“And this shall serve you as a sign on your hand and as a reminder on your forehead — in order that the teachings of the LORD may be in your mouth– that with a mighty hand the LORD freed you from Egypt.”
— Shemot/Exodus 13:9
Even for those not interested in the physical practice of laying tefillin, following a path of learning about teffilin can be fruitful.
Among the many, many web pages on tefillin, there are some from an inclusive perspective. For example, My Jewish Learning offers an article on tefillin by R. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) — republished from The Jewish Religion: A Companion (Oxford University Press, 1995) — and Wikipedia has a very thorough and well-referenced page.
Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning provides — or used to provide: does anyone know whether they are still in business? — text-based learning, while Velveteen Rabbi describes a prayer-based teaching.
As mentioned above, some teachings — such as Rabbi Shefa Gold’s meditation — can be useful, even for those uninterested in the physical practice. Similarly, print resources, such as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s book on Tefillin (published by the Orthodox Union and widely available), are worthwhile, whatever your practice.
Be sure to check out Tefillin Barbie (seriously!) from the soferet Jen Taylor Friedman, “a post-denominational halakhically-observant egalitarian Jewish ritual scribe and scholar.” I particularly recommend her article, “Should all Barbies wear tefillin?”
For hands-on learning, look for an event associated with the annual World Wide Wrap, sponsored by the Conservative movement’s Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs. More than one hundred congregations participate each year, with the tenth anniversary date on February 7, 2010. Women and men, as well as youngsters, are welcome, and some congregations offer additional learning opportunities in addition to the chance to hold and wrap tefillin, for those so inclined.
For “women’s tefillin” and some additional perspectives, visit Ritual Well.
Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.