On today’s daf we begin the tenth chapter of Tractate Eruvin. This chapter brings us back to a subject we covered in Tractate Shabbat: how to bring lost tefillin (phylacteries) back into the city on Shabbat without contravening the laws of carrying.
Our new chapter begins with this mishnah:
One who finds tefillin outside the city on Shabbat, where they are in danger of becoming lost or damaged, brings them into his house pair by pair by donning them in the manner in which they are typically donned for the mitzvah.
Rabban Gamliel says: He brings them in two pairs by two pairs.
The anonymous narrator voice of the Mishnah states that the person who finds the lost tefillin should wear them home one at a time in order to transport them to safety without violating the laws of carrying. Rabban Gamliel, however, says that one may bring back two pairs of tefillin at a time.
But, asks the Gemara, can one really wear both sets of tefillin simultaneously?
It should be prohibited to wear more than one pair as there is room to don only one set of phylacteries on one’s head … He may not don them anywhere else on his body, as in that case he is considered to be carrying, not wearing them.
How, the Gemara asks, can one properly wear two pairs of tefillin at once? After all, there is only so much room on the forearm and forehead, and the second pair would be pushed out of place and then the person would not be wearing that second pair so much as carrying it.
It is worth noting that ancient tefillin were quite a bit smaller than the tefillin typically worn by Jews today. Perhaps this is the reason that at least one rabbi comes to support Rabban Gamliel, arguing that it is completely possible to wear more than one pair at a time:
Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzhak said: There is room on one’s head to place two phylacteries … even when one dons two phylacteries on his arm, he is regarded as donning them in the typical manner, in accordance with the opinion of Rav Huna.
You might suppose this is all highly theoretical, but the idea of wearing more than one pair of tefillin has had applications in Jewish practice since the Talmud. Menachot 34b contains a discussion of how the various scrolls should be organized into the tefillin boxes. The argument is continued by the medieval commentators Rashi and his grandson Rabbeinu Tam, each offering a different understanding of the order of the tefillin. Though many communities simply follow Rashi on the organization of tefillin scrolls, there are some, especially Sephardic and Hasidic communities, that fulfill both opinions by wearing both types of tefillin at the same time — just like Rabban Gamliel and Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzhak said we could.