For the past week, a group of campers from Shoafim have been working on a very special project—they have been making their own tefillin. With the help of visiting educator Noah Greenberg, founder of the Kesher Tefillin Project, these campers have been learning about the mitzvah of wearing tefillin while making their own set.
Greenberg had the idea for the project approximately five years ago when his own son was approaching the age of Bar Mitzvah. He was concerned about the mechanical way tefillin were made and was sure there had to be a simpler, more spiritual way of creating tefillin. If Moses wore tefillin, surely there had to be a way to make them without all the machinery.
So, he began tinkering, and came up with a design that he calls “origami tefillin.” He went to Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, one of the preeminent rabbis in Israel, to make sure they were acceptable for fulfilling the mitzvah, and (with a few modifications) the rabbi deemed the tefillin kosher.
Greenberg made his way to Ramah after meeting Rabbi Sykes several years ago. He first brought the program to Ramah Darom, not really sure that the campers would be interested in the project or get any meaning out of it. Rabbi Karelitz asked him if he really thought doing this project would get campers to wear tefillin and Greenberg said he wasn't sure. After doing the project, he went back to Rabbi Karelitz and said he was "absolutely certain that this project is going to encourage young people to put on tefillin–there's not a shadow of a doubt." That first summer he did the project with twelve campers at Ramah Darom. He said, "By the end of the week, this was the cool thing, what everyone in camp was talking about. It was unbelievable! Who could imagine that such a mundane mitzvah, something that is kind of a burden for these campers, could become so exciting?" This summer, he is visiting six of the Ramah camps with campers lining up to participate.
Our Shoafim campers were touched by the project. As they put on their new tefillin, they held them with care. When they put them away, they placed them in their new velvet bags and hugged the bags. This group of campers had the chance to understand and experience the mitzvah of laying tefillin in a way that many will not. They are part of their tefillin now.
For more information on the project, visit www.kesher-tefillin.com.