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Tips for Purchasing Tefillin

Tips for Buying Tefillin

1. Tefillin have three components. Listed in decreasing order of importance, they are the portions, the boxes and the straps.

2.The straps are the least expensive component; variations between different types are negligible. It is preferable to buy leather straps at least 13mm. (0.5”) wide. The minimum width required by halachic law is 1cm. (0.4”).
One can purchase “regular” or more expensive “hand tooled”
straps.

3.The box is made with either thin or thick animal hide. Boxes of
thin hide denoted as “simple,” present halachic problems.
Their partitions are made of pieces of leather glued together. 
One may purchase them at bargain prices, but as noted above, they pose serious halachic questions.
Boxes of thin leather called “superior simple” while kosher by
halachic standards are superior only in comparison to the
flimsier “simple” boxes.
They are made of a thin layer of sheep or goat leather, and
are not strong enough to resist damage from even the
slightest beating. A “thin” box that has been damaged
usually requires exchanging: its thinness makes it impossible
to repair, so that what initially seemed a bargain ends up
quite expensive.
It is important to note that up until one hundred years ago
there were no alternatives to the thin boxes.

4.Boxes made from thick leather are manufactured from a
single hide from the neck of an ox which is pressed and shaped. This creates a layer of thick leather 3- 4 mm(.) (0.1- 0.16”). The production of this type of box extends over a long period of time, and includes immersion in a chemical solution for softening and preserving the skin, manipulating the leather in industrial machinery, etc.

The price of this box is significantly higher than its “thin” counterpart, but the box lasts a lifetime, because all damage can be repaired. This box is infinitely superior to its thin counterparts; and its cost over years of use is ultimately much lower.

Greater emphasis is placed on the manufacture of the box for the head tefillin. While the hand box has one “compartment” and contains a rolled scroll inscribed with 4 portions the head box is constructed of 4 separate “compartments”, connected side by side under pressure and forming a perfect square.
Creating the head box is a complicated process, with an element of waste, as imperfect pieces are rejected during production. As a result, the price of a head box accounts for 75% of the price of a pair of boxes for the tefillin.
There are, unfortunately, boxes on the market without a “pedigree”, lacking proper certification. These boxes can actually be rejected ones, painted over with a drop of black paint to conceal a defect.

Considering the above, it is imperative to know the identity of the supplier. Many factories have a mashgiach (overseer) who glues a small sticker to the underside of the head box, certifying supervision by a reliable kashrut agency. To prevent unethical situations, these stickers cannot be entirely removed.
Please note that boxes composed of thick leather can be obtained in various qualities, finishes and prices.

5.Box size- The halacha allows any size. The box is usually measured by the “cutting” of the compartment- between 32 mm. (1.26”) and 35mm. (1.38”). Smaller boxes require extra attention to minimizing letter size and parchment thickness and are therefore extremely expensive. Larger boxes, on the other hand, are bulky and heavy. If they are too large, they can cover the entire forehead, and thus violate the halacha to place the tefillin “between the eyes.”
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6.The portions- The essential part of the mitzvah (precept) is in the contents of the verses (see article- The STAM Corner, on site).
It is prudent to purchase superior portions, even compromising on superior boxes if finances are limited. This superior level involves paying special attention to the halacha and the writing of every tag and detail. There are numerous levels of enhancement, but the basic level of enhancement involves writing conscientiously and adhering to the detailed halacha.

7.Cheaper portions with sloppy, hasty writing, outside the lines or featuring letters with lopsided shapes that are not in accordance with the halacha or kashrut regulations are only acceptable de facto. It is safe to say that most cheaper tefillin will probably have inferior portions.
It is wise to enhance the basic writing quality, even for those who do not practice this habit with other mitzvot.

8.Writing style changes with the ethnic origin of the user: Sephardic writing, Ashkenazi writing or Chassidic writing. Although all are kosher, one should continue in the custom passed from father to son.

9.If you have received or purchased ready made tefillin, you do not know the type of portions “secreted” in them. It then becomes particularly important to inquire into their source, examine a sample of the writing and receive a computer print out verifying that they have been checked by hand by a certified expert.
Our clients are able to observe the handwriting quality, and are thus assured full value on their investment.
We attach a photograph and will even insert the portions in the client’s presence.

We work exclusively with certified sofrim (scribes).
With years of experience, we meticulously and uncompromisingly check the portions ourselves, as well. The boxes that you receive from us have been obtained from trustworthy companies and come in a range of types and quality to suit your finances. 
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Portions for Tefillin of HeadPortions for Tefillin of Head
Written Tefillin before putting into the cubeWritten Tefillin before putting into the cube
Part of the text of TefillinPart of the text of Tefillin
Special nice Tefillin cubesSpecial nice Tefillin cubes
A look at the inside of Tefillin of HeadA look at the inside of Tefillin of Head
Portions for Tefillin of handPortions for Tefillin of hand
Open cube of Tefillin of Head with the partitionsOpen cube of Tefillin of Head with the partitions
Tefillin text as put in the cube of Tefillin of HeadTefillin text as put in the cube of Tefillin of Head
Tefillin cubes with Mehadrin confirmationTefillin cubes with Mehadrin confirmation
Cube for the Tefillin of Head in the beginning period of productionCube for the Tefillin of Head in the beginning period of production
Writing the text of Tefillin of the arm Writing the text of Tefillin of the arm
Parts of Tefillin cubesParts of Tefillin cubes
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