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Yale Library

Ancient Jewish Archaeology: Tefillin



The Hebrew/Aramaic word tefillin refers to a pair of small leather cases, whose parchment contents are inscribed, according to rabbinic convention, with four passages from the Torah (Exod. 13:1-10; 13:11-16; Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21). Each passage includes one verse that has traditionally been understood by Jews as exhorting adherence to the practice of wearing one of these cases strapped to the head and the other to the left arm. Arm tefillin and head tefillin contain identical passages, but the former includes the entire text on a single parchment roll, while the latter holds four separate pieces of parchment (in distinct compartments inside their case).

Qumran phylactery, 1st. c. C.E.