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Are the brachot on tefillin Rabbinical or bibical?

Question:

1. Are blessings made on Tefillin biblical or rabbinical?
2. When were they instituted?
3. Why were they instituted?
4. How severe is it to say a blessing in vain and why?
5. How important is it to recite the exact wording of the blessing is written in the Siddur?

Answer:

 

  1. Almost all blessings (with the exception of the blessing for Torah learning in the morning, and grace after meals after eating a full meal) are rabbinical.  Therefore, the blessing on the tefillin is rabbinical in nature. For us it doesn’t really matter because one of the commandment in the Torah is to listen to the enactments of the Rabbis, therefore even rabbinical decrees are binding.
  2. I am not sure exactly when they were instituted. The Talmud (Brachos 35a) discusses the origin of blessings, but it doesn’t give a date for it. Ezra and his court of 120 sages, which included numerous prophets, and Mordechai instituted the actual text of the blessing s that we now say. There were definitely part of the Jewish tradition at least from that time See Maimonides (Blessings – Chapter 1-4).
  3. The reason why blessing were instituted, is in order that we should acknowledge and thankful to G-d what he has bestowed upon us. For example, before eating food we thank G-d for giving us food to eat. We don’t merely thank G-d for the physical benefits that he bestows on us, but also for the spiritual benefits that He has given us, therefore before performing a mitzva we humbly thank G-d for the opportunity to perform the mitzva. Additionally they were instituted in order that we should constantly stay connected to G-d.
  4. Although saying a blessing is rabbinic in nature, however it still contain Hashem’s holy name. Therefore, saying a blessing in vain is a transgression of the biblical commandment “do not say the name of Hashem, you G-d in vain” (Exodus 20-7) which is one of the ten commandments.
  5. It is important to recite the blessing according to the text that Ezra and his court instituted. There were many reasons, kabalistic and others, why they specifically instituted these texts, and therefore they should not be changed. See Maimonides ibid.

Best wishes

Sources:

 

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