Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Dor Revi'i

Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha
by Efraim Levine

The Reisha Rav
HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
Author of
Hadrash Ve-Haiyan


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And it shall be for you as a sign on your arm and a remembrance between your eyes. (Shemos 13:9)

At the end of this parsha we are introduced to the mitzvah of teffilin. It is noteworthy that this mitzvah is positioned right in the middle of the Exodus, specifically, between the final plague of the slaying of the firstborns and the splitting of the sea of reeds. We may ask, why was this mitzvah singled out from all the others and taught precisely at this moment?

A key characteristic of the Exodus was that it took place in a state of haste. Indeed, one of the reasons why we eat matzah on pesach is so that we remember the haste in which we left Egypt. As we rushed out of Egypt we did not have enough time to allow our dough to rise (Shemos 12:39). The karbon pesach was also eaten in the spirit of haste. This is seen in the law where we were required to eat it while wearing shoes and with our staff in our hand (Shemos 12:11). This is symbolic of a person who is in a rush and prepared to move on the spur of the moment. We may ask, why did Hashem bring about the Exodus in a state of haste? Why didn’t Hashem allow us to leave Egypt at a slower pace where we would have been given the opportunity to properly absorb the significance of the event?

To answer this question, let us suggest that this is what the mitzvah of teffilin is coming to address. In is noteworthy that teffilin also contains the character of haste. Teffilin is unique in that it is a single mitzvah that has two separate and distinct parts. One part is the hand teffilah and the second is the head teffilah. Halacha requires that we do not delay between the binding of the hand and head teffilin. In other words the binding of the teffilin must be done in haste.  Indeed, the Gemara teaches that one who delays between the two by speaking has committed a serious sin and should not participate in battle, lest he be harmed due to this sin.  We may ask, what is the reason why the teffilin must be bound in haste? In truth, the two teffilin are separate mitzvos. This is seen from the fact that when one cannot fulfill one of the two he is still obligated to fulfill the other. Why then must they be fulfilled together in haste?

The teffilah of the arm is symbolic of one’s actions. The binding of the hand teffilah is symbolic that one must act according to the rules that the Torah has set. The head teffilah is symbolic of intent. The binding of the head teffilah is symbolic that our intentions must be for the sake of Heaven. The significance of connecting the hand teffilah to the head teffilah in haste symbolizes that one’s actions must be directed toward a purpose and not just done out of habit. Even a mitzvah can be performed out of habit. For a Jew, there is no such thing as habit; everything must be done for a reason or with a purpose. From the fact that teffilin are two separate mitzvos we recognize the danger that our actions can be divorced from their purpose. However, the fact that we perform them in haste reminds us that our actions should be linked to a purpose, which is for the sake of Heaven

The posuk says that when the nations of the world will see us they will be frightened. Chazal teach, that this refers to the teffilin of the head. This simply means that when the gentiles see the head teffilin they will be frightened. We may ask, what is it about teffilin that evoke fear? With the above we may suggest that it is the symbolic concept of purpose that evokes fear in the Non-Jews. A gentile recognizes that a Jew lives with a sense of mission and purpose whereas he lives for the moment. For him, this contrast is frightening and is thus seized with fear.

When Hashem appeared to Moshe at the burning bush and persuaded him to accept the mission of taking out the Jewish people from Egypt, Hashem informed Moshe that that His purpose in the Exodus was to give us the Torah on Har Sini (Shemos 3:12). With this posuk in mind we may divide the Exodus into two parts. The first part was the actual physical redemption and the second was the purpose, the receiving of the Torah on Har Sini. We may suggest that the actual physical liberation from Egypt is symbolic of the hand teffilah, and the giving of the Torah is symbolic of head teffilah. Just as we understand why the binding of the teffilin must be done in haste, likewise we can now understand why the Exodus was in haste. The purpose of the Exodus was solely for the giving of the Torah. To emphasize that point, there was no time to slow down the pace and focus on the psychical freedom. There is no such thing as freedom for the sake of freedom. The purpose of freedom was solely for the giving of the Torah.

This idea is captured in the well know dictum of chazal. “There is no such thing as a free man except for one who occupies himself in Torah.” This may now be interpreted as follows: for the Jewish people as a whole there was no such thing as freedom for the sake of freedom but only for the purpose of the receiving the Torah.

Thus, both teffilin and the Exodus are similar in that they are both made up of two parts. These two parts correspond to action and purpose. In addition, they both have the element of haste thereby conveying that the action is bound to its purpose and intent.