Tefillin also called phylacteries, are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. They are worn by observant adult Jews during weekday morning prayers; historically and traditionally, this is a male obligation, and thus, only males within Orthodox Judaism perform this mitzvah, or commandment. Despite the latter, some women also choose to wear Tefillin for prayer, and are encouraged to do so by some. The practice of women donning Tefillin is not simply a modern, feminist phenomenon, as there is evidence that Jewish women in Medieval France and Germany wore them.
Although "tefillin" is technically the plural form (the singular being "tefillah"), it is loosely used as a singular as well. The arm-tefillin, or shel yad, is placed on the upper arm, and the strap wrapped around the arm/hand, hand and fingers; while the head-tefillin, or shel rosh, is placed above the forehead. The Torah commands that they should be worn to serve as a "sign" and "remembrance" that God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt.
The scriptural texts for tefillin are obscure in literal meaning. For example, Deuteronomy 11:18 is one of the standard texts referenced as supporting the obligation, but it does not designate what specifically to "bind upon your arm", and the definition of totafot between your eyes is not obvious. It is the Talmud, the authoritative oral tradition for Rabbinic Judaism, which explains what are to be bound to the body and the form of tefillin.
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