Two Types of Four-Compartment Tefillin Cases from the Judean Desert Caves

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Approximately thirty tefillin cases were discovered in the Judean Desert. The publishers of these finds distinguished between single-compartment cases, which they identified as "arm-tefillin,"and four-compartment cases, which they identified as "head-tefillin."Here I present a further typological distinction between two subtypes among the four-compartment tefillin cases: (1) the "simple-type,"in which a single line of stitching separates the compartments from one another, and (2) the "split-type,"in which the compartments are separated by incisions in the leather and each compartment is stitched closed individually. It seems likely that some kind of ritual issue is at stake, and an allusion to these two types as competing halakhic practices may be found in the tannaitic literature - with the rabbis ultimately rejecting the "split-type."The Judean Desert finds may represent a synchronic debate between competing groups, a diachronic development, or perhaps practices followed contemporaneously by members of one and the same group.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDead Sea Discoveries
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Halakhah
  • Judean desert
  • Midrash
  • Qumran
  • Ritual
  • Second temple
  • Sectarianism
  • Tefillin


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