Hypothetical case: I have been putting tefillin on every applicable morning for many years now. This morning, in shul, someone came up to me and said, "Your shel yad is placed completely incorrectly! You haven't been putting tefillin on properly at all." He then showed me sources and diagrams with arrows and descriptions on the back of each one and lo and behold, he is right! I was never formally taught and, though I copied others, I guess I copied wrong, thinking I was doing it right.

Do I get any schar for having had the intention to perform the mitzvah properly or is it as if I did nothing and I made a bracha levatalah each morning?

  • 3
    The more classic case is discovering years later that your Tefillin boxes were empty (and your Sofer ripped you off). (I think we might even have that q already here somewhere...)
    – Double AA
    Aug 5, 2016 at 1:26
  • 1
    If there is I'd love to see it so I can consider if there is a difference between an error due to flawed product and an error due to flawed performance.
    – rosends
    Aug 5, 2016 at 1:34
  • 2
    "and I made a bracha levatalah each morning": this sounds like a separate question that you may wish to ask separately.
    – msh210
    Aug 5, 2016 at 5:07
  • This seems to me to be a specific case of the more general problem "Does Hashem require intention, performance or both", perhaps in the light of the attribute "bochen klayot velev" - tests kidneys and heart. Have any of the philosophical chazal approached this? I would would expect that they have.
    – Epicentre
    Aug 7, 2016 at 5:48
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    Probably first you should double check that the guy showed you all the sources. People that come up to you to tell you you're doing something wrong are often only showing you the Machmir sources.
    – Double AA
    Feb 6, 2019 at 13:29

1 Answer 1


R. Yosef Teumim in Peri Megadim Mishbetzot Zahav O.C. 27:6 writes as follows:

דכשאין של יד במקום הראוי הוה כמונח בכיס

For when the shel yad is not in the proper place it is if it is lying in the pouch.

According to this, you simply did not fulfill the mitzvah, just like you would have not fulfilled the mitzvah if you had never taken it out of the pouch and put it on in the first place.

R. Yisrael Meir Kagan in Mishnah Berurah 27:33 writes similarly:

המניחן על המצח הוא מנהג קראים ולא עשה המצוה וכל בעל נפש יזהיר לחביריו וילמדם שלא יכשלו בזה כדי שלא יהיו ח"ו בכלל פושעי ישראל בגופן דזהו קרקפתא דלא מנח תפילין וגם הברכה הוי לבטלה דתפילין שמונחין שלא במקומן הוי כמונחין בכיסן

One who puts [the shel rosh] on the forehead is [following] the Karaite custom, and has not done the mitzvah. And every ba'al nefesh should exhort his fellows and teach them so that they don't stumble in this, so that they will not — heaven forfend — be categorized as "sinners of Israel with their bodies" which is the cranium that does not don tefillin. Additionally, the blessing is in vain because tefillin which are placed incorrectly are as if they are placed in the pouch.

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    The sources you quote are correct, however they don't address the critical part of the question. The question is, granted that intrinsically it's as if the tefillin are as if they are placed in the pouch, but is there still schar for his noble intentions, given that he was never formally taught, and had the intention to perform the mitzvah properly? Feb 6, 2019 at 11:12

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