Caring For and
Checking Your Tefillin
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Taking proper care of your tefillin starts with treating them with the great respect these holy articles deserve. Handle them gently and always have their protection in mind when you wear them and as you store them for short or long periods of time.
How to care for your tefillin
Your tefillin can be damaged in many ways, the main ones being:
- direct blows to the batim or retzuot
- wrapping the retzuot too tightly or rubbing them
- perspiration or other forms of moisture
- extreme heat or cold or direct sunlight
- normal wear and tear
The most common cause of damage to tefillin is a direct blow to the batim or the retzuot. When wearing your tefillin take utmost care to avoid either the shel rosh or the shel yad hitting or being hit by any hard object. Similarly take care not to rub the batim or retzuot unnecessarily against either soft or hard objects. For this reason it is recommended to leave the yadel, removable tefillin cover, on the shel yad at all times. The yadel extends the life of your shel yad by protecting it from rubbing against your clothes and the corners being worn down.
Outer covers are an important safety device for your tefillin. Although there is no halachic requirement to store tefillin in any specific type of cover, the retzuot must be wrapped and the tefillin stored in a respectful manner when not in use. Sturdy plastic covers are the most common and are included with every pair of tefillin sold by HaSOFER. Note: it is important that your tefillin fit securely and properly within their covers. A poorly fitting cover can cause more damage than no cover at all.
Tefillin retzuot require similar respectful care. The most common causes of damage to the retzuot are wrapping them too tightly when putting the tefillin away after use and the knot of the shel yad rubbing against the bayit. Stretching the retzuot can cause the paint to crack. Wrap the retzuot loosely yet securely around the batim before placing them in your tefillin bag. While wearing the tefillin, don't rub the retzuot against themselves, your skin or any other object. With time some retzuot turn reddish in color or begin to peel. If this occurs the retzuot are not kosher and the person wearing tefillin with such retzuot does not fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin.
Perspiration and other forms of moisture can quickly damage tefillin. Any type of moisture will cause the batim to warp and/or discolor the paint of both the batim and the retzuot. The minerals in human perspiration will actually eat away and dissolve tefillin paint. Dry your hair thoroughly before putting on your tefillin and minimize wearing your tefillin in circumstances when you are apt to perspire excessively. If you do perspire, be extra careful to wipe the bottom of your tefillin from sweat before putting them away. This will help you avoid problems of warping and bacterial growth.
Extremes in temperatures, both heat and cold, can cause major damage to your tefillin including: shattering the paint, cracking the batim and even cracking the ink on the parshiot inside the batim. When you're not wearing them, store your tefillin at room temperature and away from direct sunlight. Never, never leave tefillin in an automobile for a long period of time. However if you must leave them in a car or otherwise exposed to direct sunlight we recommend putting them inside a styrofoam "cold storage" cooler or picnic cooler. Never put ice in the cooler with the tefillin. Don't store your tefillin in any type of refrigerator: the high humidity in them can cause great damage.
Normal use, when not careful, can also damage your tefillin. Daily taking out and later replacing the tefillin in their covers can rub the batim and retzuot causing damage to the paint and wearing down the corners. Pay attention as you take out and return your tefillin to their covers so as not to inadvertently damage them.
If your tefillin fall or hit something, have them checked without delay for damage, and repaired as needed. Check your tefillin batim and retzuot frequently for faded or chipped paint as well as rounded corners, warping or cracks in the batim. Minor repairs of batim and retzuot paint can be done with HaSOFER's tefillin paint and tefillin marking pen. Be sure you state out loud “leshem kedushat tefillin” before painting.
Checking your tefillin: how often and by whom?
Tefillin that are worn regularly do not need to be checked twice every seven years as is the rule for mezuzot (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 39:10). However the Mishna Brura (39:26) quoting the Magen Avraham, states that it is advisable that tefillin also be checked twice every seven years. In fact, many rabbinical authorities today recommend checking even high-quality tefillin batim annually. Inexpensive tefillin, those with a cost price of $300 or less, are at high risk to be found needing repair or to be not kosher even when new. These should be checked even more often.
The tefillin examiner must have specific training and practical experience in his highly specialized work. Most sofrim only master the laws and skills of writing the parshiot of Scrolls, Tefillin and Mezuzot. They are neither trained nor qualified to examine and certify the kashrut of parshiot or tefillin batim, and do not have the expertise and tools required to repair them.
If your tefillin have been in regular use but were not checked for several years, or if they have not been used for 2 or more years, you should have them checked by an experienced tefillin examiner before using them. You may find that your tefillin are perfectly kosher. Or you may be told that your tefillin need to be repaired or even replaced!
When considering who you want to rely upon to check your tefillin don't make the mistake of asking for a “rush job” in order to get them back the same day. The work involved in checking your tefillin parshiot and making any corrections which might be necessary is very exacting. The same is true for returning the parshiot to the batim and sewing the batim closed in the perfectly square shape required by halacha. If done too quickly, your tefillin may be damaged in the process, requiring repairs that may be more expensive than the original checking. Ask the sofer doing the checking for a loaner pair of tefillin or find a loner pair from a gemach before submitting your own tefillin for repair.
If you don’t have a qualified tefillin examiner where your live, the certified and experienced staff of tefillin examiners and batim repairers of HaSOFER can provide you with this important service. If you don’t plan to be in Jerusalem soon to be able to bring your tefillin to our shop, email us at tefillin@HaSOFER.com for details of how to arrange for tefillin examination.
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