March 19th, 2011

bijin

Tefillin Shel Yad or other Jewish prayer methods

Setting: 1920s New York City, Lower East Side. Technically alternate universe with vampires and other supernatural creatures, but I don't think that matters for the purpose of this question. It's late at night on a weekday--between 11 and midnight.

So I have a character who is a German Jewish immigrant, in his late sixties or early seventies, who is in the midst of a huge personal crisis. The idea is that, unbeknownst to my main character, he has spent the last several hours at least praying to help relieve his anxiety and give him strength to do something rather unpleasant. He's not Hasidic, but other than that, I honestly don't know what denomination of Judaism he falls into. In general, I would say, he's at the lower end of the spectrum of religious observance that's common for this period.

In the draft as it stands, I have him unwinding the black leather cord of a Tefillin Shel Yad from his hand as he opens the door for my main character. I'm hoping this to be a clue to those familiar with Jewish religious traditions that something major is going on in his life, which will soon be revealed. But from what I have been able to glean online, it seems the Tefillin Shel Yad is only used for morning prayers? Would it be reasonable for someone in an extreme situation to use it as a prayer aid/symbol late at night? If not, is there some other visible sign of piety that might work? I'm hoping for the equivalent of a string of rosary beads for a Catholic--something relatively unobtrusive, but physically noticeable to my main character at the moment that he opens the door.

Any help would be much appreciated.

Wikipedia searches: Tefillin, Jewish Religious Movements, Jewish Religious Clothing
Google searches: Shel yad, Shel yad prayers