They’re “Head Tefillin” and Not “Forehead Tefillin”

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Nitzvaim 5772 – translated by R. Blumberg]


Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (10:3) teaches:

“As for the Torah’s dictum that the head Tefillin must be ‘between your eyes’ (Devarim 6:8), our Sages had a tradition that this does not mean ‘between the eyes’ literally, but corresponds to the spot between one’s eyes. The real spot starts at the hairline and stretches upward to the end of the soft-spot in an infant’s skull, which means that the lower edge of the head Tefillin should not be lower than the place where the hair begins to grow, and the upper edge not higher than the place where a child’s skull is soft. Great care should be taken to watch that the head Tefillin always lay in their proper place. Even if only a small part of those Tefillin are on the forehead where no hair grows, or if it inclines to the side and it is not exactly midway between the eyes, the precept is not fulfilled, and the blessing is pronounced in vain.”

Indeed one must place one’s head Tefillin where the hair starts to grow. If someone has bangs and he places the Tefillin on those bangs, it does not help. A lot of people wear their Tefillin too low. The “Chayei Adam” (Klal 14, Se’if 10) said that if someone places part of his head Tefillin on his forehead, he is adopting the approach of the Karaites.

In the booklet “Nefesh David” (Letter 15), The “Aderet”, the illustrious Rabbi Eliyahu David Rabinowitz-Te’omim, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and father-in-law of Ha-Rav Avraham Yitzchak Ha-Cohain Kook, wrote as follows:

“I have toiled hard to rectify the way the mitzvah of Tefillin is practiced, so that the head Tefillin should be set in their proper place. I have given many talks about this, and I have written flyers to be put up in the study houses and Shuls.”

Maran Ha-Rav Kook likewise wrote a short book about this called “Chevesh Pe’er” [Wearing Majesty], and he went from city to city encouraging people to recognize the importance of this topic.

The book “Shivchei Ha-Re’eiyah” relates that Rav Kook, as is well-known, was nearsighted. He would customarily remark that this attribute was literally heaven-sent. He would then explain that some people do not place their head Tefillin in the right place during services. Were he able to see this, it would greatly disturb his own prayers.

The Chafetz Chaim wrote in his Mishna Berurah (27:33): “Many fall prey to this prohibition and erroneously say that the top edge of the Tefillin starts above the hairline, whereas the bulk of the head Tefillin lies on the forehead. They thereby violate a Torah prohibition, for one’s entire head Tefillin must be placed above the hairline. Even the bottom edge of the head Tefillin must lie above the hairline. As far as someone with bangs coming halfway down his forehead placing his head Tefillin over them, that is no better, because the bottom of the head Tefillin must still be the hairline, and it is better for it to be a little bit above that as well. After all, there is room on one’s head to put two head Tefillins!

Placing the Tefillin slightly above safeguards against its slipping down to the forehead. Whoever places his head Tefillin on his forehead is following the Karaite practice, and does not fulfill the Mitzvah. The scrupulously Torah-observant should warn their friends and teach them not to fall prey to this. Otherwise, those friends could be classed as 'Jews who sin with their bodies' (Rosh Hashanah 17a) by having 'Skulls that have never had Tefillin on them’ (ibid.).

Their blessing over Tefillin is likewise in vain, for Tefillin set in the wrong place are the equivalent of Tefillin still in their bag.”

Likewise, the straps get tugged during the service, causing the Tefillin to descend from their proper place, and the Tefillin should be readjusted.

If someone is totally bald, where does he put his Tefillin? He should hold on to pictures from his youth or when he started to go bald, and he should ascertain the precise location of his original hairline.

[From my commentary on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch]