QUESTION: Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili, in the Mishnah, says that anyone who is
afraid to join the army in going to war "because of the Aveiros in his hand"
is sent back from the battlefront. Rebbi Yosi argues with Rebbi Yosi
ha'Glili and says that only a Kohen Gadol who married an Almanah, a Kohen
who married a Gerushah or Chalutzah, or a Yisrael who married a Mamzeres or
Nesinah is sent back from the battlefront. The Gemara explains that Rebbi
Yosi ha'Glili and Rebbi Yosi are arguing whether one who transgressed an
Isur d'Rabanan returns from battle. According to Rebbi Yosi, only one who
transgressed an Isur d'Oraisa returns but not one who transgressed an Isur
If, according to Rebbi Yosi, one who transgressed an Isur d'Rabanan does not
return from the battlefront, then why does Rebbi Yosi state that a Kohen who
married a Chalutzah, or a Yisrael who married a Nesinah, returns from the
battlefront? The Gemara (Yevamos 24a, Kidushin 78a) says that the Isur of a
Kohen to marry a Chalutzah is only mid'Rabanan!
Regarding the Isur of a Yisrael marrying a Nesinah, the Rishonim argue
whether it is an Isur d'Oraisa or an Isur d'Rabanan (see Insights to Yevamos
79:2). Although Rashi in our Sugya (DH k'd'Rabah) writes that it is an Isur
d'Oraisa, in Kesuvos (29a) and Yevamos (37a) he writes that the Isur is
mid'Rabanan. The Rishonim (see BA'AL HA'ME'OR in Yevamos 76a) point out that
this question is the subject of a Machlokes between the first version of
Rava's ruling in Yevamos (76a) and the second version of his ruling there.
According to the first version of Rava, in which Rava rules that the
prohibition is mid'Rabanan, how can we reconcile the words of Rebbi Yosi who
says that one who marries a Nesinah returns from the battlefront? (TOSFOS in
Kesuvos 29a, Makos 13a; TOSFOS YOM TOV and MAHARITZ CHIYUS here)
A similar question may be asked on the Mishnah in Makos (13a), which gives a
list of those who receive Malkus for transgressing a Torah prohibition, and
it includes a Kohen who marries a Chalutzah and a Yisrael who marries a
Nesinah. The same question may be asked on the Beraisa in Yevamos (85a)
which distinguishes between those who marry someone prohibited to them
mid'Oraisa who must give a Kesuvah, and those who marry someone prohibited
to them mid'Rabanan who do not give a Kesuvah, and it includes a Chalutzah
and a Nesinah in the list of marriages prohibited mid'Oraisa!
(a) TOSFOS (in Kesuvos and Makos) suggests that the Mishnah mentions
Chalutzah and Nesinah only because it mentions Gerushah and Mamzeres. It is
the style of the Mishnah to mention Chalutzah together with Gerushah, and
Nesinah together with Mamzeres, as we find in many places.
This answer is difficult to understand. Normally, the Halachah of the
Mishnah can apply to Chalutzah or Nesinah as well. But if the Halachah of
the Mishnah does not apply to Chalutzah or Nesinah, then how can the Mishnah
include them simply because, in other places, they are written together?
Here, when the Mishnah mentions Chalutzah and Nesinah, the Halachah does not
apply to them!
Tosfos probably means that the Rabanan consider the Isurim of Chalutzah and
Nesinah exactly the same as the Isurim of Gerushah and Mamzeres, even with
regard to Halachos that normally apply only to a woman who is Asurah
mid'Oraisa, because the prohibitions are of such a similar nature. (See
Tosfos in Makos 13a.)
(b) The RITVA in Makos (13a) writes that Chalutzah is more severe than a
normal Isur d'Rabanan, since the prohibition is supported by an Asmachta.
Therefore, it is comparable to an Isur d'Oraisa. The Ritva does not explain
why the Mishnah equates the Isur of Nesinah to an Isur d'Oraisa, even though
it is not supported by an Asmachta.
Apparently, the Ritva is following his own view elsewhere (in Kesuvos 29a)
that a Nesinah is prohibited mid'Oraisa. According to the Ritva, we must say
that the Gemara in Yevamos (76a) could have rejected the first version of
Rava's statement based on our Mishnah, but it had a more explicit question
with which to reject his statement.
(c) TOSFOS YESHANIM in Yevamos (44a) writes that according to Rebbi Akiva, a
Chalutzah to a Kohen is Asurah mid'Oraisa and not just mid'Rabanan, since
she is considered like a woman who is divorced. He explains that the Mishnah
in Makos (13a) is following the opinion of Rebbi Akiva. The same can be said
about our Mishnah -- that Rebbi Yosi holds like Rebbi Akiva with regard to
Chalutzah being considered an Isur d'Oraisa.
Regarding Nesinah, Tosfos Yeshanim must have understood the same way that
the Ritva understood the Isur, as we explained above in answer (b).
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that members of the army must excel in their
observance of the Mitzvah of Tefilin. If one speaks after donning Tefilin on
the arm, but before completing the Mitzvah by putting on the second Tefilin
on the forehead, it is considered a sin. One who has sinned in such a manner
may not join the ranks of the Jewish army, for he will have no assurance of
The connection between Tefilin and victory in war is reiterated in a number
1. "Not one of the warriors who fought against Midyan (Bamidbar 31) put on
their forehead-Tefilin before their arm-Tefilin. Had they done so, Moshe
would not have praised them and they would not have all returned home
safely" (Midrash Shir ha'Shirim Rabah to verse 4:4).
What is it about Tefilin that affords protection to one who wears them
during times of war? Why is it so important not to don them in reverse order
and not to interrupt the process by speaking?
2. "Why did Elisha (a righteous man who wore his Tefilin in defiance of the
Roman decree against wearing them) refer to his Tefilin as 'dove's wings'?
... Just as a dove's wings afford it protection (a dove wards off enemies
with its wings, -Rashi), so, too, the Mitzvos (that is, particularly the
Mitzvah of Tefilin) protect the Jewish people" (Shabbos 130a).
3. "It is through keeping the Mitzvah of Tefilin properly (on the arm and
forehead) that Hashem grants the Jewish armies the blessing of Moshe Rabeinu
(Devarim 33:20), 'He shall smite the enemy's arms and foreheads' (they would
sever the head and arm of the enemy with one blow, -Rashi)" (Rosh, Hilchos
Tefilin 15; see also Kol Eliyahu #132)
4. The complementary theme, that lack of attention for the Mitzvah of
Tefilin can cause the fall of the Jewish army, is implicit in the Gemara
that describes the fall of Bar Kochba's Jewish army in Beitar (circa 135
CE): "Forty baskets of Tefilin were found on the heads of those who were
killed in Beitar." The warriors of Beitar fell wearing their Tefilin in
order to show that because they mishandled their Tefilin, the Tefilin lost
its power to protect them in war.
ANSWER: The Gemara in Berachos (6a) teaches that Hashem, too, wears Tefilin.
The Gemara asks what is written on the parchment enclosed in Hashem's
Tefilin, and it answers that the verse, "Who is like Your nation, Israel, a
unique nation on earth!" (Divrei ha'Yamim I 17:21) is written in His
Tefilin. The Gemara continues and says that Hashem says, "You, Israel, have
proclaimed Me unique, as it is written, 'Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d,
Hashem is One' (Devarim 6:4), and I, too, shall proclaim you unique, as it
is written, 'Who is like Your nation Israel, a unique nation on earth!'"
Although the "Tefilin of Hashem" is obviously a metaphor, the Gemara's theme
is clear. Tefilin represent the reciprocal relationship between the Jews and
our Creator. The passages enclosed in our Tefilin proclaim, "Hear O
Israel...," while those enclosed in His proclaim, "Who is like Your nation
A survey of the four passages written on the parchment enclosed in our
Tefilin reveals the same theme. The first two, Shema (Devarim 6:4 ) and
v'Hayah Im Shamo'a (Devarim 11:13), announce our commitment to Hashem and
His Mitzvos (see Mishnah, Berachos 13a), while the second set of passages,
Kadesh and v'Hayah Ki Yevi'acha (Shemos 13:1), remind us of the wonders that
Hashem did for us when He freed us from the Egyptian bondage. Through our
commitment to Hashem, we merit Hashem's protection.
The reciprocal relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people is likewise
apparent in the two parts that make up a set of Tefilin: the arm-Tefilin and
forehead-Tefilin. The arm-Tefilin is worn parallel to the heart (Menachos
37b), representing our love for Hashem. It is worn on the weaker arm (ibid.
37a), to remind us that we are powerless before Hashem. The
forehead-Tefilin, on the other hand, demonstrates Hashem's relationship to
the Jewish People:
Where do we find that Tefilin are the strength of Israel? The verse states,
"All the nations of the land will see that Hashem's name is upon you and
they will fear you" (Devarim 28:10). The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that this
refers to "when they see the Tefilin that is on our heads."
The forehead-Tefilin is also termed "our glory" (Berachos 11a) -- it is the
crown with which our Creator has crowned us. This is the secret of Tefilin.
Through our faith in Hashem, we merit His protection from our enemies, and
we are crowned as a nation above all others!
We can now understand why the arm-Tefilin must be donned first. Only after
we demonstrate our commitment to Him through the arm-Tefilin does Hashem
respond by crowning us with His glory, the forehead-Tefilin. One who
reverses the order demonstrates that the chosenness of the Jewish People is
not a direct result of their commitment to Hashem, and such a person is
doomed to defeat. Similarly, if one dons his arm-Tefilin and then interrupts
by speaking before donning his forehead-Tefilin, he does not recognize that
his "crown of glory" is a direct result of the deference he pays to Hashem.
He, too, shall fall.
This was indeed the cause of the downfall of the city of Beitar. The
Yerushalmi (Gitin 4:5) tells us, "When Bar-Kochba would go to war [with his
400,000 mighty warriors] he would declare, "Master of the universe, I do not
need your help; just do not hinder me!"
The downfall of Bar-Kochba's army stemmed from the fact that they did not
put their faith in the Creator, but in their own physical prowess.
Consequently, their Tefilin were unable to protect them and "forty
basketfuls of Tefilin" were found on their dead bodies.
The Gemara in Gitin (58a) continues to describe exactly how many Tefilin
were found on the dead warriors of Beitar. "Forty baskets of Tefilin were
found on the heads of those who were killed in Beitar. Rebbi Yanai bar Rebbi
Yishmael, said: 'Three containers, each containing forty basketfuls, were
found....' The two opinions do not disagree; one refers to arm-Tefilin while
the other refers to forehead-Tefilin."
The VILNA GA'ON (Kol Eliyahu #222) explains the conclusion of the Gemara as
follows. The invading legions caught the Jews of Beitar just as they were
praying. Some Jews were still putting on their Tefilin, others were already
wearing them, and a third group had started to take them off. Since the
arm-Tefilin is put on first and taken off last, the Jews in all three stages
of Tefilin-dress wore arm-Tefilin, while only those in the middle stage
(wearing both) had on forehead-Tefilin. This is why three times as many
arm-Tefilin were found!
According to the Vilna Ga'on, it may be said that the sudden murder of the
Jews of Beitar while praying reveals the sin that caused their deaths.
Because they "interrupted between the two parts of Tefilin" -- that is, they
did not attribute their physical prowess to Hashem -- a large number of them
were killed while they were wearing the arm-Tefilin without the
This understanding of the connection between Tefilin and victory in war will
help us understanding another Gemara.
When the king of Sedom came to thank Avraham for saving him upon Avraham's
victorious return from the war with the four kings, he said to Avraham,
"Return to me the captives and take the goods for yourself." Avraham
replied, "I lift up my hand in an oath to Hashem... that I will take from
the booty neither thread nor shoe-strap. I will not take anything that was
yours" (Bereishis 14:11-23).
The Gemara (Sotah 17a) teaches that "in reward for Avraham's refusal to take
'neither thread nor shoe-strap,' his children were given two special
Mitzvos: the Techeles worn in Tzitzis and the leather straps of Tefilin."
Why was this Avraham's reward? Based on what we have explained above, we may
explain this Gemara as follows.
Tefilin possess the ability to help us successfully defeat the enemy in war
by acknowledging that we are powerless without Hashem's assistance. When
this is our attitude, Hashem grants us strength in return.
The MESHECH CHOCHMAH explains that when Avraham "lifted his hand to
Hashem...," he was showing that he attributed the strength of his hands in
conquering the kings to Hashem. It was for this reason, he explains, that
Avraham denied himself a portion in the booty. Since he did not consider the
victory his own accomplishment, he did not feel that he deserved the booty.
Hashem alone did all the fighting.
Avraham's refusal to take "neither thread nor shoe-strap," demonstrated that
he attributed all of his military prowess to his Creator. Is it not
appropriate, then, for his reward to be the Mitzvah of Tefilin? It is this
Mitzvah which would constantly remind his children that they are powerless
without the help of Hashem and lead them, too, to victory.