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    The Super- Power of Tefillin

    The posuk reveals, “V’ra-u chol amei haaretz ki Sheim Hashem nikra alecha v’yaru mimeka – And all of the nations of the world will see that the Name of Hashem is called upon you and they will fear you.” The Gemora in Berachos [6a] elaborates, “Tanya Rebbi Eliezer HaGadol omer, ‘Eilu tefillin she’b’rosh’ – It was taught that Rebbi Eliezer the Great says, ‘This refers to tefillin in the head.’ ”

    There is a famous story that occurred with the Vilna Gaon, zt”l, zy”a. This happened when he was traveling incognito during a self-imposed galus, exile. He was staying at the home of a wealthy man. One morning, they were davening shacharis in the man’s home. The Gaon was praying in an inner room when all of a sudden he heard a ruckus in the outer chamber. He ran outside and found hoodlums roughing up the people in the minyan. When the ruffians glanced at the Gaon, they were seized with terror and they ran for their lives.

    The Gaon’s host looked at him with wonderment and asked him quizzically, “Why did they run away from you? Is there something that I don’t know about you?” The Gaon said simply, “They fled from my tefillin.” The host retorted, “But I‘m also wearing tefillin.” It was then that the Gaon pointed out a simple diyuk, inference from the aforementioned Gemora. “Rebbe Eliezer says that tefillin generates fear when they are in the head. Not when they are simply worn on the head.” The Gaon explained that he integrates in his mind the lessons of the tefillin.

    This is consistent with the Gemora that we recently studied in the Daf Yomi in Masechtas Eruvin. (Please join my zoom Daf Yomi shiur weeknights Sunday through Thursday at 7:45 p.m. EDT, and motzoi Shabbos 9:45 p.m. Go to zoom.com and use ID 7189163100.) The daf tells the story of Elisha Bal K’nafayim. It relates that the Romans made a decree that anyone who wears tefillin “Yitakru es mocho – His brains will be pierced.” This is a highly unusual decree since normally kings say “off with his head,” and not “pierce his brains.” However, even the Romans understood that the main idea of the tefillin is not to simply don them upon the head but to put the message insides one’s brain. Therefore the punishment was to fit the crime, that one’s brain should be pierced.

    This is a very useful Elul message. As we try to beef up our mitzvah observance, tefillin is a great mitzvah to work on for the Gemora in Menachos teaches us, “Hashem aleihem yichiyu – When you put Hashem upon you,” (meaning the tefillin which has Hashem’s Names), you will live.” That’s a great merit for the Day of Judgement. Before we put on the tefillin, we should keep in mind (as we say in the prayer before putting on the Tefillin) that we are putting it upon our heads because the neshama is in our head with the rest of our senses and strengths.

    So, a good way to utilize the tefillin of the head is to try to dedicate and focus our senses to Hashem’s service. When we enjoy the cholent and kishka on Shabbos, let’s remember that we are celebrating the Creation of the world by Hashem. When our senses revel in the Shabbos afternoon sleep, let’s have in mind that we are delighting in the Shabbos. When our senses appreciate the sunlight, let’s make a more meaningful bracha of yotzeir hame’oros – He who creates the luminaries, which is the longest bracha of our davening. We can put something else in our head when we put on the tefillin and that is the Divine message that the tefillin heralds, lemaan tihye Toras Hashem beficha, in order that the Torah of Hashem should be in your mouth. As Rav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, zy”a, used to say, the tefillin reminds us, “Make sure to learn Torah today.”

    In the merit of our tefillin, which the Tur says is the most prestigious of all of the positive commandments of the Torah, (cf. The B’air Haitev at the beginning of hilchos Tefillin) may Hashem bless us with a kesima v’kesiva tova umesuka, a sweet year of good health and everything wonderful.