Phylacteries of Pride

This D’var Torah and all following ones are dedicated in loving memory of each and every Jewish victim to Arab terror since the First Aliyah (Hy”d). This introduction will be included at the beginning of ever D’var Torah, no matter what its content is, until an effective solution is implemented to stopping Arab terror in Israel. A comprehensive list of the 1301 most recent victims, include a personal profile of each kadosh can be found on the Foreign Ministry’s website- a very important read for anyone having difficulty feeling the tragedies that have resulted from the recent wave of terror against Jews in Israel.

After all of the excitement in our sedra, some of the last parshiot are often overlooked. The two finals ones, “קדש לי כל בכור” and “והיה כי יביאך” are especially important as they are ones which connect the Exodus with a commandment that male Jews fulfill every day: wearing tefillin.

The second of these two parshiot zeroes in on why wearing tefillin is so important:

וְהָיָה כִּי יִשְׁאָלְךָ בִנְךָ מָחָר לֵאמֹר מַה זֹּאת וְאָמַרְתָּ אֵלָיו בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ ה’ מִמִּצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים

And it will be then when your son asks tomorrow what this is, you will say to him: Hashem took us out from slavery in Egypt with a strong arm

וַיְהִי כִּי הִקְשָׁה פַרְעֹה לְשַׁלְּחֵנוּ וַיַּהֲרֹג ה’ כָּל בְּכוֹר בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם… וְהָיָה לְאוֹת עַל יָדְכָה וּלְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֶיךָ כִּי בְּחֹזֶק יָד הוֹצִיאָנוּ ה’ מִמִּצְרָיִם.

And it was that when Pharoah hardened himself not to send us, and Hashem killed every firstborn in the Land of Egypt… and it will be a sign on your arm and a crown between your eyes that Hashem took you out with strength from Egypt. (שמות י”ג:ט”ו-י”ז)

It seems clear from the pesukim that the purpose of tefillin is twofold: to remember our slavery, and to reminde those around us (especially our children) of how miraculously Hashem saved us from it. Of all of the commandments and customs in Judaism which are meant to remind us of yetziat mitzrayim, tefillin is second perhaps only to the Korban Pesach and kri’at shema in how explicitly we are told to relate it to the Exodus.

Furthermore, this parsha, which are put inside both of the tefillin explain why Hashem took us out of Egypt. As Moshe warned Pharaoh before the makkot even began, we are Hashem’s “בְּנִי בְכֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל, firstborn son Israel” (ד’:כ”ב). We are His chosen people and we cannot even begin to appreciate the love that Hashem has for us both as a nation and as individuals. When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt, Hashem targeted the Egyptians’ בכורים, and only then were our ancestors allowed go. When other nations mess with us, Hashem fights back for us, hits them where it hurts, and saves us. Why? Because we are so beloved to Him that will not tolerate anyone subjugating us.

When we wear tefillin, we are effectively reminding ourselves and showing others the pride that we have in being Hashem’s firstborn son, His chosen nation. We are remembering how Hashem has saved us countless times from destruction and will continue to. Even in times of physical and religious persecution, there was always an effort to try to wear tefillin, to smuggle them into concentration camps, to quickly put them on in private. Why? Because they are both a symbol of pride that we are Hashem’s בְּנִי בְכֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל, and hope that even in the most difficult times, He will save us, just as He saved our ancestors in Egypt.

In our days we are facing a different type of difficulty. While global Anti-Semitism is definitely not getting any better, perhaps Judaism’s greatest danger now is the high levels of assimilation. Jews are not dying, they are not being killed, and they are not being forced to convert or stop doing mitzvot- they are voluntarily stopping, succumbing to the temptations of a culture lacking responsibility.

In times like these, the crown of tefillin is all-the-more important. When Jews are giving up Judaism left and right, we need to remind them and strengthen in ourselves the importance of Jewish pride, of being proud that Hashem has chosen us to be His firstborn son.

By putting on the tefillin every day, and reading and wearing the pesukim of loving Hashem, doing His mitzvot, and, finally, of Hashem’s love for us, and the extreme measures He took to save His בְּנִי בְכֹרִי יִשְׂרָאֵל, we can hope to try to make a small difference in undoing this dangerous assimilation. Let us all work extra-hard in strengthening our observance and appreciation of this important mitzva, so that we can try to reciprocate Hashem’s strong love for us, and hopefully merit our own modern-day yeztiat mitzrayim, very very soon.

About the Author
Born and raised in Teaneck NJ, Tzvi Silver moved to Israel in 2012 after catching aliyah fever while learning abroad. Tzvi is now pursuing a degree in Engineering from the Jerusalem College of Technology, and works on the side as a contributor for local newspapers in the New York Area. Tzvi's interests include learning Torah, rabble-rousing, and finding creative ways of mixing the two.
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