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Tefillin parts
 
 The types of batim
There are two main types of batim: those made from ox-skin, and those from sheep hide. The production of exact squares for Tefillin made from ox-skin requires a press that operates on air pressure of at least 25 tons.
 Batim from ox-skin
The process of turning the thick hide of an ox into the batim of Tefillin includes the use of special molds under tremendous, but controlled, pressure. This makes possible the formation of a perfect square. The thickness of the leather also makes it possible to restore to the Tefillin their perfect square shape if they are damaged under special circumstances (normally, their shape does not change). Each bayit, including its lower part and the partitions of the head Tefillin, is made from a single piece of leather.

A pair of Tefillin that is made of high-quality leather from ox-skin keep their perfect square shape for many years, their color is more stable, and they are unparalleled in meeting the strictest possible requirements of the commandment of Tefillin.

 Batim from sheep hides
Batim of this type are divided into two categories:
  1. Simple mehudar Tefillin:
    In the batim of these Tefillin, the entire ketzizah of the bayit is made of a single hide. These Tefillin are fit from the outset (le-chatchilah), and therefore meet the stringent requirements that Oter Israel sets for all its products.
  2. Simple Tefillin:
    These batim are made of many pieces of sheep leather that are glued to each other, without even a single piece of leather that unites them into a single unit, as in the type known as "Tefillin from a single piece of leather." The halakhic standing of such Tefillin is so low that some authorities entirely invalidate them. Accordingly, Oter Israel neither produces nor markets this type of Tefillin.

 The parts of the batim
The batim of Tefillin are composed of three main parts: the ketzitzah, the titora, and the ma`barta(see the illustration).

The ketzitzah:
the square upper part of the batim into which the Torah passages are placed.

The titora:
the part underneath the ketzitzah that extends from it. This is the part that comes into contact with the head or arm of the worshiper.

The ma`barta:
the part that protrudes from the square of the titora. A hollow channel runs the length of the ma`barta, through which the strap is passed (mu`avar), thus giving it its name.

 The shin of the Tefillin
The halakhah requires that two shin`s are manually embossed, on two sides of the head Tefillin:
  1. A three-headed letter shin is embossed in the side of the ketzitzah to the right of the person putting on the Tefillin.
  2. A four-headed shin is embossed in the opposite side (to the left of the person putting on the Tefillin) of the ketzitzah. If one looks closely, it is possible to see an additional three-headed shin, formed of the spaces between the four heads.
The difference between the two shin letters has roots in Jewish tradition that are both profound and sublime:

The four arms of one shin and the three arms of the other together total the number seven, which is highly significant in Judaism: the seven days of Creation, the seven days of the Festival of Passover and the Festival of Sukkot (in Eretz Israel), the seven weeks of sefirat ha-Omer (the counting of the Omer), the seven years of the Sabbatical year cycle, and the seven times seven-year Sabbatical year cycle (= 49 years) between Jubilee years.
The numerical value (gematriyah) of the two shin`s, by the following calculation, totals the number 613, which is also the number of commandments in the Torah.
The letter shin (four heads) =300
The letter shin (three heads) =300
The four heads =4
The three heads =3
The two shin`s together form the number 6 (shesh) =6
Total =613

 The squares of the Tefillin

Tefillin contain three squares: 1. the square of the ketzitzah, 2. the square of the titora, and 3. the square of the stitches. Jewish tradition teaches that the square shape of each of these elements of the Tefillin is a traditional law from Moses, delivered at Mount Sinai that is learned from the square shape of the Altar.


 The hairs that protrude from the head Tefillin

The hairs that we see protruding from the head Tefillin are from the tail of a calf. According to the Zohar, the Kabbalistic work by the Tanna Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, these hairs are meant to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf committed by the Israelites in the wilderness.


 The blackening of the batim and the straps

It is a traditional law from Moses, delivered at Mount Sinai, that the outer side of the straps must be black. The batim similarly are required to be black in color. If the straps are old and their color has faded, they must be blackened from anew. Special care must be taken with the knot of the straps, where the black color is more likely to fade or peel.


 The shape of the knots and the manner in which they are tied

There is a knot in the straps of the head Tefillin in the part that is behind the head of the person who has put on the Tefillin. This knot is either in the shape of the letter dalet (the English L) or square, according to family tradition. The knot in the strap of the hand Tefillin is in the shape of the letter yud.

The strap of the hand Tefillin is wound around the arm and the hand. According to the Beit Yosef tradition, this strap is wound seven times around the arm, from the outside in, towards the direction of one`s heart. According to the Ari tradition and the practice of Eastern Jews, the strap is wound seven times from the heart outwards. Ashkenazi and Eastern Jews also differ in the winding of the strap around the hand. In the Ashkenazi tradition the straps are wound around the hand, in the shape of the letter shin. Thus the knots on the head Tefillin and the hand Tefillin, together with the straps on the palm, form the word Sha-dai, one of the names of the Almighty. Eastern Jews wind the straps around the arm and the hand in a different manner (see the illustrations).


 On which hand is the hand Tefillin placed?

The hand Tefillin are put on the "weak" hand, that is, the weaker hand of the individual wearing the Tefillin. The halakhic source for this is to be found in the verse in the passage "If, then, you obey ..." that states: "And so it shall be as a sign upon your hand and as a symbol on your forehead" (Exodus 13:16). In this verse, the word ("your hand") is written in the Torah with an additional letter heh at the end. The Rabbis learned from this that the Tefillin are to be placed on one`s weak ( ( hand. For most people, their left hand is the weaker one. A left-handed person, in contrast, who performs most actions with his left hand, and, particularly, writes with this hand, puts his Tefillin on his "weaker" (right) hand.


 Which version (nusach) of Tefillin should a person purchase?

The obligation of Tefillin is fulfilled with any version. Nonetheless, a person should purchase Tefillin in accordance with the established practice of his family or that of the community (Ashkenazi, Sefardi, etc.) to which he belongs.


 The Torah passages in the hand Tefillin and in the head Tefillin

In the hand Tefillin, the four passages are written on a single parchment sheet and are placed within the ketzitzah of the bayit of the Tefillin. In the head Tefillin, each of the four passages is written on a separate parchment sheet, and the sheets are inserted into the four batim (that is, four separate compartments within the ketzitzah). The four compartments within the ketzitzah, the titora, and the ma`barta are all made of the same piece of leather, and together form the bayit of the Tefillin, that must be perfectly square in shape.


 Upon whom is the commandment incumbent?

The obligation of putting on Tefillin applies to every Jew, whether he was born a Jew or whether he is a convert. The obligation of Tefillin begins for each Jewish boy when he turns thirteen years of age. In general, however, the youth begins to put on Tefillin shortly before he reaches Bar Mitzvah age, so as to become used to performing the commandment and to learn the laws pertaining to Tefillin and their usage.
Women are exempt from the commandment of Tefillin.


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