As his Bar Mitzvah approaches, our son Natanel began putting on tefillin on Sunday amidst great excitement.
My father-in-law, Rabbi Eliav Meir, told us that he had helped his 95-year-old Jerusalem neighbor put on tefillin that very same morning since he can no longer do it by himself, without assistance. From there he came to us, to help his grandson who will soon be thirteen put on tefillin because he cannot yet do this on his own, without assistance. And actually, my father-in-law said, the tefillin of an old man and the tefillin of a boy carry the same message:
“When a Jew of any age or condition begins his day with tefillin, he takes the two most important forces in life and points them in the right direction. The arm symbolizes our activity in the world while the head symbolizes our thoughts and imagination. When we put tefillin on our head and on our arm each morning, we are reminding ourselves that we have the capacity to properly control our thoughts and our actions throughout the day.
“Written on the tefillin’s parchment scrolls are our basic values as a Jewish nation, values to which we desire to be connected. We are likely to encounter many temptations and distractions during the day, and we ask not to get confused, not to exchange the essential for the inessential. And we ask for this clarity and lucidity from the age of 13 until far beyond the age of 95, with Hashem’s help… Mazal tov.”
(Translation by Yehoshua Siskin)