This week’s parsha sets the stage for an early introduction to Seder night, with the final three plagues and the subsequent exodus from Egypt.
The remarkable events of the past were liable to lose their impact over the passage of time, so Moses in his freedom speech commanded the Israelites to relate the story to their children, something we still do today.
At the very end of the Sedra we are commanded to establish a permanent sign to remind us of these miraculous events on a daily basis.
The mitzvah of Tefillin, which is binding on every Jewish male, is meant to remind us both of God’s perfect unity and His intimate involvement in this world, as made evident by the exodus.
The Talmud remarkably relates that God Himself, so to speak, wears Tefillin. While our Tefillin express the unity of God, His Tefillin describe the unique nature of the Jewish people.
Of course, like many such passages, this is not to be taken at face value, rather the Sages are using this metaphor to express an important message.
Tefillin are small boxes containing significant Biblical passages which are wrapped round the arm and placed at the forefront of one’s consciousness in order to place boundaries on our interaction with the world.
Not everything we would naturally choose to do is moral, righteous or just and so Tefillin serve as a reminder that our actions and thoughts are subservient to a higher truth.
Similarly we could suggest God’s ‘Tefillin’ are none other than the Jewish People themselves, representing that same idea of being a moral compass for all humanity. Any chosenness that stems from the exodus story, only serves to create a sense of responsibility to be a beacon of light and morality to the world.
Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is educational director at Jewish Futures Trust