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Irving Bunim: Tefillin



The 4th of Tevet is the Yahrtzeit of  Mr. Yitzchak Meir (Irving) Bunim (1901-1981). Born in Volozhin, Lithuania to Rav Moshe and Esther Mina Buminowitz, Irving moved to the Lower East Side of New York with most of his family in 1910. (His father moved in 1905.) He and his two brothers were enrolled in Yeshiva Yaakov Yosef, and his father joined the family of Torah Vodaas. As a youth, he joined the fledgling Young Israel movement and made significant inroads from within. In the 1940s, he accepted the presidency of Yeshiva Yaakov Yosef, a position he held for 30 years. He threw himself in the founding of Beis Midrash Govoha and Kollel in Lakewood. He also devoted much time and energy to Chinuch Atzmai and Torah Umesorah.

The two tefillin that we put on every morning, symbolize Na’aseh and Nishma: We place one on our arm, to connote na’aseh, our readiness to do and act; we put the other on the forehead, to symbolize Nishma, our study, learning and understanding. Now, it is our practice to put on the Tefillin of the hand first and remove it last, so that the Tefillin of the head is never alone without the other.

The significance of this is clear and vital: Judaism rejects learning without doing. The shel rosh should never be on alone, without the shel yad. Judaism cannot live and grow in the mental hothouse of an ivory tower. The Torah insists on thought for action, study for observance. Learning must always be accompanied by doing, by implementing, by carrying out the precepts in practice. (Ethics From Sinai 2:2)

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