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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tisa | 5769

One Who Makes the Wrong Beracha on Tefillin Shel Yad

Ask the Rabbi

Question: I accidentally made the beracha of “al mitzvat tefillin” when putting on my tefillin shel yad. What should I have done regarding berachot from that point?


Answer: Before addressing the heart of your question, let us guess your background. You must be an Ashkenazi, who usually makes a beracha each on the tefillin shel yad and the shel rosh. A Sephardi makes al mitzvat tefillin only when he talks in between putting on the two tefillin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 25:9) or when he can put on only the tefillin shel rosh (ibid. 26:2). He would not have made the mistake that you did, which is common for Ashkenazim, who make al mitzvat tefillin daily. We will see later why being Ashkenazi makes a difference.

The gemara (Menachot 36a) cites R. Yochanan who says that when fastening the shel yad, one makes the beracha of “l’haniach tefillin” and upon placing the shel rosh he recites al mitzvat. On the other hand, the gemara cites Rav Chisda that one makes a beracha on the shel rosh only if he talks in between the two tefillin. The gemara answers that if one is silent, he makes one beracha, and if he talks he makes two berachot. One approach in Rishonim (including Rashi, ad loc, accepted by Sephardim- see Shulchan Aruch, OC 25:6) is that the number is the total of berachot for the two tefillin. One is recited before fastening the shel yad. If he talks, a second one is said on the shel rosh instead of saying nothing then. According to Rabbeinu Tam (see Tosafot ad loc.), one always recites al mitzvat on the shel rosh. If he spoke, he also repeats then l’haniach. The Rama (OC 25:6) accepts and sets the minhag among Ashkenazim to follow this approach.

The Rosh (Pesachim 1:10), following Rabbeinu Tam’s approach, says that both berachot apply to both the shel yad and the shel rosh. However, Chazal preferred that we not recite two berachot on one mitzva. Therefore, they attached the beracha that is more appropriate for one who is about to start putting on tefillin (l’haniach) to the shel yad and the more general beracha of al mitzvat to the shel rosh, upon completion of the mitzva of tefillin. The Taz’s brother (in a teshuva found in the Taz, OC 25:6) says that al mitzvat applies to the remembrances that tefillin conjure up and l’haniach applies to the mitzva’s specific detailed actions.

The following halachic ramifications emerge from this generally accepted approach. Since both berachot go on both tefillin, if one recited al mitzvat when putting on the shel yad and l’haniach when putting on the shel rosh, he fulfilled the berachot requirement despite the imperfect order. Therefore, says the Shaarei Teshuva (25:5, based on the Michtam L’Dovid), if he said al mitzvat and fastened the shel yad, he recites the remaining beracha, l’haniach, when laying the shel rosh, and all is covered. Although some argue (see ibid.) this is the best solution (see B’er Moshe V, 10).

The matter would be different if you caught your mistake before fastening the shel yad. Since l’haniach was in fact instituted to precede the shel yad and covers the shel rosh as well, you should have recited l’haniach after al mitzvat and before fastening the shel yad. At this point, with both berachot already recited, you would not have made any beracha before putting on the shel rosh (Shaarei Teshuva, ibid.). If you had caught and corrected the mistake quickly enough by inserting the words “l’haniach tefillin” within around a second and a half of saying al mitzvat, then we could apply the regular rule that mistakes in berachot can be fixed toch k’dei dibbur (B’er Moshe ibid, in contradiction to the Kaf Hachayim’s (25:39) novel ruling; see Piskei Teshuvot 25:12).

If a Sephardi, for some reason, recites al mitzvat as his lone beracha, he would have fulfilled the mitzva and would not make a beracha upon putting on the shel rosh (Michtam L’Dovid, ibid.).


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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga  Brachfeld



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