A. The Commandment
In this week’s Torah portion, we read the Shema, which tells us to wear tefillin (source 1).
The commandment was first given when we were about to leave Egypt. As Moses prepared to take the Jews out into the desert, G-d found it important to give us the mitzvah of tefillin. Why?
B. The Rebbe’s Campaign
Before the Six Day War, the Rebbe announced the famous “tefillin campaign.” People asked, why tefillin? The Rebbe pointed to two reasons: first, the Talmud associates tefillin with long life. But more importantly, the Talmud says that wearing Tefillin intimidates our enemies. Although the verse was stated during the first exodus, when the Jews headed for the Holy Land, it is still relevant to every “exodus,” and is therefore a wonderful way to hasten the coming of Moshiach.
C. The Details
Before continuing the Rebbe’s talk, lets clarify some details regarding tefillin.
The Geonim taught that the tefillin are considered equal to the entire Torah (source 2). What do the Tefillin contain? Maimonides explains that they contain four passages from the Torah (source 3). As Rashi explains in the Talmud, these are the four passages of the Torah that speak about tefillin (source 4). Ralbag adds explanation: In these four passages, the Torah commands that their content be written and worn in order that their message is remembered. It is therefore worthy to go through the message of each one (source 5).
D. The Way to Wrap
The Rebbe explains the deeper message behind the distinction between the head-tefillin and the hand-tefillin. The hand-tefillin represent our emotions, while the head-tefillin represents our intellect. The nature of intellect is to compartmentalize, and hence the four compartments of the head-tefillin. The nature of emotion is to be unconstrained, hence the singular compartment of the hand-tefillin.
We don the hand-tefillin first, because intellect needs to follow simple, uncomplicated observance. But head-tefillin are important too.