422. Right Between the Eyes!: The obligation to wear tefillin on the head

…and they shall be “frontlets” between your eyes. (Deuteronomy 6:8)

The tefillin shel rosh, the tefillin of the head, are worn “between the eyes” – but not really. The top of the tefillin aligns with the hairline – or, in the case of a balding person, where the hairline used to be. The tefillin is therefore suspended somewhat above the eyes vertically but “between the eyes” in that it must be so centered horizontally.

The box of the head tefillin differs from that of the arm in several ways. For starters, the tefillin of the arm is made in the form of a single box, while that of the head is divided into four compartments. Also, the head tefillin have a Hebrew letter Shin embossed on either side – a regular three-branched Shin on one side and a special four-branched Shin on the other.

The two types of tefillin, while clearly related and intended to be worn together, are in reality two separate mitzvos. The upshot of that is that if one is missing either the tefillin of the head or the hand for some reason, the other may still be worn. One may even recite a blessing on the single tefillin since it is its own complete mitzvah.

As we said in the previous mitzvah, tefillin act like spirituality amplifiers. The tefillin are placed on our arms, adjacent to our hearts, and on our heads. In this manner, the lessons of the tefillin are meant to be imparted into these two organs, infusing our hearts and minds with spiritual zeal.

This mitzvah applies to men in all times and places (though not on Shabbos and Yom Tov). It is discussed in the Talmud in the tractates of Menachos (34a-37b) and Eiruvin (95a-97b). This mitzvah is codified in the Shulchan Aruch in Orach Chaim 25. This mitzvah is #12 of the 248 positive mitzvos in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos and #9 of the 77 positive mitzvos that can be fulfilled today as listed in the Chofetz Chaim’s Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar.