Tefillin is a mitzvah specifically for men; women are not required to wear Tefillin. The late Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, in his classic pamphlet “Tefillin” provides us with a beautiful explanation of a woman’s relationship with this pivotal mitzvah. The following is based on Rabbi Kaplan’s work.
On a most simple level, commandments establish a link with G-d. The most profound way to accomplish this is through emulating Him. Women resemble G-d in a way that no man could ever hope to. Only a woman can create within her body; only a woman can bear a child. In this sense, a woman partakes of G-d’s attributes more intimately than any man.
The Kabbalists teach us that the hand Tefillin represent the feminine element. The single hollow section in the Tefillin box represents the womb, and the coils wrapped around the arm signify the umbilical cord. What a man partakes of with an object, a woman partakes of with her very body.
The box of Tefillin is called a Bayit–literally a house. The woman also has her Bayit–the home in which she raises a family. One could say that a woman’s home is her Tefillin.
Women resemble G-d through their Tefillin, just as man does through his. The entire world is G-d’s house, and the Divine attribute that tends to it is called the Shechinah or Divine Presence. It is interesting to note that the word Shechinah is of the feminine gender. The Kabbalists call it the Akeret HaBayit–literally, the Mistress of the house.
There are two basic elements in Judaism, the home and the synagogue. Unlike other religions where the church is primary, Judaism treats the home and synagogue as being co-equal. Some of our most important rituals belong exclusively to the home, such as the Seder, the Succah, the Sabbath table, and the Chanukah lamp. The continuity of Judaism is dependent on the home, much more than on the synagogue.
This Bayit–the home–is a woman’s Tefillin. It is her contribution to the overall picture of G-d’s purpose.
It is interesting to note that when G-d first gave the Jewish nation the Torah, G-d told Moshe to instruct the women of Israel initially, and then subsequently teach the men of Israel. If the Torah does not enter the Jewish home first, symbolized and embodied by the Jewish women, there can be no continuity of Judaism. This spirit of Torah in the Jewish home (Bayit) is the same as the parchments of Torah in the Tefillin box (Bayit). But this is the domain of the woman.