Although not a normative custom, there is a rare custom practiced by lofty individuals to put on four pairs of tefillin (Rashi, Rabbeinu Tam, Shimusha Rabba and Raavad).

In Hayom Yom, the Lubavitcher Rebbe specifies that one who follows this custom should only put on the shel rosh for the Shimusha Rabba and Raavad tefillin, while using the shel yad for Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam respectively (See https://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/5865/jewish/Hayom-Yom-Menachem-Av-19.htm).

Any idea why the custom is to only use the shel rosh? Obviously this is not a regular practice, but still curious.


  • 1
    The two places where you might find this discussed are in Sefer Emek HaMelech by Rabbi Naftali Bacharach and in the Responsa of Rabbi Menachem Azaryah of Fano. As memory serves, Emek HaMelech does not have much detail beyond that 4 pairs exist and that the vast majority of people do not merit to wear them. The responsa of Rema of Fano has much more information about them, composition, one method of how to wear them and who qualifies. They are purported to be a segulah for having children. May 23, 2018 at 21:20
  • After reflecting for a second on my previous comment, a possible reason for 'shel rosh only' may be related to the concept that these extra 2 types are an effective segulah for having children. Since according to Torah, the source of conception begins in the Mochin (brains), the hand tefillin, if they are different from Rashi & Rabbeinu Tam, would not seem as relevant. In the Lubavitcher Rebbe's case, one story says that he was advised to wear the 4 types to possibly help them (his wife & himself) in having their own biological child. May 23, 2018 at 21:33
  • @YaacovDeane do you have the source for the rema of fano? Nov 14, 2023 at 23:56
  • @YaacovDeane please and thank you Nov 24, 2023 at 5:44
  • @GershomMenachem First of all, Shavuah tov. I didn’t miss your plea. Over Shabbat, I reviewed several sources and collected the citations you seek. Bli neder, I will post them for you specifically within the next 48 hours. They are from the responsa of Rabbi Menachem Azariah of Fano and also from his discourse, Yonat Elem ( last edition). Nov 26, 2023 at 0:27

1 Answer 1


It's important to remember that for the arm-Tefillin the four sections are written on one piece of Klaf, while for the head-Tefillin they are written on four separate pieces of Klaf and placed in four separate boxes.

The natural question to ask about the head-Tefillin becomes: do the four sections get inserted from right to left from the perspective of the one wearing the Tefillin or do they get inserted from right to left from the perspective of the one looking at the front of the Tefillin. (This is like how stage-right is house-left.) The Talmud (Menachot 34b) actually quotes different sources that phrase the proper order from different perspectives.

But for the arm-Tefillin where it's all on one piece of Klaf and there are no alternative perspectives, of course you'd write it from right to left like any other Hebrew writing. After all neither side denied that the sections are supposed to be right to left in whatever perspective.

From a Rabbenu-Tam/Raavad perspective, the same argument applies: in the head Tefillin the "correct" perspective for reading is from the outside in, so you put section 1 and 3 in an outer box and then 2 and 4 respectively in the box just inward from it. From one side you encounter 1 then 2, and from the other side you encounter 3 then 4. But again for the arm-Tefillin there is only one reasonable perspective to choose: reading in order as written on the single sheet. No one reads from the beginning and end of a single sheet inwards.

The Semak (153) indeed writes that no one argues against Rashi about how the arm-Tefillin is written.

I'm certain there are opinions that recommend being strict to write the Klaf for an arm-Tefillin in the same order as the sections of a paired Rabbenu-Tam/Raavad/Shimmusha-Rabba head-Tefillin are placed in their boxes, but you asked why some would be lenient regarding the arm-Tefillin and I'd expect this to be why.

  • Note the Semak is not only a leniency. According to him you need to have parsha gaps the "rashi" way even in rabbenu tam tefillin shel rosh. Common contemporary sefardi rabbenu tam tefillin are not usually strict for that
    – Double AA
    Mar 27, 2022 at 12:58

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