1

It appears to be the universal practice that the straps of the Tefillin Shel Rosh hang down in front of the wearer. If it doesn't have a source de-Rabbanan, it must be one of those unwritten minhagim that is so universal it is de facto the halakha. Like wearing a kippah not only during brachot.

But maybe it has a written source? Is this Gemara or Rishonim?

I suppose the practical aspect of it is that if the majority of your retzuot have to be visible at all times, it helps 'keep you responsible' to the halakha of them entirely black (I remember reading somewhere though that in times of Amoraim they did not have to be black).

  • I edited in the relevant sources from Rambam and the Gemara, in addition to other Rishonim. Is there anything else you are looking for? – mevaqesh Jan 3 '18 at 22:21
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Here is one source

The straps of the Tefillin Shel Rosh are to be drooped in front of the person. 1

with foot note 1 referencing

Admur 27:20; Michaber 27:11

The shulchan aruch, there writes

ישלשל הרצועות שיהיו תלוים לפניו

1

The Tur (OH 27) writes that the straps should be in front of a person. As noted by the Beit Yosef there, this is stated by the Rosh (Halakhot Ketanot: Hilkhot Tefillin: 11).

It is also stated by Abudirham (Birkhot HaShahar) and Ri al-Nakawa in Menorat HaMaor (Kadmon) (ch. 2. pg. 71).

The potential Talmudic source for this is Menahot (35b) which states:

רבה קטר להו ופשיט ושדי להו. רב אחא בר יעקב קטר להו ומתלית להו. מר בריה דרבנא עביד כדידן

Rabbah used to tie the knot and allow [the straps] to fall straight down and throw them. R. Aha b. Jacob used to tie the knot and then plait [the straps] together. Mar the son of Rabina used to do according to our custom.

Rashi (s.v. Rabba) explains that this is referring to what they would do with the straps of their head tefillin that extended past the knot. Although it is a little difficult to understand, his explanation of Rabbah's practice seems to be (cf. s.v. Rabbah and s.v. k'didan) that Rabba pulled the straps to the other side of his head; i.e in front of him, and let them hang down.

This explanation of Rabba's practice is stated explicitly by Tosafot thee (s.v. `Avid).

Rambam (Hilkhot Tefillin 3:12) writes that the straps should be long enough to reach roughly the navel, although he doesn't state that they should be there; just that they should be long enough, it could certainly be inferred that they should be there, just as he writes that strap of the arm tefillin should be long enough to wrap around the arm and hand, which he holds one is supposed to do. See additionally Hagahot Maimoniyot and Kessef Mishneh there.

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