I have noticed that while most Ashkenazi siddurim have blessings for both arm and head tefillin (להניח תפלין and then וציונו על מצות תפלין), Chabad only does one blessing, and I remember seeing a disagreement somewhere about the second blessing being in vain. Or maybe only one blessing is just a kiruv thing?

Does someone know the source and reasoning for only saying להניח תפלין and not a separate blessing on the head tefillin?

  • I estimate most Jews only say one blessing when donning Tefillin. (I mean no one's done a study or anything, but when you add up all the Spanish, Yemenite, Syrian, etc. and throw in the Litvaks who follow the Vilna Gaon and then various groups who follow the Kabbalistic/Zohar practice (see Beit Yosef OC 25), how could you not end up with more than half?)
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 22, 2017 at 14:09
  • @DoubleAA I would say the majority of American Jews recite two blessings, but you're right - it would seem that the majority of all the world's Jews recite one blessing.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


It is not a matter of kiruv but a dispute as to whether the blessing(s) are to be recited as a unit (on the head and the hand) or if each of the two merits or requires its own blessing. Indeed, I have seen references in which both blessings are recited together. However, I do not have a link to that.

One explanation of this dispute is because:

Tefillin: A Primer

The two boxes represent the two ways that we serve God in this world: thought (the head) and action (the arm). When putting on the arm-tefillin, we focus on devoting our strength to the Almighty. The head-tefillin imbues us with the idea of subjugating our intellect for the love of God.

Thus, we consider the unity of our intellect and action, but they are two separate aspects of our life. We put the arm tefillin on first to show that we have said נעשה ונשמע.

We place the arm-tefillin on first, teaching that commitment to action and implementation must precede thought. Why? Because Torah is not an intellectual adventure of ivory-tower theoretics. Rather, Torah study demands that we use that knowledge for the purpose of fulfilling God's will in the world.

Brachot of Tefillin

Before the strap of the arm Tefillin is tightened, the blessing of להניח תפילין is said. [61] If someone forgot to recite the blessing before tightening the arm Tefillin one should still recite the bracha, even if one has already placed one's head Tefillin. [62]

Upon placement of the head Tefillin, Sephardic and Hasidic authorities are of the opinion that the blessing on laying the head Tefillin is not necessary and the one blessing on laying the arm Tefillin is sufficient. [63] Ashkenazim do recite a second blessing of על מצות תפילין on the head Tefillin, before tightening it around the head‏. [64] It is also customary to add the phrase ברוך שם כבוד מלכותו לעולם וע‏ד because of the doubt as to the necessity of the bracha. [65]

[61]Shulchan Aruch 25:8

[62]Kaf Hachayim 25:49

[63]Shulchan Aruch 25:5

[64]Rama 25:5, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, laws of the donning of tefillin, seif 3. Kaf Hachayim 25:40 writes that a Sephardi who hears the bracha on the Tefillin shel rosh is permitted to answer amen in his head.

[65]Rama 25:5

The reason for this difference is explained in Is a separate blessing recited on the head tefillin?

Although we put on two different tefillin, one for the hand the other for the head, and in truth they constitute two distinct mitzvot, nevertheless the blessing recited on the hand tefillin also cover the head tefillin which are donned immediately afterwards. The sages also instituted a special blessing for the head tefillin, which carries more importance because of the different compartments and the extra Shin (letter in the Aleph Bet) on the box.

There is, however, a difference of opinion whether this blessing is added whenever tefillin are donned, or only if one mistakenly interrupts between the donning of the hand tefillin and head tefillin by speaking (which causes that the head tefillin is no longer "covered" by the blessing recited before donning the hand tefillin).

Opinion 1: This special blessing is only recited on the head tefillin in the event that there was an interruption between the donning of the two tefillins. (And in such an instance, it is the only blessing recited before donning the head tefillin.)

Opinion 2: The head tefillin always warrants its own special blessing. If one interrupts between the hand and head tefillin, then both tefillin blessings must be recited before donning the head tefillin.

[In all instances, after reciting the blessing on the head tefillin, the following verse is added: Baruch sheim k'vod malchuto l'olam va-ed. (Blessed is the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever) This verse is normally said after mistakenly uttering G‑d's name in vain, or saying an unnecessary (which contains G‑d's name). This is now said in consideration of the possibility that the halachah follows the first opinion, in which case a blessing was now recited "in vain."1]

1. This is true whether one interrupted between the head and hand tefillin or not. If there was no interruption, then the status of the blessing recited over the head tefillin is in doubt. If there was an interruption, then the necessity of the first blessing recited on the head tefillin is disputed.

  • Chabada say one beracha only?
    – kouty
    Commented Dec 23, 2017 at 18:07
  • @kouty yes that is what the chabad.org reference says. Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 0:41
  • @kouty Chabad recites one normally and two if there was an interruption between donning the shel yad and shel rosh.
    – ezra
    Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 18:28
  • @ezra yes that is what I brought from the citation Commented Dec 24, 2017 at 18:30

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