There is a beautiful post from way back in August of 2001 written by Leonard Prager (firstname.lastname@example.org) where he brings tidbits and highlights from on older Yiddish Machzor (as well as two beautiful Yiddish poems about Yom Kippur). One of the Machzorim [Yehoyesh version, 1926] had a translation of the Shema I found fascinating. When talking about the Tefillin the Shema tells us to wear, the translation reads “un zey zoln zayn far a shternband tsvishn dayne oygn.” The translation tells us that the Tefillin will serve as the “shternband” which is the same name women in old time Europe called their fancy head coverings.
You see, the Tefillin Shel Rosh and the woman’s head covering (tichel) do one and the same. It should connect us and focus us on Hashem, get us to be aware of G-d.
You might then ask me, why don’t men wear their Tefillin all day just as the women wear their head coverings all day? A man takes off his Tefillin when he is not learning or davening so as to not profane it when not fully committed to G-d and G-d alone. A woman doesn’t take off her head covering. A woman, living life right, in all her actions is doing the “Avodah” is doing the work of G-d. Feeding her family, cleaning her home, she is like the Kohayn, like the High Priest. That is why, in this week’s Parsha, we find that the mirrors the women used to make themselves pretty were found to be worthy of being used in the construction of the Kiyor, the copper washbasin in the Mishkan. Because, even in beautifying themselves, the women were focused on G-d. Even with your pretty shawl, as you tie your tichel this morning and every morning, realize you are putting on the women’s version of Tefillin proudly.