Common practice is that a boy begins wearing Tefillin when he reaches Bar Mitzvah age, or perhaps a month (or three) prior. While there should be an obligation even earlier (under the rubric of Chinuch), we assume that young children will not be sufficiently careful to maintain the proper bodily cleanliness. What if someone has a son who is very mature, and who he is confident will observe the mitzvah carefully? Should there not be an obligation for that son to wear Tefillin (privately, to avoid machlokes and/or yohara)?

5 Answers 5


The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch in 10:24 clearly says that once a kid is old enough to behave respectfully while wearing Tefillin, his father has to buy him a set. This is actually based on a Gemoro in Suka 42a.

ת''ר קטן היודע לנענע חייב בלולב להתעטף חייב בציצית לשמור תפילין אביו לוקח לו תפילין יודע לדבר אביו לומדו תורה וק''ש

A child old enough to shake the Lulav has an obligation to do so; to wear Tzitizit has an obligation to do so; to look after his Tefilin - his father buys him a set; to talk - his father teaches him Torah and Shma

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch goes on to say that nowadays the Minhag is to start 2 to 3 months before the Bar Mitzva.

In Israel many have the Minhag to start 30 days before the Bar Mitzva.

קטן היודע לשמור תפילין שלא יפיח בהם, ושלא יישן בהם, אביו חייב לקנות לו תפילין שיניחם. ועכשיו נתפשט המנהג שמתחיל הקטן להניח תפילין, ב' או ג' חדשים קודם שנעשה בן שלש עשרה שנה.

  • How does this answer the question?
    – Double AA
    Mar 4, 2014 at 4:08

The Mechaber (OC 37:3) states that one buys Tefillin for his son once he is mature enough to care properly for them. However, Rama rules there (from the Ittur) that this is only when the son is age 13, and that one should not deviate from this practice. Mishnah Berurah (10) explains that before 13 one should not allow the boy to wear Tefillin, because he certainly will not care for them properly. Interestingly, however, Beur Halachah cites the Bach, who says that an educated 12-year old can be relied upon to care for the Tefillin properly.

Rav Moshe Shternbuch deals with this issue (Teshuvos V'Hanhagos vol. 2 siman 32). He basically says that the Sages never established a chinuch obligation for tefillin, due to the possibility that this would lead to the tefillin's denigration. He also discusses a few of the customary times for beginning to put on Tefillin, which varies from group to group.

Bottom line is that everyone should follow their family's custom, as YS and Danny have been trying to say!

  • Whose bottom line is that? R Shternbuch's?
    – Double AA
    Aug 24, 2016 at 1:10
  • @DoubleAA - no, my own.
    – Dave
    Aug 25, 2016 at 2:01

Historically, I know of at least one case where a child was told to start wearing tefillin at an earlier age:

R' Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, describes in a couple of his public addresses (Sefer Hatoldos Admur Maharyatz, vol. 1, pp. 91-93, Sefer Hasichos 5706-5710, p. 398) how his father (and predecessor as Rebbe), R' Shalom Dovber, instructed him on the day before his eleventh birthday to start putting on tefillin, but to do so in private. (Afterwards he would go to shul and pray together with everyone else, without tefillin.)


R. Yosef Messas has a responsum about this. He states that the actual halacha is that if a minor knows how to treat tefillin properly – not to sleep in them, not to pass gas in them, not to bring them into a bathroom – the father gets him tefillin and he puts them on, even as young as 6 or 7. He states that this was the custom in Moroco and Algeria where he served in a religious capacity, and he himself started wearing tefillin when he entered his seventh year, and he did the same for his brother and son. He notes that Ashkenazim don't start until 13 in accordance with the Shulchan Aruch, and that the Magen Avraham states that the custom now is to start 2 or 3 months in advance.

Otzar Hamichtavim 3:1819

שאלה: חנוך הנער לבר מצוה אם חובה עד שיהיה בן י"ג שנה או אפילו קודם

תשובה: דבר זה ע"פ ההלכה הוא קטן שיודע לשמור תפלין שלא יישן בהם ושלא יפיח בהם ושלא יכנס בהם לבית הכסא אביו קונה לו תפלין ומניחן אפילו בן שש ובן שבע וכן היה המנהג פשוט בארץ מרוקו ובאלגיריין במקומות בהייתי שם משרת בקדש שנים רבות ואני הנחתי תפלין בהכנסי לשנת השבע וכן עשיתי גם לאחי אחר פטירתו של אבא ע"ה וכן עשיתי לבני הי"ו ואמנם אחינו האשכנזים נהגו רק עד בן י"ג כמו שכתוב בשלחן ערוך אורח חיים סימן ל"ז סעיף ג' והגאון בעל מגן אברהם כתב שם ועכשיו נהגו להניח ב' או ג' חדשים קודם הזמן זהו התמצית האמור בענין זה ולראיה חתמתי פה באחד בשבת ג' ימים לחדש אדר התשל"א

ע"ה יוסף משאש ס"ט

זה כתבתי לעורך דין אחד שבקש ממנו


Where is your Precedence for this early onset TeFillin? I would think it goes under Al titosh TOras Imecha And everyone Should follow their own Minhag and not try to create their own no matter how gifted that particular child is.

  • 1
    The precedent would be the fact that basically every other mitzvah is included in the obligation of chinuch. It is difficult to apply the principle of "Al Titosh" here, because most children are indeed incapable of properly observing this mitzvah. But there is no evidence (to my knowledge) of a specific tradition to forbid wearing tefillin before age 13.
    – Dave
    Jul 22, 2010 at 5:59
  • You really believe only the child you know is capable? I would think there are quite a few twelve year olds who are capable but this is my opinion. Jul 22, 2010 at 6:04
  • I'm not asking about a specific child, this is a theoretical question...
    – Dave
    Jul 22, 2010 at 14:13

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