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from Ancient Greek φυλακτήριον phylacterion, form of phylássein, φυλάσσειν meaning "to guard, protect"), are a set of small black leather boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah.
They are worn by male observant Jews during weekday morning prayers.
Menahem ben Saruq explains that the word is derived from the Hebrew Ve'hateif and Tatifoo, both expressions meaning "speech", "for when one sees the tefillin it causes him to remember and speak about The Exodus from Egypt." The choice of this particular Greek equivalent to render the Heb.
tefillin bears witness to the ancient functional interpretation of the said device as a kind of an amulet.
What this really means is: I shall glorify Him in the way I perform mitzvot.
I shall prepare before Him a beautiful lulav, beautiful sukkah, beautiful fringes (Tsitsit), and beautiful phylacteries (Tefilin)." Moreover, numerous scholars think that tefillin also play an apotropaic function. Cohn argues that the tefillin should be perceived as an invented tradition aimed at counteracting the popularity of the Greek amulets with an “original” Jewish one.
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The higher quality tefillin, namely dakkot ("thin"), made by stretching a thin piece of leather, and the more durable gassot ("thick") are both fashioned from the single piece of hide.
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.
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Although "tefillin" is technically the plural form (the singular being "tefillah"), it is loosely used as a singular as well.