Moriah boys make their own Tefillin

May 15, 2015 by Yvette Sher
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It’s a Monday morning in May and dozens of Year 7 Bar Mitzvah- aged boys at Sydney’s Moriah College gather with their families to lay Tefillin together and reflect on this timeless Jewish ritual.

kesher-tefillin-5But this is no ordinary morning Tefilla – this event is extraordinary – because every one of these young boys has actually hand-crafted the Tefillin they are holding as part of a remarkable project, brought to Australia by Moriah’s Department of Experiential Jewish Education.

‘With a firm belief in the power of hands-on learning experiences, we embarked on this unique Kesher Tefillin project so that the mitzvah of Tefillin can be taken up in a positive way,’ says Director of Experiential Jewish Education, Jonty Blackman.

kesher-tefillin-12‘Each boy has gone through the process of taking the Tefillin from a flat piece of leather until it has a sense of holiness, while discovering the spirit of the mitzvah of Tefillin and learning the Halacha involved in creating and wearing them. Hopefully that enters the heart in a different way and will stay there for longer. The philosophy underpinning Kesher Tefillin draws its inspiration from the deep desire that we have, to educate and excite our students about all aspects of their Jewish heritage’.

The 15-hour workshop, which was conducted over a week, was led by Rabbi Noah Greenberg who travelled from Tsfat in Israel to take the boys through the delicate building process.

kesher-tefillin-7Following in the footsteps of Moshe Rabainu, each boy started with a raw piece of parchment and cut, moulded, folded, embossed and coloured it, creating his very own Tefillin. The boys selected and inserted the parchment scrolls, attached and tied the straps and studied the sources, reviewing the holiness of the Tefillin and the Halacha of making and using them.

The boys now have their very own personal pair of Tefillin that is 100% Kosher, which they can wear as they daven daily. Many of them will wear their own, hand-made Tefillin on their Bar Mitzvah day and hopefully, after having made them by hand and truly understanding what they mean, they will treasure them forever.

kesher-tefillin-3Daniel Voloh says that making his own Tefillin has been a privilege. ‘I’ll be proud and happy to be wearing Tefillin that I made myself when I stand on the Bima on my Bar Mitzvah,’ he says.

‘It’s been fun to do the folds and make everything and also to learn about why we use Tefillin,’ says Ely Adani. ‘It will feel really nice to be able to wear Tefillin that I actually made.’

To celebrate their achievement, the boys invited their parents to a beautiful and very moving siyum (completion) ceremony where they donned their new Tefillin with the appropriate kavanot (intentions) and blessings.

‘For the boys to lay Tefillin, knowing that they’ve hand-made them, is incredible,’ says Moriah College parent Rochelle Solsky. ‘Rather than prescribed learning about these rituals, this workshop has made it real for the boys and makes them feel proud of what they’ve achieved, and they will remember this moment for their rest of their lives.’


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