Devarim 11:18 says to put "these words" on our heart and soul. While soul is definitely allegoric, the heart is probably not. So why we do not wear heart part of tefillin?

  • 4
    "Probably not" Actually, probably yes. The Tefillin go on our hands and between our eyes. Heart is clearly metaphorical. (Though the idea that the arm Tefililn is near our heart and the head is near our throat=nefesh should not be overlooked.)
    – Double AA
    Jan 15, 2016 at 1:38
  • note that in the text the commandment to put them on your heart, is separated from the commandment to put them on your arm and between your eyes, and on your doorpost. This strongly opens the door (no pun intended) to reading it differently than the latter examples. The latter examples meaning concrete acts, and the former being allegorical.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 15, 2016 at 4:24
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    BTW allegorical is a bit misleading. The word "lev" likely refers to the mental faculties (this discrepancy arising from the association between the heart and thoughts). Accordingly, literally having the words in one's mental faculties, does not require one to wear a physical object.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 15, 2016 at 4:26

2 Answers 2


This is a good question and worth looking at carefully. Devarim 11:13-17 is addressing the subject of reward and punishment. Verse 11:18 begins as you say but is not talking about tefillin. The 'heart' is spelled with a double 'bet' (לבבך), as contrasted with a single 'bet'. (לבך)

שַׂמְתֶּם אֶת דְּבָרַי אֵלֶּה עַל לְבַבְכֶם וְעַל נַפְשְׁכֶם וּקְשַׁרְתֶּם אֹתָם לְאוֹת עַל יֶדְכֶם וְהָיוּ לְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֵיכֶם:

It is actually talking about the dual inclinations within each human being, the inclination for good and the inclination toward bad. We are to place these words upon our inclinations. The concept of being rewarded for good is to be placed upon our inclination for good, our 'Yetzer HaTov', in order to promote alacrity (זריזות). And the concept of punishment for bad behavior is placed upon our inclination for bad, our 'Yetzer HaRah', in order to encourage it to refrain from bad acts.

You 'bind them', meaning your two inclinations, through these words about reward and punishment as a sign over your 'weaker hand' and your 'soul'. The 'nefesh' is referring to that aspect of soul which connects with the physical and action, the 'animating soul' and your 'hand' means your actions. And they, the concepts of reward and punishment, will be a double sign 'between your eyes, meaning over your thoughts.

  • So you are saying its allegorical? What about Aaron's breastplate that was on his heart for remembrance before God? Jan 15, 2016 at 5:44
  • I'm not sure I would use the word "allegorical". The operative words are not spelled normally. The abnormal spelling has a different meaning. When people are translating into English, or any other foreign language, they are usually trying to go for simple word for word translation, not accurate meaning. Regarding Aaron's breastplate, if you have another question about that sentence, make a separate question. Bli neder, I'll take a look at it. Jan 15, 2016 at 5:56
  • Nice catch on double bet. I did not notice that. Perhaps you are right and it does not mean physical. I need to think about it. Jan 15, 2016 at 6:03
  • It's important to note in regard to this discussion that the language of the written Torah does not necessarily connect to tefillin. Tefillin being a 'beged ish' according to some poskim. As a consequence, if it only related to tefillin, a male garment, all women would have no relationship with the recital of 'Shema'. But the truth is that Torat Moshe is for both men and women. And so the concept, as presented by Moshe Rabbeinu, relates to both men and women. Jan 16, 2016 at 23:37

this doesn't refer to tefillin but in regards to our commitment to the commandments which apply to us every day. They should be so important to us that we "take them to heart". The part of the shema that is the source for the mitzvah of tefillin is, "You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes."

This is why we have toirah shebaal peh so we don't have to invent the meaning ourselves. G-d has already told us how to interpret the commandments.

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