Cast on Arm

Cast on Arm

By Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq

Question: If you write with your right hand, but you are otherwise a lefty, on which arm do you wear t’filin? What about the opposite case?

 Short Answer: If you write with your right hand, but you are otherwise a lefty, most poskim rule that you should wear t’filin on your left arm. However, if you write with your left hand, but you are otherwise a righty, some poskim rule that you should wear t’filin on your right arm, while other poskim rule that you should wear t’filin on your left arm.

 

Explanation:

 T’filin in General

The Gemara in M’nachos (37a-b) states that we wear our t’filin on our left arm.

Two reasons are given: a) because that is our weaker arm, and the verse states “yadchah” (Sh’mos 13:16), with the Hebrew letter hei at the end of the word – implying the “yad keyhah” (the weaker arm); and b) because we want to bind our t’filin with the same arm that we write, i.e., the right arm, based on the verse’s placement of the words “u’k’shartam” and “u’ch’savtam” (D’varim 6:8).

II. The Lefty

A lefty, however, according to the Gemara in M’nachos, puts on the t’filin on his right arm – the weaker arm – unless both arms are equally strong.

[Note, though, that the Meiri and m’kubalim hold that a later Gemara in M’nachos disagrees with this Gemara (37a-b) and would therefore require a lefty to always wear t’filin on his left arm.]

III. Perplexing Scenario

Tosafos (ibid.) asks about our situation – where you write with the right hand, but are otherwise a lefty. On which arm do you wear the t’filin? Do you follow the “weaker hand” rule, in which you wear t’filin on the right arm, or do you follow the “binding” rule, in which you wear t’filin on the opposite hand that you write with – the left hand?

The Beis Yosef (27:6) brings a machlokes how to pasken the question of Tosafos. According to the Rosh, the t’filin is worn on the right arm, while according to R’ Yechiel MiParis, the t’filin is worn on the left arm.

The Shulchan Aruch (ibid) brings both opinions, but the Rama follows the opinion of R’ Yechiel MiParis, and the t’filin is worn on the left arm. The Mishnah B’rurah agrees with the Rama.

Nevertheless, the Vilna Gaon rules according to the Rosh, and the t’filin is worn on the right arm.

IV. Opposite Scenario

What about if you write with your left hand but are otherwise a righty? On which arm do you wear t’filin?

According to the Rama, who holds that you wear your t’filin on the opposite hand that you write with, presumably over here, you wear the t’filin on your right arm. The Mishnah B’rurah, based on the Magen Avraham, concurs with this ruling.

The Bach, however, disagrees. According to the Bach, R’ Yechiel MiParis only holds that you wear your t’filin on the opposite arm that you write with, in the situation where you write with your right hand. Here, however, since you are otherwise a righty, and your right arm is otherwise strong, you should put your t’filin on your left arm.

The Igros Moshe (Orach Chayim 4:11) rules like the Bach, albeit, for a different reason.

V. Ruling of the Sheivet HaLevi

Finally, the Sheivet HaLevi (5:5) discusses an interesting scenario: where you write with your left hand, but are otherwise a righty, and your left arm is extremely weak and unable to wrap your t’filin. In this case, the Sheivet HaLevi rules that the Mishnah B’rurah would agree with the Bach, and you should put your t’filin on your left arm.

Next week’s topic: How often do you need to have a sofer check your t’filin?


Rabbi Ephraim Glatt, Esq. is Assistant to the Rabbi at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and a practicing litigation attorney. Questions? Comments? Email EphraimGlatt@gmail.com.

 

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