- Question: [Tuesday, 9th Shevat 5782]
Is there any issue with resting Tefillin on top of a Sefer? Is there any difference between the actual Tefillin themselves, versus the tefillin while they are in the bag, and versus the tefillin cases?
It is best not to rest Tefillin on top of any Torah Sefarim that contain Hashem’s name, such as Siddurim and Chumashim and Tehillim. Nonetheless, those who are lenient to rest the Tefillin even on these Sefarim have upon whom to rely, as so is the main opinion in Poskim. One may even initially rest the tefillin on top of Sefarim that do not contain Hashem’s name, such as a Gemara. However, this only applies to the actual tefillin, however, the Tefillin bag [even if there is Tefillin in them], or the cases of the tefillin, are not to be placed on top of Sefarim. People are unaware of this and are to be informed. Accordingly, those who rest their tefillin bag on the Sefarim shelf on top of the Sefarim, are to be informed that they should not do so, and the Gabbaiy of the Shul should let people know.
Explanation: Due to the requirement to respect holy items, it is forbidden to use holy items for a mundane purpose or for any purpose that is considered of lesser holiness than them. Accordingly, it is forbidden for one to rest a mundane item, such as one’s glasses, on top of Sefarim. Now, the question is raised regarding tefillin: If tefillin is viewed as holier than Sefarim then it should be permitted for one to rest his tefillin on top of Sefarim. Practically, this matter is debated amongst the Poskim. Some Poskim rule that Sefarim that contain Hashem’s name written in full have a holier status than the Tefillin, as can be seen from the fact that many Poskim rule that an alternative to holding a Torah scroll when swearing in court is to hold Sefarim that contain Hashem’s name, while tefillin may only be used in a time of need. Accordingly, some Poskim conclude that one may not rest tefillin on top of a Siddur. Other Poskim, however, argue on the above and rule that in truth tefillin are holier than Sefarim even if the books contain G-d’s name, and therefore they argue and rule that in truth holding a Sefer when swearing in court is not a valid alternative to holding a Torah scroll, as can be seen from the fact that even tefillin can only be held in a time of need. According to this opinion, there is no issue with placing tefillin on top of Sefarim, including even a Siddur and Chumash. Practically, although it is proper to be stringent in this matter, although those who are lenient have upon whom to rely, and so is the widespread custom. Certainly, according to all one may be lenient to place the actual tefillin on top of books that do not contain Hashem’s name. However, this leniency only applies to the tefillin themselves, however the tefillin bag [which also often contains other things aside for tefillin], according to all opinions should not be placed on top of any Sefarim even if the Sefer does not contain Hashem’s name. Likewise, the tefillin cases should not be placed on top of any Sefer.
Sources: See Machzik Bracha 25:12; Kaf Hachaim 25:101; Ginzei Hakodesh p. 56 in name of Rav Elyashiv regarding Tashmishei Kedusha; Kevod Hasefarim p. 99; Shemiras Kevod Hasefarim p. 320; Aliba Dehilchasa 24 p. 29 Poskim who are stringent to prohibit resting tefillin on top of Sefarim: Soles Belula 25:9 [unlike Soles Belula 45 p. 11] “Some are accustomed when they removed her head tefillin to rest it on their Siddur, as they think that the holiness of the tefillin is higher than the holiness of the siddur. This is incorrect as can be proven from the law regarding holding a Sefer with G-d’s name versus tefillin when swearing in court and the Smeh writes that from here we see that books with G-d’s name are holier than tefillin”; Or Tzadikim p. 10; Beis Haroeh p.2; Smeh C.M. 87:15 “from here it is proven that Sefarim are better than tefillin”’; The following Poskim rule that Sefarim with Hashem’s name [i.e. a Tehillim/Chumash] may even initially be held during a swear, while holding Tefillin is only allowed in a time of need: Rama C.M. 87:15 in name of Maryu 171; Beir Haiytiv C.M. 87:39; See Machzik Bracha 25:12; Kaf Hachaim ibid; Poskim who are lenient to permit resting tefillin on top of Sefarim: Soles Belula 45 p. 11 [unlike his ruling in 25:9] that “what I wrote earlier in 25:9 in the name of the Smeh, I have now seen the Taz there who argues on this and rules that tefillin are holier, especially more than books which were printed with G-d’s name, and what the Smeh wrote does not make any sense to me, and so is the custom in all provinces of Trugama, and so rules the Shach, go see that so is the widespread custom”; Machazik Bracha ibid; Tziporen Shamir 2:9; ; Kesher Gudal 4:7; Shalmei Tzibur p. 42; Kaf Hachaim ibid; Shemiras Kevod Sefarim p. 320; So applies according to all Poskim who argue on the Rama and rule that Tefillin are holier than Sefarim even if they have Hashem’s name and hence since one cannot initially swear holding tefillin, certainly holding Sefarim is initially invalid: Shach C.M. 87:42; Taz on 87:15; “One cannot say the tefillin are less severe than Sefarim as certainly they contain more holiness. This is certainly the case regarding those books that are printed”; Machazik Bracha C.M. 87; Soles Belula ibid; Ritva