Thus described by Leo of Modena: the Jews take four pieces of parchment, and write with an ink made on purpose, and in square letters, these four passages, one on each piece: (1.) "Sanctify unto me all the first born," etc., Ex 13:2-10. (2.) "And when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites," etc., Ex 13:11-16. (3.) "Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord," etc., De 6:4-9. (4.) "If you shall hearken diligently unto my commandments," etc., De 6:13-21. This they do in obedience to the words of Moses: "These commandments shall be for a sign unto thee upon thy hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes."
These four pieces are fastened together, and a square formed of them, on which the Hebrew letter Shin is written; then a little square of hard calf-skin is put at the top, out of which come two leathern strings. This square is put on the middle of the forehead, and the strings being girt about the head, are then brought before, and fall on the breast. It is called the Tephila of the head. The Most devout Jews put it on both at morning and noonday prayer; but it is generally worn only at morning prayer. See PHYLACTERIES.
occurs only in Ex 13:16; De 6:8,18. The meaning of the injunction to the Israelites, with regard to the statues and precepts given them, that they should "bind them for a sign upon their hand, and have them as frontlets between their eyes," was that they should keep them distinctly in view and carefully attend to them. But soon after their return from Babylon they began to interpret this injunction literally, and had accordingly portions of the law written out and worn about their person. These they called tephillin, i.e., "prayers." The passages so written out on strips of parchment were these, Ex 12:2-10; 13:11-21; De 6:4-9; 11:18-21. They were then "rolled up in a case of black calfskin, which was attached to a stiffer piece of leather, having a thong one finger broad and one cubit and a half long. Those worn on the forehead were written on four strips of parchment, and put into four little cells within a square case, which had on it the Hebrew letter called shin, the three points of which were regarded as an emblem of God." This case tied around the forehead in a particular way was called "the tephillah on the head." (Illustration: Tephillah on the Head) (See Phylacteries.)
Frontlets or Phylacteries. Thrice mentioned in Old Testament: totaphot (Ex 13:16; De 6:8; 11:18). What Moses meant figuratively and in a spiritual sense, "a memorial," "that the Lord's law may be in thy mouth," the Hebrew (excepting the Karaites) take literally (Ex 13:9). Charms consisting of words written on papyrus folds, tightly sewed up in linen, were found at Thebes (Wilkinson). It is not likely God, by Moses, would sanction the Egyptian superstition of amulets. The key is in Pr 3:3; 6:20-22; 7:3; Song 8:6.
The fringes were merely mnemonics; the phylacteries (which the Jews now call tephillin, i.e. prayers, for they were worn at prayer to typify sincerity, but others explain ligaments) were parchment strips, inscribed with Ex 13:2-17; De 6:4-9,13-22 (by no means the most important passages in the Pentateuch, which fact is against the Jewish literalism), in prepared ink, rolled in a case of black PHYLACTERY. calfskin, attached to a stiffer leather, having a thong one finger broad and one cubit and a half long. (See FRINGES.) Placed at the bend of the left arm, and the thong after making a knot was wound about the arm in a spiral line, ending at the top of the middle finger.
Those on the forehead were written on four cowhide parchment strips, and put into four little cells within a square one, on which the Hebrew letter Shin (?) was written. The square had two thongs passing round the head, and after a knot going over the breast. Phylactery is from a Greek root, to keep or guard; being professedly to keep them in continual remembrance of God's law; practically it was used by many as an amulet to keep the wearer from misfortune. (See EARRINGS.) "They make broad their phylacteries" (Mt 23:5) refers not to the phylactery, which was of a prescribed size, but to its case, which the Pharisees made as ostentatious as possible. They wore them always, the common people only at prayers; and as Jehovah occurs in the tephillin 23 times, but on the high priest's golden plate but once (Ex 28:36), the tephillin) were thought the more sacred.
The Sadducees wore them on the palm, the Pharisees above the elbow. The Jews probably learned the use of such amulets from the Babylonians during the captivity, for no mention of the phylacteries occurs previously, nor indeed in the Old Testament at all. The carnal heart gladly substitutes an external formalism for an inward spiritual remembrance and observance of God's law, such as God required, with the whole inner and outward man. The Karaites, women, and slaves alone did not wear them. Boys at 13 years and one day become "sons of the commandments" and wear them. The rabbinical treatise Rosh Hashanah contains many of the puerile superstitions regarding them; compare Lightfoot, Hor.
Hebrew: "they must be read standing in the morning, when blue can be distinguished from green, sitting in the evening from sunset; both hands must be used in writing them; the leather must have no hole; the wearer must not approach within four cubits of a cemetery," etc., etc. Rabbis quoted Isa 49:16; 62:8; De 33:2, to prove that even God wore them! and Isa 38:16 to show that the wearer thereby prolonged his days, but he who did not wear them should go to perdition. Jerome remarks the same superstition virtually crept in among weak Christian women "with diminutive Gospels, pieces of wood in the form of a cross (women in our day should take warning), and things of that sort, showing a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."
FRONTLETS. Leo of Modena thus describes them: The Jews take four pieces of parchment, and write, with an ink made on purpose, and in square letters, these four passages, one on each piece:
1. "Sanctify unto me all the first-born," &c, Ex 13:1-10.
2. "And when the Lord shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites," &c, verses 11-16.
3. "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord," &c, De 6:4-9.
4. "If you shall hearken diligently unto my commandments," &c, De 11:13-21. This they do in obedience to these words of Moses: "These commandments shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes." These four little pieces of parchment are fastened together, and a square formed of them, on which the letter ? is written; then a little square of hard calf's skin is put upon the top, out of which come two leathern strings an inch wide, and a cubit and a half, or thereabouts, in length. This square is put on the middle of the forehead, and the strings being girt about the head, make a knot in the form of the letter ?; they then are brought before, and fall on the breast. It is called teffila-schel-rosch, or the tephila of the head. The most devout Jews put it on both at morning and noon-day prayer; but the generality of the Jews wear it only at morning prayer. Only the chanter of the synagogue is obliged to put it on at noon as well as morning.
It is a question, whether the use of frontlets, and other phylacteries, was literally ordained by Moses. They who believe their use to be binding, observe, that the text of Moses speaks as positively of this as of other precepts; he requires the commandments of God to be written on the doors of houses, as a sign on their hands, and as an ornament on their foreheads, Ex 13:16. If there be any obligation to write these commandments on their doors, as the text intimates, there is the same for writing them on their hands and foreheads. On the contrary, others maintain that these precepts should be taken figuratively and allegorically, as denoting that the Jews should very carefully preserve the remembrance of God's law, and observe his commands; that they should always have them before them, and never forget them. Prior to the Babylonish captivity, no traces of them appear in the history of the Jews. The prophets never inveigh against the omission or neglect of them, nor was there any question concerning them in the reformation of manners at any time among the Hebrews. The almost general custom in the east of wearing phylacteries and frontlets, determines nothing for the antiquity or usefulness of this practice. The Caraite Jews, who adhere to the letter of the law, and despise traditions, call the rabbinical Jews bridled asses, because they wear these tephilim and frontlets. See PHYLACTERY.