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Do you have a question about tefillin, mezuzot, tallit, megillot or any of the other products HaSOFER offers you? Or would you like to find out more about Jewish ceremonial objects, traditions and laws? HaSOFER Moshe Flumenbaum is glad to answer you.
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For a selection of questions we've been asked recently, and their answers, scroll down the page.
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Questions regarding tefillin:
Question: What causes cracks to appear on the base of my tefillin and what should I do about it?
Answer: Cracks on the base of your tefillin are caused by a variety of factors, the most common being natural expansion and contraction of the leather caused by changes in temperature. This can happen due to temperature differences from summer to winter, by leaving the tefillin in a car for a long period of time during daylight hours or placing them in the unpressurized baggage compartment of an airplane. Another culprit is moisture from perspiration which can affect both the shel rosh and the shel yad. Minerals and oils from our body are the culprit here and they can even eat away at the paint of the tefillin and the retzuot, straps.
Another cause of cracks in the tefillin base is weakening of the glue bond used to seal them. This can happen faster in one bayit than the other as they are sealed separately. The base of the tefillin is both sewn with gid and sealed with glue before painting. We can't use too much glue for the seal because it will have to be opened in the future when the parchments are checked. We make an unscientific, yet professional guess as to how much glue is needed for each tefillin bayit to remain sealed for approximately 4 years, the recommended amount of time between repeat examinations.
The cracking of the paint is exterior only and don't reflect on the hiddur and quality of the leather of the batim itself.
Question: Where can I buy the non-glossy or matte type of black paint to touch up my tefillin batim? The paint I bought on your web site leaves a glossy finish which I don't want.
Answer: The matte black finish you see on new tefillin batim is achieved by using special tefillin paint that is only sold by the liter. After painting, each tefillin bayit is sanded with very fine sandpaper. Unless you are painting a lot of tefillin and have been trained how to refinish batim I do not recommend that you attempt this yourself as you can cause more damage then good to the batim. In addition, the fumes from the nitrocellulose thinner used in making the paint are quite dangerous and you must have proper ventilation in the area where you work with it.
If the glossy finish on your tefillin batim bothers you, use a glass brush eraser which can be purchased in better quality art supply stores or online and brush the paint after it is completely dry. That will give it the matte finish without damaging your tefillin.
Questions regarding mezuzot:
Question: I am replacing the klaf in my front door mezuza. Must I make the bracha?
Answer: If you are replacing a kosher mezuzah klaf, parchment, with another similarly kosher klaf, or even with a different klaf that is more mehudar or better,you don't need to say a bracha. However if the original mezuzah klaf was not kosher or if it was off the door 24 hours or more you must say a bracha. If you are only changing the mezuzah cover but are still using the same klaf you do not say a bracha.
Question: If my mezuzah fell down do I need to get it checked? Do I need to say a bracha when I put up it back up?
Answer: If your mezuzah falls down the minhag is to have the klaf examined before re-attaching it. Practically speaking, before you put it back up you should check that it was attached properly, such as with screws, nails or double-sided mounting tape. If the mezuzah cover was initially attached with cello tape, Blu-Tack or the like, or with only one nail or screw, or was down for more than 24 hours, then you must recite a bracha. Note that these rules apply for a mezuzah in a location that requires a bracha.
Questions regarding tallit and tzitzit:
Question: How can I keep my tallit and talit katan white and not turn yellow?
Answer: The main culprit causing the wool of a tallit or talit katan to turn yellow is direct exposure to sunlight. Therefore they should always be dried in the shade. We highly recommend that you dry clean your tallit and talit katan. Alternatively you can wash them by hand or use the delicate cycle in your washing machine. Use only warm water rather than hot. Wrapping the tzitzit strings together with a rubber band before washing should help to keep the strings from becoming entangled.