Parshat תצוה Shmos 28:38 – Concentration

Exodus 28:38 – It shall be upon Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear the iniquity of the holy things that the children of Israel sanctify, for all their holy gifts. It shall be upon his forehead constantly to make them favorable before the Lord.

Gemora Menachos 7b – “It should be on his forehead constantly” – From this phrase we see [that one who is wearing it] should not remove his concentration from it.


Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #26:

From here the rabbis learn [in a variety of places in the Gemora] that one who is wearing tefillin should not remove his concentration from them and is obligated to touch them constantly. This is learned from an “a fortiori” deduction from the ceremonial miter [that is the subject of our posuk]. The a fortiori deduction is as follows:

Just like the miter which only has God’s name written on it once, one is required to concentrate on it constantly, certainly this law applies to tefillin that has God’s name mentioned many times.

Tosafot comment in the Gemora noted above that this a fortiori deduction is not a full deduction. The [flaw] with the deduction is that the name of God written on the miter  used is the [full] revealed name while in the tefillin the name of God that is used is the [lesser] covered name.  Therefore, Tosafot conclude, that the prohibition of losing concentration while wearing tefillin is not biblical [ie, not fully based on this posuk above] but rather is from a rabbinic decree [that is loosely based on the above posuk.]

However, many others disagree with this observation of the Tosafot. These other rabbis conclude that it is, in fact, a full a fortiori deduction and that therefore the prohibition of not concentrating on one’s tefillin is biblical in nature and solidly based on our posuk. These dissenting rabbis wonder what practical halachic difference would there be in whether the full name or the covered name of God is used.

My opinion is that the words of Tosafot are correct. We do, in fact, find that many halachic stringencies apply to the miter but don’t apply to the tefellin. [Therefore, this law about concentration would logically only apply to the miter but not the tefillin.] It is logical to conclude that these stringencies that apply to the miter but not to the tefillin are there precisely because the full, revealed name of God is written on the miter.

For example, in the Gemora Kedushin 66a, King Yannai tests the Sages of Israel by wearing the miter. Rashi explains there that the test is to see whether the Sages stand up in honor the miter, since the name of God is written on it.

Notice that we do not find this stringency of needing to stand up for tefillin. One has to conclude that this stringency for the miter is due to the fact that the full, revealed name of God is written on the miter [but not on the tefillin.] Due to this full revealed name of God being there, the miter is due this additional honor.

 Another example is in the Gemora Sota 38a. There is mentions that the priests when they bless the people are supposed to raise their hands above their heads, except for the high priest who is wearing the miter. He is not supposed to raise his hands above the miter. Rashi there explains that the reason for not raising his hands above the miter is because the name of God is written on the miter. Behold, this stringency of not raising one’s hands above one’s head also does not apply to tefillin. Again, one would have to conclude that this stringency is precisely because the miter has the full revealed name of God written on it.

Therefore, it appears obvious that the explanation of the Rosh and the Tur on Or Hachaim Section 28 and also the explanation of the תר’י is correct; that the main fulfillment of the requirement to concentrate on one’s tefillin is done by avoiding idle chatter and frivolity while wearing one’s tefillin. Even though normally the term for concentration should be taken literally, but in this case since the halacha is only rabbinic in nature the rabbis only legislated laws that would lead to a desecration of God’s name if not followed.

The halachic difference between ruling that concentration is biblical versus rabbinic is precisely in this issue of whether one needs to touch them constantly. If, in fact, the requirement of concentration is biblical in nature, then one would need to touch one’s tefillin constantly so that one is constantly mindful of wearing tefillin. But if the requirement of concentration is only rabbinic, then the requirement of touching them is only general in nature. And there are other halachic distinctions that arise from this difference of opinion regarding the exact source of the requirement of concentration, but here is not the place for extending the topic.

 DBS Note: First of all, the Torah Temimah’s knowledge of the entire Talmud shines through in this note. Secondly, this note is a very good introduction to the concept of “a fortiori argument”. I am cutting and pasting a Wikipedia definition of this important concept. If you are new to the concept, read the note above again to see precisely how it applies. Thirdly, this note shows clearly the hierarchy of traditional Judaism in tiers of obligations. Biblical obligations are more important and stringent than rabbinic obligations. Much effort is put into ensuring that we delve into which obligations are of what type and what the resulting halachic ramifications are.

Lastly, it is wonderful how the Torah Temimah weighs in on the arguments of approximately 1,000 years earlier and clearly expresses his opinion of who was right.


An a fortiori argument /ˈɑː fɔːrtɪˈr/[1] is an “argument from a yet stronger reason.” For example, if it has been established that a person is dead (the stronger reason), then one can with equal or greater certainty argue that the person is not breathing. “Being dead” trumps other arguments that might be made to show that the person is not breathing, such as for instance, not seeing any sign of breathing.

An a fortiori argument draws upon existing confidence in a proposition to argue in favor of a second proposition that is held to be implicit in the first. The second proposition may be considered “weaker,” and therefore the arguer adduces a “stronger” proposition to support it.

Also, here is the link to a Wikipedia article on miter/mitre:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.