An Aspiring Mekubal

The confessions of a Rabbi and would be mystic

It’s a Matter of the Heart

I was talking with a friend today, for whom I have written a pair of Shimusha Rabba tefillin(those worn by mekubalim, and many many Sephardim during Mincha).  Somehow we got around to whether or not they should be worn when away from his primary minyan or a minyan of mekubalim.  My response was, of course they should.  His rejoinder is that it would be a prideful act.

I am sure that part of his statement is simply a reflection of Judaism’s increasing emphasis on external appearances, but I was in part taken aback by the statement.  My reasoning, putting on Shimusha Rabba Tefillin even in a kollel filled with mekubalim could just as easily be a prideful act.  If you think that you are somehow better than those who do not put them on, yes that is a prideful act.  The donning of Shimusha Rabba Tefillin in and of themselves is quite a neutral act.

Whether it is a prideful thing(or conversely a humbling thing) is all entirely a matter of the heart.  Ideally one would be convinced within themselves that this minhag is correct and appropriate for them, and thus feel a personal spiritual elevation through donning them.  Again whether that leads to pride is a personal matter, not in and of itself connected with the actual act.  In fact one could argue that not putting them on is also a prideful action, as you find yourself amongst a group of people that are beneath your spiritually exalted state and thus to cater to them, you decide not to.

Our Rabbis, as the Ramchal explains in his first chapter of Mesilat Yesharim, said that the reason the Torah did not stipulate actions or measure for positive middot is because it wouldn’t work.  There is no action that could make a person humble or proud, it is strictly an internal matter of the heart.  If we applied the same logic to say Moshe Rabbeinu, he would never have gone up the mountain to get the two tablets.  He would have been too concerned that someone would think that he was acting in pride to think that he could be the prophet to the entire Jewish people, especially after they had all just heard the Ten Commandments.  But instead he went up the mountain.  Why?  Because pride or in the case of Moshe Rabbeinu humility is just a matter of the heart.

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7 thoughts on “It’s a Matter of the Heart

  1. how come the ben ish hais father put them on in private?

    • Where do you get that he only put them on in private? The only thing in the Ben Ish Hai that I find concerning him talking about his father is this paragraph(taken from the Ahavat Shalom translation):

      Fortunate is he who merits being able to wear tefillin according to the Shimmusha Rabba during the afternoon prayer. My master, my father z”l was accustomed to do so during the month of Elul and throughout the asereth yeme ha-teshuvah.

      Considering that they were still using Tefillin Dakkot in the days of the Ben Ish Hai’s father, and the heat in Baghdad, it doesn’t surprise me that the Tefillin weren’t worn everyday. They would not have held up long in that environment.

  2. I think the question is not whether the person putting on the tefillin is prideful, etc, but rather whether it appears that way to other people in the minyan. Just like “ma’aris ayin:” a person might only be going into a not-kosher restaurant to use the bathroom; the problem is how it looks to others.

  3. בס״ד

    Thanks. This post was very helpful.

    Good Shabbos.

  4. in od yosef hai parashat vayakhel halacha 8 the ben ish hai writes that his father only wore them during elul and even then only then in tzniut.
    the yalkut yosef (37:5) writes that it is yuhra as well and one should not wear them in a minyan where nobody wears them.

    • As far as the quote from the Od Yosef Hai, that does not mean that his father only wore them in private. You are reading words into the Ben Ish Hai. According to the Ben Ish Hai Tefillin are always supposed to be put on b’tzniut as I explained in that one video, and so it would appear to me(and most of the mekubalim) that he is saying that there is nothing to permit changing that, even though they are bigger, and thus we lower the left side of the Tallit down over the arm.
      Regarding the Yalkut Yosef, that entire Yalkut Yosef does not apply to Jerusalem, as the Chida, and later the Kaf HaChaim(as well as Rav M. Eliyahu and Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul) write that Tefillin Shimusha Rabba is minhag Yerushalayim. Further the Yalkut Yosef writes,ורק מה שמניח תפילין גם בתפילת מנחה אין למחות בידו, ואפ שאיכא בזה יהורא, דמכיון שבא ממקום שנוהגים כן ליכא יוהורא In short there is no concern of arrogance for someone who comes from a place that has the minhag of putting on Shimusha Rabba. Specifically that would apply to Yerushalayim, but also that would apply, according to what I have heard from many of the great Mekubalim, anyone who learns and prays in a Kabbalistic Yeshiva.

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