Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Upside down and backwards, literally

When it comes to learning computer skills, I often benefit most from hands-on learning. But when it comes to learning to lay tefillin, I got hands-on teaching. :)

Unfortunately, having had more than one teacher, I got a bit confused--I seem to have learned various parts of at least two different minhagim/customs. (The manner in which one fulfils a commandment often depends on the region from which one's ancestors originated and/or where one is currently living.) So, years ago, I asked my husband to teach me his own minhag, just so that I'd perform the entire ritual in accordance with a single minhag. Now that I've been laying tefillin on a reasonably regular basis for ten years (ever since our son became a Bar Mitzvah--I figured that I didn't have any excuse not to lay tefillin after that), I thought I'd mastered the art.

Until yesterday.

Unfortunately, when I went to lay tefillin at morning minyan yesterday, I discovered, much to my dismay, that the bag I'd brought contained not my tefillin, but my "home" tallit! I'd already recited the brachah/blessing for putting on the tallit. Was I to take it off and go home for my tefillin?

Bad girl that I am, I'd gotten to minyan so late that the Punster was just finishing his prayers, so I asked him to lend me his tefillin. But since he's right-handed and I'm left-handed, I asked for his help in laying the tefillin right-handed on the left arm.

And that's when the fun started.

Much to our mutual surprise, we discovered that, whatever minhag I was using, it wasn't his: He lays his shel yad (tefilla for the arm) with the bayit (box containing the parchment with Scriptural verses hand-written on them) above the loop and knot, whereas I've been laying my shel yad with the bayit hanging below the loop and knot.

It gets better, folks. This morning, I tried to duplicate the minhag that the hubster had shown me yesterday, and couldn't do it. Somehow, I ended up with the strap of the shel yad wound in the opposite direction from usual, and with the shin on the hand "upside down." (This may be the right-side up and correct direction for those who follow a different minhag, but it's not correct for my husband's.) When I asked my husband for help, we made a startling discover: Despite the fact that he'd bought both his and my tefillin from the same sofer (scribe) at the same time, and that he'd specifically requested one right-handed and one left-handed set of Ashkenazi tefillin, our straps weren't tied the same way, and it would be literally impossible for me to tighten the bayit section of the strap (where the loop and knot are) if I put the bayit above the loop and knot! So, unless I'm prepared to schlep the tefillin back to a sofer and have the knots retied, I'm stuck with my current minhag, whoever's it is.

Just called me "tied up in knots."


Blogger Jen Taylor Friedman said...

I can send you pics, or provide on-the-spot assistance if you're in NYC and want to drop by Riverdale - email if you like.

Wed Aug 16, 11:39:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Much as I'd love to do a blogger get-together, it would take me a dog's age to get home from Riverdale, and I'm not getting enough sleep as it is. I'd love to e-mail you, but I can't seem to locate your e-mail address. If you don't mind, could you drop me a line?

Thu Aug 17, 07:33:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Blackherring, thanks for the offer of assistance. It's a shame that the travel time would make a hands-on demonstration problematic.

Thu Aug 17, 07:39:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thu Aug 17, 07:39:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thu Aug 17, 07:44:00 AM 2006  

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