There are three distinct issues that factor into the cost of tefillin.
- The most visible, the batim (the boxes housing the parshiyot) are available in varying levels of thickness and construction, which determine their quality. All batei tefillin are made of animal skin.
- The second components, the parchments, are inserted directly into the batim. Their level of quality is determined by the expertise and talent of the said sofer or scribe. While some scribes work slowly and meticulously others prefer to write quickly. Some might be very artistic (within the confines of halachah or Jewish law), where others focus on clear writing.
- The last component, having the least variations, is the ritzuot the binding straps.
There are four types of batei tefillin to choose from, with pros and cons to each.
The basic requirement of batei tefillin is that they be constructed of ohr echad, one complete piece of leather. The upper box section must be perfectly square, inside and out. This however, is not required of the marbata, the platform beneath it, through which the straps are threaded. Tefillin, boxes and top side of the straps, must be completely black. The tefillin shel rosh, the head tefillin box has four separate compartments inside, whose divisions must be visible from the outside. While gid, sinew, is used as both the sewing thread, calf hair is used for the binding and tying the parchments. The tefillin are sewn together with gid, and the four parchment sections inside are each tied with a tiny piece of klaf and a strand of hair from a calf’s tail. On opposite sides of the tefillin shel rosh, the Hebrew letter shin is visible, one with 3 strokes and one with 4.
1. Peshutim (simple)
Though not of the highest quality, these tefillin are the easiest to make, as they are based on very permissive Talmudic rulings in extenuating circumstances. Their construction is done by the gluing of two pieces together to make one piece. They are easier to make, less expensive and for many reasons, some outlined above, many rabbinic authorities do not permit their use. I do not sell these Tefillin.
2. Peshutim Mehudarim
In this case, the leather is stamped out and folded in a manner similar to the Japanese art of paper folding, known as origami. In this way the gluing of two pieces of leather together in order to produce one continuous piece is avoided.
Here, the tefillin are made from thin leather that is stretched over a frame when the skin is wet and supple. As the skin dries it hardens and bits of leather are added to make these structurally stronger. These are our oldest form of tefillin and most commonly worn until approximately 100 years ago.
These tefillin, the best available, are made from thick animal hide. Previous generation managed this by using screw presses. Today we use hydraulic presses. They consist of one piece of very strong leather. These are the most highly recommended tefillin.
There is a great range of quality available in the parshiyot, the handwritten parchments. All must be written by a trained scribe that is a yirei shamayim, g-d fearing. Scribes vary in both their expertise and talent, which of course, affects the quality of the final product. In addition, each individual sofer decides for himself his own level of Hiddur Mitzvah (meticulous fulfillment of g-d’s commandments, thus to glorify him). I often liken it to one that spends $1000 on his weekday clothes or drives a Rolls Royce, but buys the least expensive tefillin. Is he maximizing the glorification of g-d through this act?
The four Parshiyot are the four places in the Torah that deal with the Mitzvah of Tefillin. In Shmot (the Book of Exodus) and Devarim(the Book of Deuteronomy).
|There are three types of Ritzuot: