Parshat בא Shmos 13:9 – Tefillin on Chol HaMoed

Shmos  13:9 – “And it shall be to you as a sign upon your hand and as a remembrance between your eyes, in order that the law of the Lord shall be in your mouth, for with a mighty hand the Lord took you out of Egypt.”

Gemora: Menachos 34(b): We learn in a Beraitha, Rabbi Akiva said, “You might think that perhaps one should put on tefillin on Shabbos and Holidays. However, the verse states [tefillin] should be a sign – meaning for when you need a sign. This excludes Shabbos and Holidays that are themselves referred to as signs.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #33:

Rashi explains and cites the verse in Shmos (31:13) that explicitly states that Shabbos, itself, is a sign. However, Rashi doesn’t mention a proof for the Holidays also being a sign. It seems though that since Holidays are also often referred to as Shabbos; therefore, they also are a sign. This is shown in a variety of verses. Vayikra (23:15) “You shall count, starting the day after Shabbos…” which refers to the holiday of Passover as is explained in the Gemora Menachos (65b). Regarding the holiday of Succos, the verse states (Vayikra 23:39) “the first day of the holiday shall be a Shabbos and the eighth days shall be a Shabbos”. Also, note the Gemora Shevuos (15b) where the rabbis deduce that building the temple needs to be suspended on holidays because of the verse in Vayikra (19:30) “You shall surely guard my Shabbos and my temple shall you fear.” Also, in the Mechilta (on Parshat BeShalach) the rabbis deduce that one may not reap on holidays from the fact that the verse (Shmos 16:26) “Six days shall you reap and on the seventh day (Shabbos) not”. The reason all of these cite describe Holidays as a form of Shabbos is easy to understand. The word Shabbos means resting and ceasing from work – since this is also true of Holidays, we can then see that it is logical to refer to Holidays with the word Shabbos.

Tosafot here writes a [different] reason why Holidays are referred to as a sign. They state that for Passover, the “sign” consists in the prohibition of eating leaven baked goods. On Succos, the sign consists in the dwelling in the succah and in the shaking of the lulav.

But according to this reasoning, one would have to ask what the sign would be for the holiday of Shavuos and Shmini Atzeret? One cannot say, regarding these holidays, that the sign consists of the special sacrifices that are brought on these days. If that were the case, then Rosh Chodesh [the first day of each month], would also be a sign and one would not be obligated to wear tefillin on Rosh Chodesh. [However, one is obligated to wear tefillin on Rosh Chodesh.] Thus, if one does not deduce Holidays as being a sign from the prohibition of work, there are some logical inconsistencies. Further, from the phraseology of Tosafot, it is clear that these two opinions of why Holidays are referred to as signs are mutually exclusive. In Tosafot’s opinion Holiday is referred to as a sign because of its unique observances, not because of the cessation from work.

The halachic ramification of this opinion is regarding the question of whether one needs to put on tefillin during the intermediate days of the holiday [chol ha’moed]. If the reason is because of the prohibition of leaven bread or the obligation to eat in a succah, then one would not be obligated to put on tefillin during chol ha’moed. If, however, the reason is because of the prohibition of doing work – then according to those opinions that one is allowed, biblically speaking, to do work on chol ha’moed, then one would be obligated to put on tefillin during chol ha’moed. This enables us to understand the Rashba who states explicitly that one is exempt from putting on tefillin during chol ha’moed. The Rashba is being internally consistent as he explains in his work (section 600) that it is prohibited bibilically to do work on chol ha’moed. This is as is written by the Beis Yosef. Thus one would not be obligated to put on tefillin during chol ha’moed.

Behold, much has been written by the Rishonim and the Acharonim regarding this issue of obligation or exemption from putting on tefillin during chol ha’moed. Therefore it does not appear appropriate to expound at length regarding this topic here. However, let us shed some light on the issue of putting on the tefillin but without a blessing in order to [seemingly] fulfill all the various opinions on this matter. My opinion is that this idea does not seem to make sense. The fact that saying a blessing does not in any way impact the performance of the mitzvah shows that even without a blessing one has completely fulfilled the mitzvah. [So in what manner does this meet the opinion of one who says that we do not wear tefillin on chol ha’moed?!]

Perhaps the logic here is similar to the logic in the Gemora Rosh HaShana (28b). In that Gemora there is a discussion regarding the prohibition of “don’t add to it”. [This is the prohibition against creating new mitzvot or new prohibitions.]  The Gemora raises the issue of one who sleeps in the succah on Shimi Atzeres is liable for lashes because he has transgressed the prohibition of “adding on”. Many have asked why the Gemora mentions one who sleeps in the succah [after the holiday is over] instead of the [more likely] scenario of one who eats in the succah [after the holiday].

The explanation for the Gemora’s choice of scenario is because on all the days of the actual holiday, we make a blessing before eating in the succah. Thus, if one were to eat in the succah after the holiday and NOT make a blessing, it would be immediately recognizable that one was eating there due to a doubt [is it still the holiday or isn’t it?] not due to a desire to add to the requirements of the mitzvah. This is not the situation with sleeping in the succah, however. Even during the holiday, one never makes a blessing before sleeping in the succah. Therefore, there is no way to recognize that one is NOT sleeping in the succah with the intent of adding on the holiday.

Based on this example we see that since on all normal weekdays of the year, we do make a blessing before putting on tefillin, if we put on tefillin during chol ha’moed and we don’t make a blessing – we thus demonstrate that we are doing so out of a doubt [as to whether one should put on tefillin during chol ha’moed or not]. This is the reason why putting on tefillin without a blessing is the way that satisfies both points of view.

Editor’s Note: This may be the most complex note that we have translated so far. However, the clarity of the Torah Temimah’s logic, I think, does make the note intelligible even to one not familiar with the method of Jewish Talmudic reasoning.


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