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I came to the realization* that every single Bar Mitzva boy gets his own pair of Tefillin, and that in general everyone seems to make sure to only use their own pair of Tefillin.

Interestingly, by Lulav where we learn out that one must use their own set, it seems like every family only gets one set, and everyone gets a turn to use it, while by Tefillin everyone gets their own pair.

Is there a preference in using your own pair or is it just out of convenience? Could a Shul have 20-30 pairs and everyone just shares them as we usually do with siddurim?

*This is my own observation. It's possible that there are communal pairs in other circles.

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    Ew (15 characters). – Isaac Moses Apr 30 '18 at 14:27
  • @IsaacMoses Eh, is it really any worse than community tallisim? – ezra Apr 30 '18 at 14:32
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    From my experience (and what I've seen), every male member of a household usually gets their own lulav. Also, practically, Tefillin is an obligation for every man (almost) every day. If a person is unable to get to Shul (traveling, slightly sick, running late, etc), they still have an obligation to put on Tefillin. Additionally, there are a lot more strict requirements on the size of the Tefilin/knots to ensure that it fits someone properly, which would be hard to standardize. – Salmononius2 Apr 30 '18 at 14:34
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    @ezra Yes. A talit rests mostly-loosely on top of other clothing, while tefilin press tightly against sweaty, hairy parts of the body. – Isaac Moses Apr 30 '18 at 14:35
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    But yes, it is technically possible for there to be 'communal Tefillin' (practical issues notwithstanding). As a matter of fact, one of my local Synagogues has a couple pairs of Tefillin available to help out people (usually visitors) who forgot to bring theirs with them that day. I know a couple of schools as well that have extras for students that forget too. – Salmononius2 Apr 30 '18 at 14:38
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There may be an issue if you have to change the knot. The Avnei Nezer has a teshuva which says that changing the knot back after borrowing it shows that the knot wasnt a permanent knot and that knot made isnt considered a permanent knot. However, I beileve many(Rav Soloveitchik for one) do not consider this to be an issue.

An additional reason to having your own pair is by a careful reading of the Tosefta Chagiga 3:1 seems to says this. When talking about lulav it says if he knows how to wave then he is obligated in lulav. By teffilin it says that the father should buy him teffilin. That seems to imply that lulav he can borrow,but teffilin he should buy his son his own pair.

Text of Tosefta:

קטן שאין צריך לאמו חייב בסוכה קטן שצריך לאמו יוצא בעירוב אמו ושאינו צריך לאמו מערבין עליו מזון שתי סעודות בעירובי תחומין [יודע] לנענע חייב בלולב יודע להתעטף חייב בציצית יודע לדבר אביו מלמדו שמע ותורה ולשון קודש ואם לאו ראוי לו שלא בא לעולם יודע לשמור תפיליו אביו לוקח לו תפילין...

See Tosfos in Erchin 2b

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    Back then they all wore tefillin all day so of course you couldn't borrow. The question is about nowadays – Double AA Apr 30 '18 at 15:46
  • @doubleaa ,not so simple what you are saying. Take the gemara in shabbas beg of perek Reb Eliezer dmilah,where it discusses what mitzvos ppl were strong in and what mitzvos ppl were weak in. Very possible ppl did not wear teffilin at all... – sam Apr 30 '18 at 17:20
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(Summary at the bottom.)

R. Joseph Karo lays down the following ruling:

Shulchan Aruch O.C. 38:12

היה צריך לתפילין ומזוזה ואין ידו משגת לקנות שניהם תפילין קודמים

If one needs tefillin and a mezuzah and cannot afford to acquire both of them, tefillin take precedence.

Elsewhere, R. Moses Isserles gives the same ruling:

Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 285:1

ומ"מ אם אין ידו משגת לקנות תפילין ומזוזה יקנה תפילין ולא מזוזה דמצוה שהיא חובת הגוף עדיפא

Nevertheless, if he cannot afford to acquire tefillin and a mezuzah he should acquire tefillin and not a mezuzah, because a mitzvah which is an obligation on the body is greater.

This would seem to imply that halacha does expect one to own tefillin; otherwise one could simply buy the mezuzah and borrow someone else's tefillin. However, this is not necessarily a proof because it is possible that the aforementioned rulings simply mean that tefillin is more important than mezuzah, and if a situation arises in which the only way to fulfill either mitzvah is by expending money then the money should be spent on tefillin, but perhaps in a regular case one should in fact borrow tefillin and buy a mezuzah.

Indeed, R. Abraham Gombiner in his commentary to the first ruling writes as follows:

Magen Avraham 38:15

מיהו לדידן שאין מניחין רק בשעת ק"ש ותפלה אם אפשר בשאלה מזוזה קודמת דא"א בשאלה

However, for us who don't put them on except at the time of the recitation of Shema and prayer if it is possible via borrowing then mezuzah takes precedence, because it [mezuzah] is impossible via borrowing.

This clearly indicates that one does not need to own tefillin (as they can be borrowed) but it does not necessarily mean that there is no ideal to own tefillin.

Along these lines, R. Hayyim Mordecai Margolioth cites a ruling that buying tzitzit takes precedence over tefillin if tefillin are available to be borrowed. He adds that this is only if one is certain that he will be able to borrow tefillin whenever he needs; if, however, there is a possibility that he will not be able to borrow tefillin on any given occasion then he should buy tefillin instead of tzitzit:

Sha'arei Teshuvah O.C. 25:1

עבה"ט וכתב בר"י בשם האחרונים שאם אפשר שיהיה לו תפילין בשאלה מאחר ציצית קודמין ע"ש וע' לקמן סי' ל"ח ס"ק י"ד לענין תפילין מזוזה ונראה דהיינו אם נכון לבו בטוח שיוכל לשאול תפילין שעכ"פ לא יצטרך להחזירם כל זמן שירצ' אם לא יזדמנו לו לקנות ואם לאו אכתי איכא למיחש שמא יצטרך להחזירם טרם יזדמנו לו אחרים ונמצא בטל ממצות תפילין שהיא קודמת למצות ציצית לדברי הפוסקי' אלו שהם עיקר לדינא

This indicates that there is a value, and perhaps even an obligation, to own tefillin in order to ensure that one will always have the ability to don them.

R. Abraham Tzvi Hirsch Eisenstadt cites R. Margolioth, but offers an alternative argument. He suggests the possibility that buying tefillin only takes precedence over tzitzit and mezuzah when it is certain that without buying the tefillin he will be unable to fulfill the mitzvah by borrowing. In such a case tefillin takes precedence. If, however, it is uncertain whether he will be able to borrow tefillin then mezuzah and tzitzit should take precedence because the definite inability to fulfill a mitzvah should supersede the possible inability to fulfill a mitzvah:

Pitchei Teshuvah Y.D. 285:2

ועיין בש"ת בא"ח סימן כ"ה סק"א שכתב לענין ציצית ותפילין שכתבו האחרונים שאם אפשר שיהיה לו תפילין בשאלה ציצית קודמין וז"ל ונראה דהיינו אם נכון לבו בטוח שיוכל לשאול תפילין בכל יום שעכ"פ לא יהיה צריך להחזירם כ"ז שירצה אם לא יזדמנו לו לקנות ואם לא אכתי איכא למיחש שמא יצטרך להחזירם טרם שיזדמנו לו אחרים ונמצא בטל ממצות תפילין שהוא קודם לציצית עכ"ל וא"כ ה"ה לענין תפילין ומזוזה אם אינו בטוח שיהיה לו תפילין בכל יום בשאלה תפילין קודמין אך לדעתי צ"ע דאפשר הא דתפילין קודמים למזוזה וציצית דוקא ודאי דתפילין מודאי דמזוזה וציצית היינו היכא שאם לא יקנה תפילין יתבטל בודאי ממצות תפילין אבל לא שיהא ספיקא דידיה מוציא מידי ודאי שלהם כגון הכא שאם לא יקנה תפילין אפשר שיקיים גם מצות תפילין בשאלה אולי מזוזה וציצית קודמין דאם יקנה תפילין יתבטל בודאי ממזוזה וציצית אבל אם יקנה מזוזה וציצית אפשר שיקיים גם מצות תפילין וא"כ אף אם אינו בטוח שיהיו לו תפילין בכל יום מכל מקום מזוזה וציצית קודמין

R. Eisenstadt's argument does not, however, preclude the possibility of there being a preference for one to own tefillin. He merely argues that it wouldn't be enough to justify not fulfilling a different mitzvah.

Both R. Israel Meir Kagan (Mishnah Berurah 38:37) and R. Yechiel Michel Epstein (Aruch Hashulchan O.C. 38:16; Aruch Hashulchan Y.D. 285:5) record the final halacha in accordance with the ruling of R. Gombiner, that if one can borrow tefillin then he should spend the money on a mezuzah instead. Again, though, this does not mean that there is no preference for one to have his own tefillin; it merely means that it is not enough of a preference to supersede a different mitzvah entirely.


In sum, there is almost certainly an ideal for one to own tefillin in order to ensure that he will always be able to fulfill the mitzvah, and perhaps there is even an obligation which according to some might even be strong enough to override fulfilling the mitzvah of mezuzah at all.

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