Friday, May 18, 2012

“Why Did You Shame My Tefillin?”

There is a famous machlokes between Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam regarding the proper position of the last two parshios of tefillin. According to Rashi the third parshah is שמע ישראל followed by והיה אם שמוע. Rabbeinu Tam holds that והיה אם שמוע is the third parshah followed by שמע ישראל. Since the Shulchan Aruch writes that a G-dfearing person will wear both sets of tefillin, Rav Chaim Volozhiner, zt”l, wondered whether he should wear both pairs. When the Vilna Gaon advised that people should wear specifically Rashi tefillin the entire day, Rav Chaim asked him about tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam. “Since מר wears tefillin all day, it is understandable why he wears specifically Rashi since to put on Rabbeinu Tam even for a short time means missing that amount of time with Rashi tefillin which are the halachah. But someone like me who anyway goes for hours every day without tefillin should probably wear Rabbeinu Tam as prescribed by the Shulchan Aruch…” But the Vilna Gaon disagreed. “If so, you will need to wear sixty-four pairs of tefillin to fulfill this mitzvah according to all of the existing varieties of opinion…” Rav Chaim protested, “Yet in the Zohar we find that Rabbeinu Tam tefillin relate to the world to come?” The Vilna Gaon rejected this claim as well. “Firstly, that is not the pshat in the Zohar. Secondly, let one whose entire purpose in life is to attain the world to come wear them…” From that day on, Rav Chaim stopped wearing Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. Interestingly, towards the end of his life the Chofetz Chaim began to wear Rabbeinu Tam tefillin. When asked why he took this on he replied, “I am planning for the near future when I will go to the olam haemes. When there I will meet Rabbeinu Tam and he will likely ask, ‘Yisrael Meir. You learned an abundance of my Tosafos and you found my reasoning sound, imparting much vitality. Why did you shame my tefillin?’”

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