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Caution: Tefillin Ahead!

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

The Tel Aviv municipality published a new directive: it’s forbidden to set up a tefillin stand within 100 meters of a school, community center, or other location where minors are present. Elyasaf Peretz (son of Israel Prize recipient Miriam Peretz and brother of Uriel and Eliraz of blessed memory, both killed in action when serving in the Golani brigade) was shocked by this development. It was especially upsetting to him because of the reasons given and the disturbing style of the municipality’s directive. He wrote as follows:

“How did we get to this point in the State of Israel? Yes, we need public order and we need to find a solution when it comes to the location of the tefillin stands. But from here to a statement that 'we shall protect our children' is quite a stretch. Is putting on tefillin like spreading an infectious disease? What’s next? Will they soon forbid people from saying psalms on a neighborhood patch of lawn because it’s a secular lawn? And in the IDF will they replace the Bible at swearing-in ceremonies with what they consider to be a more liberal book? ‘After all, its’s 2020,’ I can hear them say, ‘and we finally need to make some progress '…

But this is precisely what is so beautiful about tefillin, that they have nothing whatsoever to do with progress. When we lovingly kiss them before putting them on, they remind us of who we are and of who we have always been. And when we put them on, they give us strength and an appreciation for self-sacrifice. Tefillin are an ancient holy device through which we connect with both our past and our present. This is not just another 21st century gadget. This is not just another enlightened liberal-progressive idea that has been cooked up in the New Age, whether in the last year or the last decade. Tefillin have been with us for 3000+ years. They are something that separates us. And yes, I want to separate myself with a proud separation. Putting on tefillin is an act that reminds me that I do not know everything but that I am attached to a tremendous story. I pray that we will find a way to make a bridge between the sides of this controversy, respecting the past and enlivening the present.”


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