A man who begins putting on tefillin at age 13 and continues until age 100 will have put on tefillin shel rosh and tefillin shel yad over 25,000 times in his lifetime. When you do a mitzvah so often, it’s easy to make it part of your morning routine, an item on your daily checklist, without regard for its significance.
But if you slow down a little and think about it just a bit, you can be inspired by this mitzvah each and every day. Take the tefillin shel rosh. They are placed on the head, above the brain, to signify that all your decisions are made under divine influence. The tefillin placed on the head has the letter shin on it, which reminds you of one of Hashem’s names. If you look at the shape of the shin, you will notice that it looks kind of like an upside down root. That’s because your roots are not in the ground, they are from heaven.
Tefillin shel rosh represent your thoughts, while tefillin shel yad represent your actions. Your ultimate connection to Hashem is achieved when you have pure thoughts and transmit them into action. The Torah isn’t meant to be only studied; the purpose of Torah learning is to influence our actions and make us better human beings.
Of course, we can’t know the deeper meaning of tefillin shel rosh, or any other mitzvah. We keep Hashem’s mitzvos because he has commanded us to, and we accept that His reasons are beyond our capacity for understanding. We can only scrape the surface of the mitzvah in order to comprehend a small portion of the greatness of this commandment.
Tomorrow, when you put on tefillin for the thousandth time, take a moment to think about the reasons we do understand: divine influence, heavenly roots and the connection between thoughts and actions. Take a moment to savor this mitzvah and appreciate what you can learn from it. Take a second to connect to Hashem with your heart and mind before you begin your tefillah.