The holiness of tefillin is very great. As long as tefillin are on a person’s arm and head he is [reminded to be] humble and fearful [of G-d], he does not engage in frivolity and idle chatter, he does not think evil thoughts, but turns his attention to words of truth and justice. Therefore, a person should try to wear tefillin all day, for that is the definition of the mitzvah. It is said about Rav, the student of Rabeinu haKadosh, that through his entire life he was not seen walking 4 cubits without being engaged in Torah study, wearing tztitzis, or wearing tefillin.There are certain mitzvos which entail a one time act in their performance; e.g. consuming a k’zayis of matzah. There are other mitzvos where each repetition of the act is an additional fulfillment of a mitzvah, e.g. each meal consumed in sukkah is a separate mitzvah. If the Rambam meant to place tefillin in this later category, he could have simply defined the mitzvah act as an ongoing obligation – why does the Rambam offer an elaborate mussar discourse on the value of tefillin toward perfecting one’s character as a justification for wearing tefillin all day?
Yesterday I suggested that perhaps there are two separate kiyumim in the mitzvah of tefillin: the act of donning the tefillin, and the state wearing tefillin. R’ Soloveitchik (Shiurim l’Zecher Aba Mori vol 1 p. 161) writes that this was the intent of the Rambam. It is not the act of donning tefillin alone which completes the mitzvah of tefillin, even if one performs that act multiple times. Part of the telos of tefillin is elevating the wearer to a heightened level of kedusha, of creating a “state of being” of being enwrapped in tefillin.
The age of chinuch for most mitzvos begins when the child can perform the mitzvah act, e.g. a child is obligated in lulav when he is capable of shaking it (sukkah 42). However, the gemara tells us that a child becomes obligated in tefillin only when he can properly guard and take care of the tefillin. Why, asked the Rav, is the age of chinuch for tefillin not also dependent on the criteria of when the child can perform the act of donning tefillin? The Rav answered that the act of donning tefillin alone in insufficient; proper performance of the mitzvah depends on realizing the transformative state that wearing the tefillin creates. A child who cannot guard tefillin properly, who does not realize the potential of tefillin to serve as a catalyst for kedusha, is not ready to accept the mitzvah.
To return to yesterday’s post, this chiddush explains Rabeinu Tam’s opinion that two brachos are recited, one before the shel yad that relates to the act of donning tefillin, one before the shel rosh that relates to the state kedusha having donned the tefillin creates. Yet, what are we to make of Rashi’s opinion that only one bracha is recited? And why if one has a hefsek and must repeat the bracha is a new different bracha of al mitzvas recited instead of simply repeating the bracha of l’haniach? I don’t have a simple answer, so this is just speculative. My hunch is that while Rabeinu Tam isolated this second kiyum, which stems from the pasuk of v’r’au kok amei ha’aretz ki shem Hasehm nikra alecha, to the tefillin shel rosh, Rashi held it was achieved by having both the shel yad and shel rosh together (the Rav noted as well that the Rambam writes “tefillin al rosho..v’al zro’o”). According to Rabeinu Tam, since this second kiyum is achieved only through donning the shel rosh, it requires a new bracha. According to Rashi, this second kiyum also is achieved by the shel yad, but we already have a bracha of l’haniach on the ma’aseh of tying the shel yad – since one mitzvah act cannot get two brachos, we omit al mitzvas in favor of l’haniach. If, however, we are donning the shel rosh alone, then we would say the bracha on the secondary kiyum. Again, this is speculative, and if someone else has a better approach, please comment away!