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I understand that there are two types of tefillin, the standard Rashi, and Rabbeinu Tam's. How do they actually differ in construction and in makeup? I have heard that the scriptural passages are arranged differently, but are there any other differences?

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The main difference between them is the order of the passages: whether "Sh'ma" appears before (Rashi) or after (Rabenu Tam) "V'haya im shamoa". An additional difference is that, in the head t'fila, the parchment containing "V'haya im shamoa" is wrapped in a hair that sticks out the front of the t'fila, and where that sticks out identifies at a glance the order of the passages within.

Source: e.g., Rabbi Shimon Eider.

  • The order of the parshiyot in the shel yad and shel rosh are identical in both types of tfillin. Note that the parshiyot have to be written in the order written in the Torah, so in the shel yad the sofer writes Kadesh and V'haya ki y'vi'acha, leaves a section blank, writes Shma, and then in the blank space writes V'haya im shamo'a. – JXG Jul 21 '11 at 13:43

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