Tefillin is about Wi-Fi and not WIIFM. With the holy Tefillin we have a Wi-Fi channel to G-d, rather than an attitude in life of WIIFM (“What’s in it for me”). The Tefillin focus us on spirituality rather materialism, self-control in lieu of self-gratification, and choosing good over evil.
The commandment of Tefillin is told to us four times in the Torah—twice in Exodus and twice in Deuteronomy. And these four biblical passages—including the Shema Yisrael (“Hear O’ Israel…”) and Vehaya Im Shamoa (“If you listen to my commandments…”)—are written on parchment and placed in leather boxes that we wear on our arm and on our head. The first mention is in Exodus (13:9):
And it shall be a sign for you upon your hand and for a remembrance between your eyes so that the law of the L-rd shall be in your mouth…
Of course, it is fitting that the Tefillin are next to our heart (the home of our impulses) and on our head (the seat of our decision-making), so that we imbue these with the holiness of the Tefillin and remember not to be led astray by our desires or make bad life decisions. Instead, we need to focus ourselves on G-d, and on our spiritual maturity and self-actualization.
In life, there are so many vices and addictions that we can fall for, whether in terms of work, money, power, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling and social media to name just a few. But the truth of the matter is that with spiritual mindfulness and resolute determination, we can work to achieve self-control and overcome all these, and not be slaves to our desires. Because simply put, it’s not what we have with all the materialist and meaningless things, but it’s who we are as human beings and as the children of the G-d.
I remember not long ago my son-in-law, Itzchak telling me:
Tefillin are our antennas to Hashem!
And like an antenna, we are able to pray and have our signal amplified to G-d as well as be able to be imbued with G-d’s spirit and direction to us in life. With the Straps of the Tefillin as well as the boxes and knots, we spell out the letters of G-d’s name on our head and on our arm. Thus, we are not only wrapped in this “spiritual antenna,” but we literally wear G-d’s words on the parchment in the Tefillin boxes and with His holy name stamped on our centers of thought and feeling.
Every day in life, there is the opportunity—in ways big and small—to make smart decisions, holy decisions, and choose good over evil. The Tefillin are a symbol, a reminder, and an antenna for us to see and feel beyond the moment of selfishness and our own self-gratification and instead look to G-d in heaven, at the bigger picture, for why we are here and what our mission in life is to fulfill.
Often, I love seeing Chabad taking the time to ask their fellow Jews: “Have you put on Tefillin today?” Whether at the Carmel Shuk in Tel Aviv (where this photo is from) or down at Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, if you didn’t yet put on your own Tefillin today, Chabad has a pair available for you to wear and make the holy blessing.
In short, Tefillin is opportunity for us to network over Wi-Fi with the Master of the Universe. It takes us out of the daily grind of looking at the world in selfish, shortsightedness of what’s in it for me today, and how can I get more gold and goodies than the next guy or girl. Inside all of us, we have a soul from G-d, and through our spiritual Wi-Fi connection, we can energize that part of ourselves with a good, strong signal straight to the Big Guy upstairs.