Question:

The method in which a man wraps the strap of the tefillin shel yad around his arm and hand is generally passed on from father to son. So in other words, one learns how to wrap the tefillin around the arm and hand from his father, who presumably learned it from his father, etc.
Ba’alei teshuva generally take on the minhag of their rabbi/community, or if the minhag of their father or grandfather is known, they take on that minhag. For gerim, the minhag of the rabbi/community is used.
My question is, is one allowed to invent their own method of laying tefillin? Would the answer change if one didn’t have a minhag from his ancestors?
If the answer is yes, then what are the regulations and guidelines for inventing one’s own way? For instance:
– Must the black side of the straps be showing to the outside at all times, including when the strap is wrapped around the underside of the hand?
– Is the forming of the shin (either on the hand or arm like Chabad) or other letters (dalet; yud) halacha?
– Can you make more than seven/eight wraps around the arm, such as thirteen wraps?
Obviously, it is usually not a wise idea to “invent ways” of performing mitzvot. But I want a minhag to pass onto my son, and since I did not receive a minhag from my father, I’d like to have something a little more “special” than a traditional, “general” minhag (such as the Ashkenazi method or Chabad method).

Answer:

It is very nice and special that you want to be able to pass significant things to your children. However one should not invent his own minhagim. Minhagim are usually based on the halachic rulings, or customs of great Rabbis, generally who lived hundreds of years ago and have very solid basis, with great torah scholars. (There are many books written explaining the sources of the various minhagim). Although there are various rules when one may change from the customs of a certain communities minhag, we cannot just make up what we want to do. When doing so, we are likely to end up transgressing some rules that you may not be aware of.

Besides this, there is another reason. If you pass down a minhag that has a tradition, then you are giving your children a connection to very deeply rooted traditions, and actions that have deep meaning to them. On the other hand if your children will get your original “home cooked” custom, that isn’t based on anything except for the desire to be original, different or “special”, it might be different etc., but in essence it will be shallow and meaningless.

 

Tags: minhag minhagim (customs)

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