I had started a completely different post for today… One that was really helping me define and focus on what Judaism is and isn’t… In fact… What Judaism Is… And Isn’t – By Marc is and will be the title.
But then, like so many times in life, when we are open and willing to receive, something literally took over and guided me… and had a most profound impact on my thoughts… on my heart… and on my soul.
I had an amazing revelation this morning as I was wrapping Tefllin… or “laying” Tefillin as many will say.
First, that I continue to have revelations is amazing in itself… It goes to show how prayer and Judaism and me, myself are constantly evolving and growing… the signs of being alive… and moving towards greater understanding and connection, and becoming a truer and better version of myself.
Yes, there are mornings when it is rote… when it is streamlined for time… when… for lack of a better phrase, I am going through the motions.
But there are also mornings when it is deeply personal… when I am filled with emotion, and yes, there are even some mornings when I cry, feeling the power of connection and prayer… feeling the presence of Hashem… and knowing that our relationship is becoming more meaningful and deeper.
Since there is no tradition of laying Tefillin in my family, I created my own, hybrid sort of way of doing it… Combining the Chabad wrap with the Ashkenazi.
I start with forming a Shin on my upper arm and bicep…
According to Chabad.org:
“The shin with four columns is found on the tefillin that is worn on the head. One side of the head tefillin has a shin with three lines and the other has one with four lines. In his personal notes the Rebbe offers two reasons for this. First, the four-lined shin is the shin of the Luchos, the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. The four lines represent the awesomeness and holiness of the engraving of G‑d’s word into physical stone. To visualize this, imagine the three lines of the shin etched into stone. If you focus on the stone that remains around the shin, there will be four columns. These are the four lines of this form of the shin. They are the wake, the reflected light of the Luchos.
The second of the Rebbe’s reasons is that the four-pronged shin represents the four mothers: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.”
They go on to say that the letter Shin has at least five meanings:
“Tooth,” or “Teeth”
“Steadfastness in one’s faith”
“To change for the good”
Obviously the second, third and fourth meanings are the ones that most fit my path and “needs,” so I focus on them… especially changing for the good…
I am working very hard to be steadfast in my faith.
I absolutely want to change for the good and become the best version of myself… This is, in actuality the path I am on, in both Judaism and in life in general…
To become a better Jew and simultaneously… and it really is the same thing… a better human being.
I want to return to Hashem and my roots… and this is where the emotion came in a full flood this morning.
Following the Ashkenazi tradition, I wrap bring the strap towards my heart (Sephardic Jews wrap in the opposite direction).
While I have obviously been aware of my doing this… and especially at first, had to concentrate on the technicalities of laying Tefflin… The meaning really hit me this morning and more deeply than ever before…
And yes, being anal and somewhat of a perfectionist, I pride myself on getting the perfect “Shin” and sometimes even do it over, if I don’t. You have to wrap tightly to make sure the top strap does not move down during davening… It’s a skill, truly… because you also don’t want a numb hand and arm and cut off your own circulation.
But this morning, it was a slow and methodical wrap… and not just to get things right… to make that ideal and perfect shape… It was thoughtful and informative… and yes, as I said before… a revelation.
I am bringing Hashem into my heart… bringing tradition into my heart… and even though neither of my Grandfathers were very religious, I am bringing them and my family and my history and my Jewish genealogy into my heart.
It is my responsibility to keep Judaism alive and to honor the sacrifice and traditions of those who came before me.
I was wrapped in the Tefillin, like one would be wrapped in a warm blanket… or a cloth… to protect one from the wind or the rain.
I was being protected and taken care of… and at the same time, honoring all of those who made the cloth…
I was being bonded and connected.
The whole wrapping Tefillin really came about at Masada… and simply because my friends explained that it was a great way to greet the morning… That you would meditate… and focus… and start your entire day by bringing your heart and head together…
You start with your heart… with the arm box angled towards it… Then you bring the arm and the hand into it… wrapping them as well… Which to me means that what is in your heart needs to be put into action… that the strength of the arm and the hand need to be used as well… and as I discovered in a previous post, there is immense holiness in the hand as well.
We then add the head box… showing us that we do need thought… do need to make good decisions… do need to have balance…
But then we finish with the hand… That action is key… That what is in our hearts and our minds must be expressed with action… with the doing… and so we pray and connect… and then hopefully go out into the day and do.
Chag Sameach. Happy Pesach.