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Shabbat Parashat Shoftim | 5769

Parashat Hashavuah: A United Arm and Head

Harav Moshe Ehrenreich

As Bnei Yisrael draw near to entering Eretz Yisrael, our parasha focuses on the laws of war. After the kohen exhorts the men not to be afraid and exempts certain people at life’s crossroads, those who are “afraid and weak of heart” are sent away (Devarim 20:1-8). R. Akiva says that these people were literally scared despite the encouragement. R. Yossi says it refers to those who sinned in matters from the Torah. R. Yossi Hagelili says it is talking about those who sinned in rabbinic matters, e.g., those who spoke between putting on the tefillin of the arm and of the head.
What is unique about this ostensibly mild infraction? The Beit Yosef (OC 25) cites the Razah, saying that even though each of the tefillin is a separate mitzva, it is proper that they make one havaya (roughly, entity). Why is this? The main idea of tefillin of the arm is to remind the individual of his personal, practical obligations to Hashem. Therefore, they are opposite the heart and preferably covered up, as they are personal and warrant modesty. In contrast, the tefillin of the head are worn proudly on top of the head, where they show the nations of the world that Hashem’s Name is upon us so that they will fear us (based on Berachot 6a; see Tosafot ad loc.).
Rav Ch. D. Halevi explained the matter of one havaya as follows. National completeness requires two elements: 1) individuals must fulfill their personal obligations; 2) there must be recognition of our unique national standing. The halacha is that when one is prevented from donning one of the tefillin, he still is to fulfill the one he is capable of. Similarly, on a philosophical level, when our nation is in exile, unable to reach our potential national glory, we are still required to be exacting in our personal religious obligations. Also, if the nation succeeds in raising the national banner while lacking in the realm of individual religious observance, there is still value in the national status. However, it is important to realize that either one without the other comprises a sickly state to be avoided to the extent possible. That is why one who takes a break between one of the tefillin and the other is so bad. He seems to deny the importance of the connection between the arm and the head, i.e., the individual observance and the national status.
We also understand the story of “Elisha Ba’al Hakenafayim,” the tzaddik who defied the Roman decree that whoever donned tefillin would have his head punctured and was saved by a miracle. The decree was focused on the head, not the arm, because the Roman’s were interested in lowering our national stature.
When serving in the army, one must be very aware that his mission does not allow him to separate between the tefillin of the arm and of the head. Such service is not only national, it is also religious. It is not only religious, it is national as well. One who is not able to put the two together has cause to be “afraid of the sins in his hand” and may be sent away as unfit to serve.
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