Historic Tefillin Awareness Program Comes To BMG
Bais Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, is widely known as the citadel of Torah in America. Thousands of accomplished talmidei chachamim grace their many batei medrash, and even during bein hazmanim the building is teeming with bnei Torah who come to learn and daven in their many minyanim.
It was on one such morning, just last week, that R’ Avrohom B. Schachter, the founder of Hanacha K’halacha (TefillinAwareness Project), arranged with BMG to co-host his program in their main campus on 6th street.
What is Hanacha K’halacha? It’s a program that raises awareness of the proper way to perform the mitzvah of tefillin. On designated mornings, qualified sofrim visit shuls and yeshivas upon request, to check and adjust the tefillin of the morning mispallelim. They adjust the placement of the Rosh, the Yad, both Kesharim (knots), the blackness, width and condition of the retzuos (straps), the tefiros (stitching), the re’buah (squareness), and more. They even have a ‘painting’ station.
According to Hanacha K’halacha askonim, many people are simply unaware that they are not wearing their tefillin properly,some are in need of minor adjustments and some are literally not yotzeh the mitzvah. Hanacha K’halacha was established to help correct that unfortunate reality. The program is endorsed by leading Rabbonim, Admorim, and Roshei Yeshiva both in the United States and Eretz Yisroel. Hanacha K’halacha’s services are free of charge to participants but sponsorships are much appreciated.
Much thought went into the decision to bring this widely popular initiative to BMG, and even Mr. Schachter was slighty tentative about the necessity of his services.
But the result was beyond description. Mr. Schachter was blownaway by the magnitude of the crowds that showed up and the endless lines of bochurim and yungeleit who waited to have their tefillin checked out. “It was incredible,” he said. “The crowds were massive. It seems like everybody in town wanted to take advantage of this opportunity.” The energy was palpable as these medakdek b’mitzvos eagerly took advantage of the opportunity to make sure their Tefillin were in perfect shape and that they were fulfilling the Mitzvah properly and l’chatchilla. Even the venerable Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yisroel Neuman came downstairs from the Yoshon bais medrash to have his tefillin checked out. The Rosh Yeshiva’s presence gave much chizuk to the day’s program, the participants and to the askanim involved.
A total of ten sofrim and batim machers joined Mr. Schachter in BMG that morning , all of them prepared to accommodate the members of the seven large morning minyanim at the Yeshiva.
Mr. Schachter estimates that close to a thousand people had their tefillin checked on that day. The sofrim began working at 6:20 AM, as soon as the earliest morning minyan ended, and continued for many hours. “We planned to end at 10:30,” Mr. Schachter remembers. “Instead we stayed past three o’clock in the afternoon!”
It was an eye opening experience for everyone involved, as it highlighted how important it is for even those who are vigilant in the kashrus of their tefillin to have them inspected by a professional sofer. “There are so many intricate details that go into the kashrus of tefillin, and many of these change over time, and they may not be discernible to the untrained eye,” says Mr. Schachter.
TAP services greatly differ from a standard checkup where the sofer checks the kashrus of the parshios. Hanacha K’halacha focuses on the “chitzoniyus” (exterior) of the tefillin. How they lay on one’s head, where exactly is the kesher shel rosh laying, have the retzuos stretched out in a way that they are too thin, is the color fading. In many instances the tefillin require professional repainting where store bought ink will just not suffice.
By the end of the day, it was discovered that at least twenty five people were using tefillin that were in serious need of repair.Others learned that they needed to make minor adjustments.
Hanacha K’halacha recommends having the “chitzoniyus” of one’s tefillin checked by an experienced sofer every year or two. The sofer can check the coloring, how it fits, the ribua – the shape of the tefillin, and other important factors, and the whole ordeal takes just five minutes. But those five minutes can make a difference for a lifetime – no, for eternity. How ironic it is, notes Rav Elya Lapian zt”l, that we make sure to buy new shoes every year, but when it comes to our tefillin, we spend exorbitant sums to get a beautiful pair for our bar mitzvah and we then neglect them for the rest of our lives.
And this is where Hanacha K’halacha steps in. Hanacha K’halacha brings the sofer to your door. A shul or yeshiva can provide their congregants with experienced sofrim who can give each individual the attention he needs in a convenient and efficient way. Hanacha K’halacha also distributes informative business size cards with important information on how to properly wear and maintain one’s tefillin. And in BMG the appreciation was overwhelming.
The lines were long, but nobody complained and no one was in a hurry to leave. Instead, one after another they expressed their sincere appreciation. One resident, Moshe, approached Mr. Schachter with tremendous emotion. “It’s mamishunbelievable,” he said. “Look at the lines here. You have a tremendous zechus. I’m poshut mekaneh your zechusim in Olam Habah.”
The BMG program was scheduled just a few days after another outstanding tefillin program was held at Camp Degel HaTorah in Durham Connectiut, where the tefillin of 300 bochurim and staff members were checked. Future scheduled tefillin programs include yeshivas and shuls in Lakewood, Toms River, Kensington, Midwood, and a large Satmar shul in Williamsburg.
Until recently, summertime was ‘slow season’ for Hanacha K’halacha. But these days Mr. Schachter sees it as an opportunity to reach out to vacation communities, sleep-away camps, summer programs, and bungalow colonies with his program.
Mr. Schachter is thrilled to be able to present the program no matter what the season. “Tefillin is a mitzvah that we do 300 days a year,” he said. “Let’s make sure we’re doing it right.”
Many shuls schedule a Hanacha K’halacha “checkup” every two years, and TAP is more than happy to comply. To schedule an appointment in your community, donate, or to have the incredible zechus to sponsor a program, please email email@example.com or call 646-776-2220.
Hanacha K’halacha’s services are free of charge to the individual participant, but sponsorships are always appreciated.