When to Take off Tefillin on Rosh Chodesh

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Rosh Chodesh: When to Remove the Tefillin

On Rosh Chodesh, the tefillin are removed before Mussaf.[1] One reason for this is based on the Mussaf liturgy. In Nusach Sefard and Nusach Edot Hamizrach (the nusach generally used among Sephardim in Israel today), the Mussaf Kedusha opens with the words keter yitnu Lecha (You will be crowned), referring to the teaching that the Jewish people, along with the angels, crown God as King of the world. It is explained that it would be unbecoming to “crown” God as King of the world while one is wearing tefillin, as tefillin are considered to be one’s own personal crown.[2]

Another reason that tefillin are removed before Mussaf, applicable even to those who do not recite keter yitnu Lecha as part of the Mussaf Kedusha, is to add a yom tov flavor to the day. As the Mussaf prayer represents the yom tov nature of Rosh Chodesh, the tefillin are removed at that time in order to recall that tefillin are not worn on yom tov.[3] In fact, some authorities recommend removing the tefillin before the Torah reading, as it also represents the yom tov nature of the day.[4] There are even those who recommend removing the tefillin before Hallel for the same reason.[5] Others suggest removing the tefillin after the Torah is returned to the aron kodesh.[6] Nevertheless, the halacha is not in accordance with any of these views and the tefillin are removed before Mussaf.[7]

There is some discussion, however, as to what is considered “before Mussaf.” In most congregations, the tefillin are removed after the Kaddish that follows Uva L’Tzion.[8] Once the tefillin are removed they are usually just placed on a table and left exposed until after Mussaf. They are not properly put away, and in most cases, they are not even wrapped up. The reason the tefillin are somewhat neglected in this manner is to minimize the interruption between the Kaddish and the start of Mussaf.[9] Nevertheless, even in such congregations, the tefillin should at least be covered before one begins Mussaf.[10] Tefillin may be placed upon siddurim and other holy books, if needed.[11]

Although the approach described above is fairly common and based on kabbalistic considerations,[12] there is reason to suggest that it might not be the ideal manner in which to conduct oneself. According to a number of authorities, the tefillin should be removed while reciting Uva L’Tzion, just before beginning the yehi ratzon paragraph.[13] Other sources seem to indicate that the tefillin should be removed after completing Uva L’Tzion but before the Kaddish is recited.[14] Indeed, this approach is consistent with other occasions when there is some form of an interruption before Mussaf. For example, in most congregations the rabbi delivers the Shabbat morning drasha before the pre-Mussaf Kaddish is recited. In this way, Mussaf can and should begin immediately after the Kaddish with no interruptions.[15]

Furthermore, leaving the tefillin exposed and unwrapped for the duration of Mussaf is unbecoming the reverence owed to them. In fact, according to halacha, whenever one removes tefillin one is to wrap and put away the shel rosh even before removing the shel yad. There does not seem to be any good reason why this halacha should be ignored on Rosh Chodesh.[16] Wrapping the tefillin during the repetition of Mussaf (or during the Kaddish before Mussaf, for that matter[17]) is also not an option, as one is required to listen attentively to the repetition and not engage in any other activities.[18] The current common practice forces the tefillin to be left unwrapped and exposed for an extended period of time.[19]

Therefore, it appears to this writer that the ideal procedure for removing tefillin on Rosh Chodesh would be to remove, wrap, and put away the tefillin before the Kaddish is recited. This was the practice of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik[20]and Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld.[21] Once everyone has put away their tefillin the Kaddish can be recited and the entire congregation can begin Mussaf together in unison without any interruption. As mentioned, there are precedents for conducting oneself in this manner whenever there is an interruption before Mussaf. It is also worth mentioning that according to halacha, one who is bothered by the sight of a sefer that has fallen to the floor is permitted to interrupt Shemoneh Esrei in order to pick it up. One then resumes the Shemoneh Esrei where one left off.[22] How much more so should it be permissible for one who is bothered by the sight of his tefillin lying exposed and unwrapped to delay beginning the Shemoneh Esrei in order to properly put away his tefillin.[23]

One who is in a congregation where the custom is to leave the tefillin unwrapped until after Mussaf is permitted to deviate from the congregational practice and to properly put away his tefillin before beginning the silent Mussaf. For a number of reasons that are beyond the scope of this chapter, there is no problem of lo titgodedu with doing so. So too, although it is ideal to begin the Shemoneh Esrei at the exact same time as everyone else,[24] one is still considered to have discharged tefilla b’tzibbur if one begins a few moments later.[25]

One who forgot to remove his tefillin before beginning Mussaf should continue reciting Mussaf without interruption. This is because removing tefillin before Mussaf is only a custom, while interrupting one’s Shemoneh Esrei is forbidden by halacha.[26] Sephardim in fact hold that wearing tefillin during mussaf is a prohibition and one should interrupt in order to take them off.[27] One who for whatever reason is wearing tefillin when the congregation is about to recite the Kedusha of Mussaf should lift the shel rosh slightly off his head and place his tallit between the shel yad and his arm.[28] In this way it is considered as if he is not wearing tefillin. If this is not possible, then one is permitted to respond to the Kedusha anyway.[29]

Those who wear Rabbeinu Tam tefillin should make an effort to put them on, recite the customary passages, and then remove them, all before Mussaf. This is based on the teaching that once one has recited Mussaf, the rest of the day is considered to be a “yom tov,” and on yom tov tefillin are not worn. If it is not possible to put on the Rabbeinu Tam tefillin before Mussaf then one may put them on after Mussaf, or preferably just before or after Mincha.[30] One who customarily wears tefillin at Mincha is permitted to do so on Rosh Chodesh, as well.[31]


Special thanks to Rabbi Ari Enkin for allowing Halachipedia to reprint this article from Torahmusings.com.


  1. OC 25:13; Mishna Berura 25:59; Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 10:19; Rivevot Ephraim 7:317.
  2. Mishna Berura 25:61; Shulchan Aruch Harav, OC 25:41.
  3. OC 423:4; Levush 25:13; Mishna Berura 423:10.
  4. Levush 423:4; Rema M’pano 108.
  5. Rema M’pano 108.
  6. Magen Avraham 28:30.
  7. Ibid., 423:6.
  8. Ibid., 25:30.
  9. Rambam, Hilchot Tefilla 9:13; Mishna Berura 25:59; Ta’amei Haminhagim, Inyanei Rosh Chodesh.
  10. Kaf Hachaim 28:7; Teshuvot V’hanhagot 1:45; Rivevot Ephraim 1:281:5.
  11. Kaf Hachaim, OC 25:101.
  12. Magen Avraham 423:6; Pri Megadim, EA 423:6; Mishna Berura 25:59; Kaf Hachaim, OC 25:94, 95.
  13. Mishna Berura 25:59.
  14. Siddur Ba’al Hatanya.
  15. Mishna Berura 25:59.
  16. Ibid., 28:8.
  17. Ibid., 25:56.
  18. Ibid., 124:17; Igrot Moshe, OC 4:19; Tzitz Eliezer 11:10.
  19. Pri Megadim, MZ 34:2.
  20. See also Nefesh Harav, p. 116; Reshimot Shiurim, Sukka, p.215; M’pninei Harav, p. 83.
  21. Piskei Teshuvot 28, n. 29.
  22. Mishna Berura 96:7.
  23. Cf. Kaf Hachaim (Palagi) 34:7.
  24. Mishna Berura 66:35.
  25. Igrot Moshe, OC 3:4. For more on the discussion of when to remove the tefillin on Rosh Chodesh, see Rivevot Ephraim 1:283.
  26. Mishna Berura 25:61, 90:30; Kaf Hachaim, OC 25:98; Rivevot Ephraim 8:13. Yalkut Yosef (423:2, Shabbat v. 5 p. 305) writes that if someone wore his tefillin for mussaf after the fact he fulfilled his obligation of mussaf. If he remembers in the middle of mussaf, he should just cover the tefillin with his tallit and continue praying.
  27. Unlike the Kaf Hachaim and Yalkut Yosef cited earlier, Chazon Ovadia p. 302 writes that based on the Zohar it is forbidden to wear tefillin during mussaf of rosh chodesh. If someone mistakenly left it on they should remove them. However, after the fact one fulfills one's obligation.
  28. Sha’arei Teshuva 25:16; Kaf Hachaim, OC 25:99; Kinyan Torah 6:6; Kaf Hachaim (Palagi) 34:6.
  29. Shulchan Hatahor 25:13.
  30. See Piskei Teshuvot 25:27 and n. 211 at length.
  31. Kaf Hachaim (Palagi) 19:5.