Tefillin on Top of Bandage
I need to have a minor operation on my left arm next week. It will be bandaged for at least a week afterwards. This is the arm I place my Tefillin on. Am I allowed to place my Tefillin on top of the bandage?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
In general, Tefillin must be placed directly against one’s skin (or for the head Tefillin, one’s hair), without anything in between. In a case such as yours where this is impossible, we rely on a minority opinion that Tefillin does not need to be directly against the skin. Thus, you would place your Tefillin on top of the bandage, trying your best to estimate its correct location (Shulchan Aruch 27:5, Mishnah Berurah 17).
Since this is against the majority opinion, there are a few differences in how you should put on your Tefillin:
(a) You should cover up your arm-Tefillin, say with the sleeve of a sweater or jacket. This is a precaution instituted by the Sages so that others won’t see what you’re doing and do so themselves – even when their arm or head is not bandaged (Shulchan Aruch 27:5).
(b) In terms of reciting the blessings on your Tefillin, since most opinions hold that Tefillin must be directly against the skin, you should act as if you are only wearing head-Tefillin. This means that if you are a Sefardi – who generally recites only one blessing on both the arm- and head-Tefillin – “l’hani’ach Tefillin” (and only the second blessing (“al mitzvat Tefillin”) if something goes wrong with the first), you should recite the second blessing only.
If you are Ashkenazi, who normally recites both blessings on both parts of the Tefillin, you should recite both blessings, but only when putting on your head-Tefillin (Shulchan Aruch and Rema, 26:2).
One other point: If the bandage does not cover where the Tefillin box or the knot in the back goes, even if it covers the straps you use to fasten the box, you can wear your Tefillin and recite the blessings as normal (Rema 27:4, Mishnah Berurah 16).
Finally, my wishes that your operation goes smoothly and you merit a speedy recovery!