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I've read several things about covering the tefilin shel yad :

  • covering it with the tallit while fixing it
  • covering it with the tallit for the entire tefila
  • covering it with the shirt sleeve for the entire tefila
  • covering it with the jacket sleeve for the entire tefila

It seems that different sources are linked to kabbalah and the fact that it is not proper to pray with a bare arm or with a jacket sleeve hanging down

Do you have some details about those points ? Also I have noticed some rabbanim don't seem to pay attention to those things for example Rav Ovadia Yossef shlita. Thanks.

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Since I see the Mishna Berura was already brought down, I will bring down the Kaf HaHaim, Orah Haim 27:56.

‫ ובשל יד אין להקפיד אם הם גלוים או מכוסים. והרב הלבוש כתב תש"י יהיו מכוסים בבגדו דכתיב לך לאות ולא לאחרים לאות.

And, with the arm one, there's no need to be careful about it being either covered or uncovered. And Rav Levush wrote that Tefilin of the arm should be covered with his garment, as it is written "... for you, as a sign ..." - but not for other as a sign.

(community translation)

He pretty much says to cover the Tefilin with the clothing (see Birke Yosef 27:5 and Kesher Gudal 3:12).

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    Perhaps you should quote the relevant parts here. Nov 28 '11 at 18:54
  • The asker mentioned several different ways to cover your shel yad. Which ones do your sources recommend? What's the lashon? Nov 28 '11 at 22:25
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    He says the Levush says to cover it. He himself writes "and the [Tefillin] of the hand, one does not have be particular if they are revealed or covered"
    – Menachem
    Nov 29 '11 at 1:31
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    No, he is quoting the Lashon of the Rama (who quotes the Mordichi)- the rama says "Ubshel Yad En LeHakpid Im Hem Geluyim Or Mechusim." (see the Rama 27:11 Orah Haim). Nov 29 '11 at 1:41
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Mishna B'rura 27:47 says it's best to cover the t'fila shel yad. Shaare T'shuva there cites kabala as saying to cover it with the talis specifically, and points us to Magen Avraham 8:3, who also cites that from kabala, but then adds (if I'm reading him right) that one should not cover it completely with the talis.

As always, for practical halacha, CYLOR.

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  • Although the question was more from a kabala perspective, my answer is more form a halacha perspective: not what the OP was seeking, but more to my own taste. I do hope others can answer better the OP's actual question.
    – msh210
    Mar 21 '11 at 16:30
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The source in the Pesukim is Shemoth, 13:9. וְהָיָה לְךָ לְאוֹת עַל-יָדְךָ (And it shall be a sign for you on your hand/arm). The implication is that it should be something for you that others don't see.

I don't know the Torah SheBe'Al Peh source(s) that mention(s) these ideas. They were told to me as a young teen literally Be'al Peh by my Rav.

Also, it is a Mitzvah that is not restricted to prayer, but which can, in theory, be fulfilled all day long. It is, I think, therefore, not the most impressive way to perform the Mitzvah if it looks like it's being done haphazardly with one shirtsleeve rolled up and one's jacket sleeve dangling down at the side. But that is just my opinion. It seems to me much more respectful if the shirt/jacket sleeve is worn over the Shel Yad, such that the entire arm is covered with the sleeve just as the other arm is covered, assuming that it fits, of course.

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  • "assuming that it fits, of course" Every bar mitzvah kid complains that he can't get his shirt/jacket on over the tefillin. But I've never had an issue with either, though you need to do it carefully.
    – MichoelR
    Feb 10 at 16:55
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I heard in a shiur that covering the yad and not the rosh relates to the hidden nature of God (our usual experience in the world of action) vs His revealed nature (relating to כתר of the ספירות which is beyond our understanding). I came here looking for a written source for that. The zohar in ואתחנן does say that the rosh parallels the שמע and the yad parallels ברוך שם כבוד, which themselves represent these ideas. You can see in בן איש חי וירא that there are conflicting kabbalistic traditions about whether to cover the head with the talis. I assume they are reflecting different images as opposed to an actual מחלוקת but not sure.

I hope this helps get us closer, and I hope someone can help me find more info about this too.

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