I heard from someone and read through some books that the mitzvah of tefilin sum up to 8. While in general we know that every good deed or commandment we observe is a single mitzvah, why is tefilin different?

I am sorry that I am unable to give my source to where I get this information. Providing a source of yours would be appreciated.

  • 2
    Without more precise sources of your own, it will be hard for us to help you. I don't see the eight mitzvot. I see two (hand and head) and even that is a machloket. But most people on the site are smarter than I am so hopefully one of them will find more. – mbloch Apr 11 '16 at 15:05
  • I mean by putting teffilin (arm and head) one fulfilled 8 mitzvot at once – Yamin Apr 12 '16 at 2:29
  • i read it but could not get that information anymore maybe this will help the teffilin in arm is compose four verse from shemot and devarim again inside the head there are four apartment in which four verses of torah are put in – Yamin Apr 12 '16 at 2:36

You are thinking of the Talmud Menachot 44a:

אמר רב ששת כל שאינו מניח תפילין עובר בשמונה עשה וכל שאין לו ציצית בבגדו עובר בחמשה עשה וכל כהן שאינו עולה לדוכן עובר בג' עשה כל שאין לו מזוזה בפתחו עובר בשני עשה
Rav Sheshet said: anyone who doesn't put on Tefillin violates 8 positive commandments, and anyone who doesn't have Tzitzit on his clothes violates 5 positive commandments, and any priest who doesn't go up to the Duchan [to bless the nation] violates 3 positive commandments, and anyone who doesn't have a Mezuzah on his door violates 2 positive commandments.

Rashi there points out the eight commands for Tefillin are Exodus 13:9,10,16 and Deuteronomy 6:8,8 and 11:18,18,18, and the five for Tzitzit are in Numbers 15:38,38,39,39 and Deuteronomy 22:12. While Rashi there doesn't clarify, I assume the three commands to the priest are Numbers 6:22,22,25. The two for Mezuzah are the two commands to write which are written in the Mezuzah.

In general, though, we don't know how the reward for doing Mitzvot is calculated and it can depend on the effort put in so these specific "numbers" are only a fraction of the story (indeed Tefillin are only counted as two Mitzvot (#421,422) by the Chinukh) and on the simplest level are being used to emphasize the importance of these Mitzvot. Tefillin are apparently a very important Mitzvah, hence God's decision to repeat the command multiple times.


It's an excellent question @Yamin. Fulfilling the mitzvah of tefillin is actually equated with fulfilling all the miztvot of the Torah like is found in Kiddushin 35a in the name of Rav Acha bar Yaacov. This is also taught in Sefer Reishit Chochma by Rabbi Eliyahu DeVidas and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Siman 25:1.

It is significant to emphasize that the citation from Kiddushin does not use the term 'shikool', which means of equal value but not actually the same thing. Rather it uses the uses the expression 'hookshah', which has a meaning of actually being one, like two hands being struck together as one.

To explain this in more detail requires citing the explanations of numerous Siddurim, like the Siddur of the Ramchal, the Siddur Kol Yaacov, the Siddur of the Ari and others concerning the intentions, the 'kavannot', of the prayers.

When one lays tefillin, it begins with the 'tefillin shel yad'. This is because we are reminded that the action, performing the mitzvot through action is the primary aspect as opposed to just contemplation. (המעשה הוא העיקר)

When one puts on tefillin, part of that process is to gaze at the two 'Shins' on the 'tefillin shel rosh'. While gazing, it is noted that one of the 'Shins' has three heads and one has four heads. Three plus four equals seven. And the two 'Shins' together spell the word 'six' (שש). Seven plus six equals thirteen. But the letter 'Shin' also has a numerical value ( gematria) of three hundred. And so the two 'Shins' also convey a meaning of six hundred. The total so far is six hundred and thirteen (613). This equates with the 613 mitzvot of the Jewish people. (תרי״ג מצות בני ישראל)

But it doesn't stop there. 'All the mitzvot of the Torah' also includes the 7 mitzvot of the children of Noach (שבע מצות בני נח) which parallel the 7 Rabbinic mitzvot (שבע מצות דרבנן). These are brought to mind through the 'batim', the houses of the tefillin. The 'tefillin shel yad' has a single bayit (1). And the 'tefillin shel rosh' has four batim (4). Unlike the mitzvah of tzitzit (the blue and white fringes) which are considered a single mitzvah, the 'tefillin shel yad' and the 'tefillin shel rosh' are considered two separate mitzvot (2). This reminds us of the additional 7 mitzvot (1 plus 4 plus 2).

And the inclusion of the two categories together (613 and 7) gives a total of 620 (כתר, crown 'of G-d's Kingship') which alludes to the revelation of G-d's kingship over the entire universe. (מלך העולם)

This is also the idea that 'G-d is one and His name is one.' And this is recalled while reflecting on this unity because placed within the 'batim' of both the 'shel yad' and the 'shel rosh' are the same four parshiyot. In the 'shel yad' they appear on a single klaf and in the 'shel rosh' they are on separate klafim. And this is where the eight (8) is found in the tefillin, meaning in the total number of parshiyot. The one 'bayit' of the 'shel yad' (1, א), the eight parshiyot from both the 'shel yad' and the 'shel rosh' (8, ח) and the four 'batim' of the 'shel rosh' (4, ד). Together, this is 'One' (אחד). Hear Israel, the L-rd, your G-d, the L-rd is one.

  • This doesn't really seem to answer the question. – Double AA Apr 13 '16 at 3:10

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