Sunday, March 20, 2016

What is "totafot"?

I am preparing detailed article on Phylacteries (aka Tefillin), but I wanted to share a certain insight with all of you right now, as it seems that many people are confused about what Head part(totafot) of Phylacteries is.

Let's take a look at the text first:
YLT Exodus 13:9 and it hath been to thee for a sign on thy hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, so that the law of Jehovah is in thy mouth, for by a strong hand hath Jehovah brought thee out from Egypt; 
YLT Exodus 13:16 and it hath been for a token on thy hand, and for frontlets between thine eyes, for by strength of hand hath Jehovah brought us out of Egypt.' 
YLT Deuteronomy 6:8 and hast bound them for a sign upon thy hand, and they have been for frontlets between thine eyes, 
YLT Deuteronomy 11:18 .  'And ye have placed these my words on your heart, and on your soul, and have bound them for a sign on your hand, and they have been for frontlets between your eyes;
Today I will be talking only about Head part of the Tefillin. 

As you can see from above verses, Exodus 13:9 uses a different word to describe the purpose of the Head part, namely memorial vs. elusive Hebrew word "totafot".

As you can also see from above verses, Young is translating the word "totafot" as "frontlets", which is most certainly is correct translation.

The reason why it is a correct translation is because the High Priest had a similar garment, and it is described in the Priestly Garments section. Here is how it looked:

The actual word used in the Torah is Tzitz, which literally means "a blossom":

This is, of course, is a High Priest's "totafot". The difference between the High Priest's totafot and the regular totafot commanded to regular people, is the materials and text.

As you could see from cited verses above, we are commanded to write "all these words". This is a reference to the 10 commandments, as "all these words" refer to the Covenant in Horeb and not the second covenant (Covenant of Moab). So we must write on the Head part the 10 commandments. They must be readable too, otherwise they won't serve as "a memorial between our eyes".

Secondly, the traditional Tefillin (see this Wiki article) is not correct, because these words that we are suppose to write are suppose to be for a memorial as Exodus 13:9 states. This means that the text must be written ON the Tefillin, not hidden inside of it. The box itself perhaps is acceptable, but it most certainly looks weird and I would not put that on my head. Torah does not states what it is suppose to be exactly. It only says "letotafot" (for boundings) between your eyes. So I think the shape is arbitrary and we should use reason and logic to create one. There were 13 tribes, so I am sure there were 13 possible ways of making this part of Tefillin. Of course, gold was not used widely to make it. Most likely, it was  a metallic frontlet of some kind with at least 10 commandments written on them.

So it should be ציץ (Exodus 28:36) לטטפת בין עיניך (Deut 6:8), which roughly translates "frontlet for memorial between your eyes"(tsits letotafot beyn eyneycha).

So, as you can see, the word "totafot" means "frontlets" with the 10 commandments on them. 

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