Othodox Jews with little boxes on their foreheads?

I saw an intro on the t.v. tonight to an article about Orthodox Jews, and some of the men had little black boxes strapped to their foreheads. Didn’t catch the full article, so I don’t know if it was explained.

Can someone explain the purpose or symbolism of the little boxes to me?

And as usual, I get a question about Judaism after the Sabbath starts, so I’ll wait for Sunday.

Thanks. ;j

Gentile checking in:

Google “philacteries” or “tefilin”

I’m not Jewish, but…

It’s presumably a
tefillin, a small box containing a scroll with a scroll with a passage from the torah. They are also, presumably, wearing one on the arm, although that wouldn’t stand out nearly so much.

Tefillin is exactly what they are. They come as a matched set, one on the head, one on the arm. Jewish men wear them during morning prayers. They’re leather, painted black, and inside them are parchment scrolls on which are written the four Torah portions in which the commandment to wear them is mentioned:

Exodus 13:1-10 (the commandment is mentioned in verse 9)
Exodus 13:11-16 (mention in verse 16…although adjacent to the above, these are two separate paragraphs in the Torah as traditionally written)
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (mention in verse 8)
Deuteronomy 11:13-21 (mention in verse 18)


Not only are don’t they stand out so much, but they are intentionally concealed under one’s sleeve. This is because the verse in Exodus 13:9 says (bolding mine, obviously):

so Jewish tradition says this indicates that the one on the arm is to be kept as a sign only for one’s self (whereas there is no such qualifier mentioned by the head one).

Thanks, cmkeller. Follow-up question - the clip I saw looked like a group of Orthodox Jews. Do Conservative and Reform Jews also follow this observance?

The conservative movement does consider this to be an obligation, though the percentage of the lay-folk who observe is lower than amongst the Orthodox. The Reform consider it optional.

thanks - as always, you’re a font of information!

In the past few years, there’s been an outreach effort in the Conservative movement called “The World Wide Wrap,” to encourage Jews to put on tefillin at least once a year (on Super Bowl Sunday).

How is tefillin pronounced?

No different than it would seem from the spelling, Chao. “Tef-ill-in.”

Accent on the “ill”.

… or on the “in”, if you happen to be speaking Hebrew rather than “Yinglish” (Yiddish/English)


In which case it would really be Tef-eel-EEN, right? :slight_smile:
Like you, it always amazes me how the Ashkenazic pronunciation shifts the emphasis to the wrong syllable.

To add to cmkeller’s explanation, it’s also worth mentioning that they are only worn during morning prayers on weekdays – not on the Sabbath or major holidays.

Thanks for the clarification. I’ve never heard that part before.

In fact, most Israelis would probably bunch the whole thing into two syllables, pretty much dumping the initial “e” (which was never more than a really well-articualted schwah to begin with, anyway) – thus: T’fi-LEEN

And while I think most scholars agree that Hebrew should, in fact, be pronounced the Sephardi way (emphasis usually on the last syllable), IANALinguist, but I’m pretty sure that this isn’t cut-and-dried. This is, however, the way Modern Hebrew has developed, and there is no way back whether right or wrong.

Oh, and the term you were looking for was “putting the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble…”


Dani, after some thought, I realize you’re right - grammatically, accent on the last syllable is proper. I guess the pronounciation I’ve grown up hearing has been Anglicized or something.

Noone Special, I tried to put the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABble by putting the emphasis on the wrong syllabble (italics) But it didn’t stick out as much as yours!

cmkeller, Ashkenazim do tend to shift the stress in lots of Hebrew words… like SukkOT --> SUKkos, ChaMETZ --> CHOmetz, etc. Technically I guess the milra words end up sounding mileil. I’m sure there’s a study on it somewhere.

Or even a fount of information. :smack:

“I’ve always considered cmkeller a Times Roman kind of a guy…”

You had it right the first time. See?