More Than Black Boxes


Hi Rabbi! I hope you are doing well. And I hope you don’t think my question is strange or out of line. My grandfather passed away recently and it was in his will that I should inherit his tefillin. I grew up secular with no religious education, and do not know what to make of this. What are tefillin and how important is it for me to keep them? Thanks!



  1. First of all, no question is strange or out of line if it is sincere. I am sorry to hear about your grandfather’s passing but it is clear to me that his soul is very dear and elevated and that he loved you very much. And I think he has given you a special opportunity to honor him by keeping his tefillin.

    Tefillin are two small black leather boxes that contain special parchment scrolls with writings from the Torah (Bible). One box is for the head and one is for the arm. Each box consists of three basic parts: the scrolls, the box and the strap.

    The mitzvah of tefillin is written in the Torah in Deuteronomy 6:8, “You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes.” These tefillin boxes have special intrinsic holiness, akin to the holiness of a Torah scroll in the synagogue and a mezuzah parchment for one’s home.

    This mitzvah is extraordinarily powerful and the experience of putting on tefillin has changed many people’s lives — especially in modern times. I would suggest that you have two choices about you grandfather’s tefillin. You can put them away for safekeeping as a reminder of his Jewish life and soul. Or, in my opinion, a better option would be to take them to a local Orthodox rabbi and speak with him about them.

    I wish and pray for much happiness and success to you and your family.

    Best wishes from the Team