Nick Page

The dangerous teffilin

I’m currently writing a book on the history of the Bible, with the subtitle ‘God’s Dangerous Book’. Rarely has this sense of danger been so graphically illustrated than in the case of the Jewish teenager who caused a terrorist alert when he put on teffilin – aka phylacteries – small boxes containing portions of scripture. Ultra-orthodox Jews strap one on their head and the other on their arm during prayer, in a literal rendition of verses in the Torah:

‘You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead.’ (Deut 11.18)

The captain, diverted the plane to Philadelphia, where it was greeted by police, bomb-sniffing dogs, federal agents and a Rabbi from the bomb disposal squad (I made the last bit up.)

“It’s something that the average person is not going to see very often, if ever,” FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver said.

That’s ‘Klaver’, not ‘Clever’ by the way.