Details About the Tefillin Boxes and Straps

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Halachot of the Boxes (Batim)

  1. The leather of the boxes needs to be tanned "Lishmah" (for the same of Tefillin).[1]
  2. The boxes should be black.[2]
  3. The Tefillin boxes must be square.[3]

Halachot for the Scrolls

The Parchment (Klaf) Used for Tefillin

  1. The parchment must be made from the skin of a kosher type of animal or bird. Even if the animal is taref, it is permitted to use as long as the animal is from a kosher species.[4]
  2. According to Shulchan Aruch, Tefillin must be written on klaf, not duchsustus or gevil, on the inner side, not the outer one. Otherwise, the Tefillin are invalid.[5]

How to Write Tefillin

See the Tzurat HaOtiot page for How To Write Letters in a Sefer Torah, Tefillin, and Mezuzot.

  1. The passages must be written with intent of writting them for the kedusha of Tefillin.[6]
  2. Before and while writing the passages for the Tefillin the sofer should say "I am writing for the sake of the holiness of Tefillin." [7]
  3. The passages must be written with one's right hand if one is right-handed or ambidextrous, however, a left-handed person must write the passages with his left hand.[8]
  4. The passages must be written with black ink.[9]
  5. It is a good habit to test out the pen before beginning to write a passage.[10]

Who Can Write Tefillin (Who Can Be a Sofer)

  1. The passages for Tefillin must be written by a literate religious adult male Jew.[11]
  2. Tefillin written by a gentile or a Jew who does not believe in the entire Torah and its divinity are not kosher.[12] Women are exempt from wearing Tefillin and as such may not write Tefillin.[13]

The Passages (Parshiot) Written in Tefillin

  1. The passages must be written in the order of the Torah (Kadesh, VeHaya Ki Yiviyecha, Shema, and then VeHaya Im Shamoa).[14] It is preferable to write the passages for the arm Tefillin before writing the passages for the head Tefillin.[15]
  2. Those in the head Tefillin are written on four separate pieces of parchment, while those in the arm Tefillin are written on one piece of parchment.[16]
  3. The first three passages are Petuchot and the last one is Setumah. Bediavad, if the parsha which is supposed to be patuach is written satum or the satum parsha is written patuach the Tefillin are considered pasul.[17]
  4. Given the debate between the Rambam and Rosh regarding how to write a Petuchah and a Setumah, Ashkenazi Tefillin are written in a way that attempts to form a compromise between the two. Unfortunately, this compromise is absolutely unacceptable for Sephardim, as it is against Shulchan Aruch. Therefore, Sephardim will not have fulfilled their obligation of Tefillin if they are written according to minhag Ashkenaz. If one has no choice, he should wear them without a Beracha, and a halachic authority should be contacted. This is not an issue with Chabad Tefillin.[18]

Halachot of the Straps (Retzuot)

Length of Tefillin Straps

  1. The strap for the Tefillin for the arm needs to be at least long enough to be able to be wrapped around the upper arm and extend downwards to the hand and be wrapped around the middle finger three times. Though it would be preferable if it were long enough to additionally be able to wrap around the arm six or seven times.[19]
  2. The strap for the Tefillin of the head needs to be at least long enough to fit around the head plus the two Tefachim on each side hanging down.[20] The custom is that the right one be longer than the left one and that both go past the midsection.[21]

Color of Tefillin Straps

  1. The straps should be colored black.[22]
  2. The coloring should be done for the sake of the mitzva of Tefillin.[23]
  3. The coloring can be done by a women, or a child if the child is supervised by an adult who instructs him to paint it for his sake.[24]
  4. The coloring can be done at night.[25]
  5. One should ensure that the black of the straps faces outward.[26]

Width of Tefillin Straps

  1. The minimum width of the Tefillin straps is the width of a barley kernel, which is approximately a centimeter.[27]

What Tefillin Straps Are Made From

  1. The straps of the Tefillin should be made from the skin of a kosher animal.[28]

The Knot of Tefillin Shel Rosh

  1. The strap of the Tefillin Shel Rosh should contain a knot in the shape of the Hebrew letter Dalet, and the strap of the Tefillin Shel Yad should contain a knot in the shape of the letter Yod. In the end, these symbols and the Hebrew letter Shin on the Tefillin Shel Rosh will complete the spelling of the name of Hashem.[29]
  2. Different customs about how to tie the Dalet exist. Some do an L rotated 180°, while others do a square.[30]

Borrowing Tallit or Tefillin

  1. One may borrow somebody's Tallit[31] or Tefillin without the owner's permission, if the owner is not there to ask permission from.[32] However, if circumstances dictate that the owner would not want you to borrow it, this does not apply. For example, if the owner placed them in a place where it is obvious he does not want them being used, or if someone uses them on a permanent basis.[33]
  2. After borrowing the Tallit or Tefillin, one must place fold them in the same manner they were folded before, and put them back wherever he took them from.[34]
  3. One may not remove the borrowed Tefillin from the synagogue or the owner's home without permission.[35]
  4. Obviously one may not damage the Tefillin [36]
  5. One does not however fulfill one's obligation of Tefillin with stolen Tefillin and may not recite a bracha on them.[37]

Getting Tefillin Checked

  1. Even though one is not obligated, it is praiseworthy to have one's Tefillin checked every year, particularly during the month of Elul and the aseret yimei teshuva.[38]
  2. It is proper to check one's Tefillin to make sure that they are still valid twice every seven years. However, if Tefillin get damaged by water then they should be checked immediately, if that is not possible then one may use them, however without making a bracha.[39]
  3. If one has not gotten one's Tefillin checked for a long time and later finds out they were unkosher, one should increase one's Torah learning and some say one should take upon oneself to also wear Rabbeinu Tam Tefillin if one has not been already doing so.[40]

Sources

  1. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 32:8). See Or LeTzion (vol. 1 Orach Chaim 2:11 and vol. 2 3:5) regarding the use of machines.
  2. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:40, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, miscellaneous laws (of Tefillin), seif 12. Mishna Brurah 32:184 comments that Shulchan Aruch implies that it is only a mitzvah but after the fact it isn't critical, however, the Gra holds that it is essential in order to fulfill the mitzvah of Tefillin. Halacha Brurah 32:161 rules that after the fact Tefillin are kosher even if the batim aren't black. Shulchan Aruch only mentions blackening the Batim and Retzuot, however, Pitchei Teshuva 32:64 quotes the Sefer Tikun Tefilin and Zichron Eliyahu ch. 20 who say also to paint the entire Tefillin including the Titura and Mavarta excluding the inside of the Mavarta. Halacha Brurah 32:161 agrees.
  3. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:39, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, miscellaneous laws (of Tefillin), seif 13
  4. Shabbos 108a, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:12, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, miscellaneous laws (of Tefillin), seif 6
  5. Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 32:7). See Magen Avot (Lebhar, Orach Chaim 32:7) regarding nowadays.
  6. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:19
  7. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, miscellaneous laws (of Tefillin), seif 7
  8. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:5. See Mishna Brurah 32:18 who quotes the Pri Megadim that preferably one should not have a sofer who writes with the right hand and does other activities with the left hand or the opposite. Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Or LeTzion 2:3:3) is quoted as stating that Tefillin written by someone who is purely left handed are kasher just not Mehudar (see Rav Pe'alinm 2:9), but those written by someone who is ambidextrous are subject to debate whether they are kasher or not. Therefore, an ambidextrous person should not get involved and the buyer should be informed of the status of any Tefillin written by him.
  9. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:3
  10. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:22
  11. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:30 and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 39:1
  12. Rambam Hilchot Tefillin 1:13
  13. Gemara Gittin 45b, Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 39:1
  14. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:1
  15. Rama 32:1, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, miscellaneous laws (of Tefillin), seif 2
  16. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 32:2
  17. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 34:36, See Taz ibid. Yechave Daat 5:3, Ohr LeTzion vol. 2 pg 35, Iggros Moshe Orach Chaim vol. 1 Siman 12
  18. See Yechave Daat 2:3 and 5:3 where Chacham Ovadia explains that according to all opinions the script itself is not a problem; rather, the issue is that Ashkenazi sofrim follow the Taz's peshara to be yotzeh both the Rambam and Rosh's opinions of a Parsha Stumah. Since the Shulchan Aruch explicitly rejects this peshara in Hilchot Sefer Torah, it is invalid for Sephardim, thereby rendering the Tefillin Pesulim according to the Sephardi custom. This also the ruling of Rav Ben Tzion Abba Shaul (Or LeTzion 2:3:7). Yabia Omer (vol. 9 OC 108:24), Halacha Brurah 32:148
  19. S:A 27:8. Mishna Brurah 27:31 says the custom nowadays is seven times.
  20. Mishna Brurah 27:44
  21. Mishna Brurah 27:41
  22. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 33:3, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, place of donning and how to don, seif 24. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 33:3 and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, laws of the straps, seif 3 write that this is a halacha leMoshe miSinai. Mishna Brurah 33:19 says they should be as black as a raven and adds that one should be especially careful and make sure it stays black at the spot where one tightens the Tefillin as the paint there wears off easily.
  23. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 33:4, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, laws of the straps, seif 2. Rama writes that they are not even kosher bedieved if they are not colored black for the sake of the mitzva. Beiur Halacha 33:4 maintains they are "pasul" and says they should be repainted with the proper concentration and intent.
  24. Mishna Brurah 33:23
  25. Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg quoted in Mivakshei Torah volume 4 page 415.
  26. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 27:11. Mishna Brurah 27:38 says that one really only has to make sure that the part around the head and around the arm muscle has the black on the outside, but it looks nicer when the black faces outward everywhere and therefore we make sure to practice that way.
  27. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 10:13 writes that the minimum width of the Tefillin straps is the width of a barley kernel. Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (comments on Kitzur Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 10:16) writes that the size of a barley is one centimeter.
  28. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, laws of the straps, seif 2
  29. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Rephael Baruch Toledano, siman 10, laws of the straps, seif 1
  30. See Avnei Nezer (Orach Chaim 183), Shu"t Tzofnat Paneach Siman 93, Nefesh HaRav pp.105-106, and Tzitz Eliezer 9:9. Magen Avot (Orach Chaim 32:52) says Moroccans don't do a square, but some say it comes from the Arizal.
  31. Shulchan Aruch OC 14:4, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 64
  32. Rama OC 14:4, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 64, Chesed La'alafim 14:4 based on the idea that somebody is happy to have his belongings used for a mitzvah. Kaf Hachayim 14:19 says this only applies if the owner is not present to ask for permission.
  33. Kaf Hachayim 14:27.
    Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 64 gives three other examples:
    1. if they are placed in a private locker (Aruch Hashulchan 14:12)
    2. If it is brand new (Aruch Hashulchan 14:11)
    3. if the borrower is sweaty (Aruch Hashulchan 14:11)
    see further Ten Minute Halacha: Borrowing a Sefer Tallis or Tefillin Without Permission
  34. Shulchan Aruch and Rama 14:4, Mishna Brura 14:15, Kaf Hachayim 14:22, Halachos of Other People's Money pg. 64. regarding what to do on Shabbat, see Mishna Brura 14:15 who quotes some who say that you should fold it, just avoid folding on the original creases and some who hold that you don't need to fold it at all. see Folding Garments on Shabbat
  35. Chesed La'alafim 14:4
  36. Kaf Hachayim 14:22
  37. Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 25:12, Mishna Brurah 25:54
  38. Sh"t Yechave Daat 1:49, http://www.dailyhalacha.com/displayRead.asp?readID=356
  39. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu 10:26
  40. Sh"t Otzrot Yosef 3:8