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Peninei Halakha > Prayer > 15 - Keriat Shema > 11 – Tefillin and Tzitzit while Reciting Shema

11 – Tefillin and Tzitzit while Reciting Shema

We must pray and recite Shema of Shacharit with tefillin, as it says in the Shema paragraph, “And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.” The Chachamim say, “A person who recites Shema without wearing tefillin is as if he gives false testimony of himself” (Berachot 14b). Nevertheless, even a person who does not have tefillin is required to recite Shema, since these two mitzvot are not interdependent. If a person cannot fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin, he should at least fulfill the mitzvah of Shema, and he is not considered giving false testimony, since it is due to circumstances beyond his control (Mishnah Berurah 46:33; see earlier in this book 12:9, footnote 10).

It is customary to touch the tefillin of the arm when saying, “Bind them as a sign on your hand,” and the tefillin of the head while saying, “And they shall be as frontlets between your eyes,” and then to kiss the hand that touched the tefillin (Shulchan Aruch 61:25; Chayei Adam 14:15).

It is also customary to wrap oneself in tzitzit before Shacharit since the third paragraph of Shema discusses the mitzvah of tzitzit. It is customary to hold the tzitziyot with one’s left hand adjacent to the heart during the time one says Shema as a reminder of what is written, “Put these words… on your heart” (Shulchan Aruch 24:2). Some take the two tzitziyot in front and others gather all four tzitziyot.[9]

It is customary before the paragraph of Vayomer to take the tzitziyot with one’s right hand (Mishnah Berurah 24:4) or with both hands (Kaf HaChaim 24:8) and while saying the word “tzitzit,” kiss the tzitzit, and while saying, “u’re’item oto”, (“and you shall see them”), look at them. Some pass them over their eyes and kiss them. It is also customary to kiss the tzitzit at the end of the paragraph while saying “emet.” We continue to hold the tzitziyot until the words, “v’nechemadim la’ad,” in Birkat Emet V’Yatziv, and then we kiss the tzitziyot again and put them down (Mishnah Berurah 24:4; Kaf HaChaim 24:8, 18). There are additional customs concerning this; however, all these customs are enhancements of the mitzvah and do not prevent one from fulfilling one’s obligation if they are not performed.

[9]. The ShulchanAruch, in 24:5 and 61:25, explains that a person takes the two tzitziyot in front of him. So writes Yam Shel Shlomo and the Gra in Ma’aseh Rav 39. There is an additional reason to do so, for sometimes the search for the two tzitziyot in back can disrupt one’s concentration while saying BirkatAhavatOlam. However, the Ari says that one should take hold of all four tzitziyot, as is brought by KafHaChaim 24:8, and so it is written in the BirkeiYosef and KitzurShulchanAruch 17:7. The BirkeiYosef writes in the name of the Ari that one should hold his tzitziyot in his left hand between his ring finger and his pinky; so writes the MishnahBerurah 24:4. Also see KafHaChaim 24:9.
A few Acharonim write that a person should gather his tzitziyot when he says, “And bring us in peace from the four corners of the earth” in the berachah of Ahavat Olam (Derech HaChaim, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 17:7).

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Editor: Nechama Unterman