two reasons) not to sell a tallit to a non-Jew (see Menachos 43a). Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 22:27
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    I would delete this, as reference to that sexual abuser is an utter embarrassment.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 21:30
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    @mevaqesh According to Rashi, Rabbi Meir was a horrible person and caused his wife to kill herself. Yet he is still quoted. Rebbe would teach R. Meir's teachings in his name except those teachings after the time R. Meir plotted to embarrass Rebbe's grandfather. The chief rabbinate still accepts his conversions as valid. So I question why his older opinions can't be debated or discussed. Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 17:42
  • @BruceJames I said nothing about the substance of ideas, and whether they should be debated, in spite of who first proposed them (cf. into to Shmonah Pherakim). None of that requires quoting a person by name. Furthermore, in our case people may be exposed (no pun intended) to this answer and perceive a degree of acceptance of sexual criminals by a community at large. I dont know who sat in on Rabbi's shiur, but I have no reason to assume that this would be an issue.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 18:15

I believe that there is a difference between putting on tefilin with or without a bracha. A boy preparing for his bar-mitzvah may put on tefillin without a bracha, since he is not yet obligated to do so, but he may practice putting them on so that he may learn how to do so. In the same way, I believe that a potential convert my try on a pair of tefilin as a learning experience, but he may not make a bracha;neither on the shel yad or the shel rosh.

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    Why can a child not say a blessing on Tefillin but he does say blessings on other things, such as Chanukah candles or Tzitzit? He's obligated in none of them, as he is a minor.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 18:55

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