What’s In God’s Tefillin?



Tefillin, or phylacteries, are the black leather straps and boxes that are worn on the head and on the arm during weekday morning prayers. Madonna puts them on with her teethBarbie has a pair. Once on a plane they were mistaken for a bomb. But tefillin have an even greater claim to fame: even God has a pair.

According to the Talmud (Berakhot 6a) God wears tefillin. But wait! God has no arms, and no head. So how can the non-corporeal God put something on any specific body parts? The rabbis have a solution (of course): The Torah is God’s hand, and God’s strength is God’s head. It’s all very deep and metaphysical.

And that’s not all. Tefillin made for humans contain tiny scrolls of parchment that are inscribed with verses from the Torah about obeying God’s commandments. Do God’s tefillin say how great God is? Nope, say the rabbis. God’s tefillin contain verses about how wonderful the nation of Israel is, and how well they keep God’s laws.

Yes, it seems a little weird that Jews and God have complimentary sets of tefillin, but hey, it’s better than matching tattoos!


Watch Madonna putting on tefillin with her teeth:

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