Q. Why were my son’s Bar-Mitzvah tefillin so expensive?
A. Like a m’zuzah or Sefer Torah, tefillin are hand-written with a quill pen on parchment by a pious scribe, and carefully inserted in specially made leather boxes. It takes time and expertise to prepare tefillin and this is reflected in the price. But since they provide a life-time back-to-base spiritual security system they are an invaluable investment.
The head and hand tefillin each comprise four Biblical passages (Ex. 13:1-10 and 13:11-16, Deut. 6:4-9 and 11:13-20); in the head tefillin they are written on four separate pieces of parchment, each encased in a separate compartment; in the hand tefillin they are all on one piece of parchment.
Their message is that there is one supreme God who has commanded us to live by His will and to sanctify heart, soul and might to His service. Dedication of the mind is represented by placing them on the forehead, dedication of the heart by placing them on the arm facing the heart, and dedication of our bodily energies by binding them on the arm and hand.
Parallel to the synagogue inscription, “Know before Whom you stand”, tefillin tell us, “Know before Whom you think, feel, act and live”.