Ramban  [Exodus 13:16]



“…Now the fundamental reason of this commandment is that we lay the script of the exodus from Egypt upon the hand and upon the head opposite the heart and the brain, which are the pivots of thought. Thus we are to inscribe [on parchment] the Scriptural sections of Kadesh (Sanctify unto Me) [Verses 1-10], and V'haya ki y'viacha (And it shall be when the Eternal shall bring thee) [Verses 11-16], and enclose them in the phylacteries because of this commandment wherein we were charged to make the exodus from Egypt for frontlets between your eyes. [We are also to inscribe and enclose in the phylacteries the sections of] Sh'ma (Hear 0 Israel) [Deuteronomy 6:4-9] and V'haya im shamo'a (And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken) (ibid., 11: 13-21) because we are charged to have the commandments [of the Torah] also for frontlets between our eyes, as it is written: And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. This is why we also inscribe [on parchment] these two sections - [Sh'ma and V'haya im shamo'a] - for frontlets [even though the exodus is not mentioned in them], for they contain the commandments of the Unity of G-d, the memorial of all commandments, the doctrine of retribution, which states that the consequence of disobeying the commandments is punishment and that blessings come in the wake of obedience - and the whole foundation of the faith. Now of the phylactery of the arm, Scripture says, And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thy hand, which the Rabbis explained as 'referring to the left arm, which is opposite the heart.

By way of the Truth, [the mystic lore of the Cabala] the verse, It is because of  'zeh' (this) which the Eternal did for me, is similar to 'zeh' (this) is my G-d, and I will glorify Him.  The verse here thus states that it was because of His name and His glory that He did for us and brought us forth out of Egypt. And "this" shall be for a sign unto thee on the arm of your strength,  just as it is written, For Thou art the glory of their strength. Thus the sign of the phylactery] is similar to the sign of circumcision and the Sabbath.  And since all [emanations] are one perfect unity, which is alluded to in "the sign" on the arm, our ancestors have received the tradition from Moses, who received it from the mouth of the Almighty, that [all four sections of Scripture inscribed in the phylacteries, as described above], are encased in one compartment. This is something like Scripture says, achothi kalah, because it is united and comprised of the thirty-two paths of wisdom with which the world was created) and it is further written, His left hand is under my head.

Then Scripture says, And it shall be for a memorial between thine eyes, meaning that we are to lay them at the place of remembrance, which is between the eyes, at the beginning of the brain. It is there that remembrance begins by recalling the appearances [of persons and events] after they have passed away from us. These frontlets circle around the whole head with their straps, while the loop rests directly over the base of the brain, which guards the memory. And the expression, between your eyes, means that they are to be placed upon the middle of the head, not towards one side. It may be that in the middle of the head, there are the roots of the eyes and from these stems the power of sight. Similarly, the verse, Nor make ye any baldness between your eyes for the dead, I means baldness adjoining the forehead. Thus the expression between your eyes mentioned here in the case of the frontlets also refers to the identical place. It is to explain this point, i.e., that the phylactery of the head is not to be placed between the eyes, as the literal meaning of the words might indicate, but that it is to be placed upon the middle of the head adjoining the forehead], that He reverts here [in Verse 16 and instead of using the expression, and for 'a memorial' between your eyes, as stated in Verse 9], and says 'ultotaphoth' between your eyes. This is in order to explain that the commandment is not fulfilled by placing the phylactery between the eyes bottomward, but rather it is to be placed high on the head where it is to be there like totaphoth, [and we have seen above that the word totephoth was used by the Rabbis for an object which lies upon the head]. He uses the plural form [totaphoth, and not the singular totephoth, because the compartments in the phylactery of the head are many, as we have received the form by Tradition.


And now I shall declare to you a general principle in the reason of many commandments. Beginning with the days of Enosh  when idol-worship came into existence, opinions in the matter of faith fell into error. Some people denied the root of faith by saying that the world is eternal; they denied the Eternal, and said;  It is not He [Who called fort h the world into existence]. Others denied His knowledge of individual matters, and they say, How doth G-d know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?  Some admit His knowledge but deny the principle of providence and make men as the fishes of the sea, [believing] that G-d does not watch over them and that there is no punishment or reward for their deeds, for they say the Eternal hath forsaken the land.  Now when G-d is pleased to bring about a change in the customary and natural order of the world for the sake of a people or an individual, then the voidance of all these [false beliefs] becomes clear to all people, since a wondrous miracle shows that the world has a G-d Who created it, and Who knows and supervises it, and Who has the power to change it. And when that wonder is previously prophesied by a prophet, another principle is further established, namely, that of the truth of prophecy, that G-d doth speak with man, and that He revealeth His counsel unto His servants the prophets, and thereby the whole Torah is confirmed. This is why Scripture says in connection with the wonders [in Egypt]: That thou [Pharaoh] mayest know that I am the Eternal in the midst of the earth, [Exod. 8:18] which teaches us the principle of providence, i.e., that G-d has not abandoned the world to chance, as they [the heretics] would have it; That thou mayest know that the earth is the Eternal's, [Exod. 9:29] which informs us of the principle of creation, for everything is His since He created all out of nothing; That thou mayest know that there is none like Me in all the earth, [Exod. 9:14] which indicates His might, i.e., that He rules over everything and that there is nothing to withhold Him. The Egyptians either denied or doubted all of these {three] principles, [and the miracles confirmed their truth]. Accordingly, it follows that the great signs and wonders constitute faithful witnesses to the truth of the belief in the existence of the Creator and the truth of the whole Torah. And because the Holy One, blessed be He, will not make signs and wonders in every generation for the eyes of some wicked man or heretic, He therefore commanded us that we should always make a memorial or sign of that which we have seen with our eyes, and that we should transmit the matter to our children, and their children to their children, to the generations to come, and He placed great emphasis on it, as is indicated by the fact that one is liable to extinction for eating leavened bread on the Passover, and for abandoning the Passover offering, [i.e., for not taking part in the slaughtering thereof]. He has further required of us that we inscribe upon our arms and between our eyes all that we have seen in the way of signs and wonders, and to inscribe it yet upon the doorposts of the houses, and that we remember it by recital in the morning and evening - just as the Rabbis have said: "The recital of the benediction True and firm, [Which follows the Sh'ma in the morning and which terminates with a blessing to G-d for the redemption from Egypt], is obligatory as a matter of scriptural law because it is written, that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life”.  [He further required] that we make a booth every year, and many other commandments like them, which are a memorial to the exodus from Egypt. All these commandments are designed for the purpose that in all generations we should have testimonies to the wonders so that they should not be forgotten and so that the heretic should not be able to open his lips to deny the belief in [the existence of] G-d. He who buys a Mezuzah for one zuz [a silver coin] and affixes it to his doorpost and has the proper intent of heart on its content, has already admitted the creation of the world, the Creator’s knowledge and His providence, and also his belief in prophecy as well as in all fundamental principles of the Torah, besides admitting that the mercy of the creator is very great upon them that do His Will, Since He brought us forth from that bondage to freedom and to great honor on account of the merit of our fathers who delighted in the rear of His Name. It is for this reason that the Rabbis have said: "Be as heedful of a light commandment, as of a weighty one…for they are all exceedingly precious and beloved, for through them a person always expresses thankfulness to his G-d.

And the purpose of an the commandments is that we believe in our G-d and be thankful to Him of having created us, for we know of no other reason for the first creation, and G-d the Most High has no demand on the lower creatures," excepting that man should know and be thankful to G-d for having created him. The purposes of raising our voices in prayer and of the service in synagogues, as well as the merit of public prayer, is precisely this: that people should have a place wherein they assemble and express their thankfulness to G-d for having created them and supported them, and thus proclaim and say before Him, We arc your Creatures. "

This is the intent of what the Rabbis of blessed memory have said: And they cried mightily unto G-d.  From here you learn that prayer must be accompanied by sound. The undaunted one wins over the abashed one."

Through the great open miracles, one comes to admit the hidden miracles which constitute the foundation of the whole Torah, for no one can have a part in the Torah of Moses our teacher unless he believes that all our words and our events, [as dictated in the Torah], arc miraculous in scope, there being no natural or customary way of the world in them, whether affecting the public or the individual. Instead, if a person observes the commandments, His reward Will bring him success, and if he violates them, His punishment it will cause his extinction. It is all by decree of the Most High, as I have already mentioned.  The hidden miracles done to the public come to be known as is mentioned in the assurances of the Torah on the subject of the blessings and imprecations, as the verse says: And all the nations Shall say: Wherefore hath the Eternal done thus unto this land? ... Then men shall say: Because they forsook the covenant of the Eternal, the C-d of their fathers.  Thus it will become known to all nations that their punishment came from G-d. And of the fulfillment of the commandments it says, And all the peoples of the earth shall see that the name of the Eternal is called upon thee.  I will yet explain this, with the help of G-d.”