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How Tefillin are Made

Purchasing a pair of Tefillin can be a very confusing task. Typically, you go to the local Judaica store, and ask how much it cost for a pair of Tefillin. The person behind the counter says, "What kind of Tefillin do you want? I have Tefillin for $300 for $500 for $1000." When you ask what the difference is, you are told simply that the more expensive Tefillin are better. 

The goal of this page is to help educate the consumer about how Tefillin are made and some of the differences between different kinds of Tefillin. We hope that this will help the consumer make an informed purchase.

There are three main parts to any pair of Tefillin. There are the black boxes, which make up the body of the Tefillin. These are called Batim. There are the black leather straps that are used to bind the Tefillin to the Head and the arm. These are called Retsuos. And there are the hand written scrolls that are folded up and placed inside the Batim. These are called Parshios.


Many people are surprised to find out that Tefillin Batim are made out of leather. We usually think of leather as being soft and flexible. Tefillin Batim, on the other hand, are hard and rigid. But it is true. Tefillin Batim are made out of a type of leather that has been processed so that it will be very stiff. 

Here are some of the basic rules about Tefillin Batim:
· They must be made out of one piece of leather, which was tanned by a Jewish man with the intention of being used to make Tefillin. 
· They must be square to within 2%. Since the average Tefillin box measures 3.5 cm, this means that there can be no more than 0.7 mm difference between that length and the width. There is no requirement for the height. 
· The box that goes on the arm has to have one compartment inside to fit one scroll. The box that goes on the head must have four compartments for four scrolls. 
· On the right side of the head box is the Hebrew letter "Shin". The left side has a special letter "Shin" with 4 heads.

There are three types of Batim that are made today. They are called Gassos, Dakos, and Peshutim.


These are the best type of Batim. They are made out of one thick piece of leather. The leather is taken from the neck of an ox. While the leather is still wet and soft, it is placed into a hydraulic press and is pressed into the shape of Tefillin. The four compartments of the head Tefillin are all formed from that same one piece of leather. After it is pressed, before it can be sanded smooth and painted, it must be allowed to harden for one whole year. If they would complete these finishing touches before it is fully hardened, it may continue to shrink and would not end up perfectly square. 

Gassos Batim have the following advantages over other types of Batim:
· They literally fulfill the requirement that Batim be made of one piece of leather.
· They are quite durable, and if they are dented or chipped, they can usually be worked back into their perfectly square shape by any expert sofer. 
· They are much less likely to warp or loose their squareness over the years.
Unfinished Gassos Inside Gassos Batim
Finished Gassos Batim


These are the most basic type of Batim. They are made from many pieces of thin leather that are glued together to form the Tefillin box. Even though Batim must be made of one piece of leather, these Batim rely on a lenient opinion in Jewish law, which says that when you glue two things together, they are considered as if they are one. Because Peshutim take much less time and labor to produce, they are significantly less expensive than Gassos. This makes them perfect for someone who is on a limited budget. But they are also less durable than Gassos and will usually need to be replace every 10 years or so depending on frequency of use.
Peshutim Pieces Finished Peshutim


These have a frame made of many pieces of leather, similar to Peshutim. The difference is that a paper-thin membrane, made of leather, is stretched over the entire frame and between the compartments of the head Tefillin. This membrane ensures that the Tefillin are considered as one piece according to all opinions. Therefore, they are considered equal to Gassos in regard to their kosher status. But, just like Peshutim, they are not very durable, and usually have to be replaced every 10-15 years, depending on use.


The leather straps that are used to bind the Tefillin to the head and arm are called Retzuos. It is important to stress that the retzsuos are as much a part of the Tefillin as the boxes and scrolls. 

Here are some basic rules about Retsuos:
· Retsuos must be made out of leather, which was tanned by a Jewish man with the intention of being used to make Tefillin.
· The minimum width for Retsuos is 10 mm (1 cm). If they become thinner, due to streatching or if they begin to tear, they must be replaced. 
· The front side of the Retsuos must be entirely black. If any portion of the Retsuos loses it's blackness, it must be painted immediately.


The scrolls, which are inside the Tefillin boxes, are called Parshios. A scribe who is trained in their writing handwrites the Parshios on parchment. Just as with the Mezuzah Scroll, there are many rules pertaining to how Tefillin Parshios are written. 

The Parshios are the most expensive part that goes into a pair of Tefillin. They generally make up 65%-75% of the cost of the complete Teffilin.