The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit
Yeshivat Har Etzion
#18: Simanim 32 - 36, Part 1
80 - 128
Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon
In these simanim, which are
long and technical, we will hit the highlights and discuss the basic points
which contain essential knowledge for everyone (not just for
For the form of the bayit of the tefillin shel yad, see what we wrote
above in siman 27, se'if 2.
Definitions of the terms:
The box in which the scrolls
are placed is called the KETZITZA.
The box rests upon a base,
called the TITURA. The titura is
composed of three layers:
upper - titura elyona
middle - tosefet
lower - titura tachtona.
The part of the base through
which the strap passes is called the MA'AVARTA.
Menachot 35a (this relates
to siman 32, se'ifim 39, 42, 44):
"Said R. Chananel in the
name of Rav, 'The titura of the tefillin is halakha le-Moshe
Said Abbaye, 'The ma'avarta
of the tefillin is halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai.'
And Abbaye said, 'The "shin"
of the tefillin is halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai.'
It was taught, 'Square
tefillin are halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai.'"
In order for the titura to be thick, a piece of leather is stuck onto the
upper titura (titura elyona). This
also serves to enable the strap to pass through, since there is now a gap
created in the ma'avarta, which does not have this additional piece of
leather. Therefore, a
cross-sectional view will not reveal the true thickness of the leather of the
bayit. In order to ascertain this
(and consequently to know if the tefillin are made of the leather of a beheima
daka or gasa, as discussed later), one must check the thickness of the leather
of the ma'avarta.
"Titura" in Aramaic means "bridge."
And in fact, the titura is a sort of a bridge over the space in which the
parshiot are found (Shulchan Arukh 32:44).
The two sides of the ma'avarta each have a cut-away piece so that the
titura can be shaped like a square.
In the tefillin shel yad, the side closer to the heart has the bigger
piece missing so that the yud will be adjacent to the
"Ma'avarta" in Aramaic indicates a passageway; aptly so, since through the ma'avarta
passes the strap.
Inside the titura, around the ketzitza, are twelve holes through which
the sinew is passed for the stitching, or closing, of the
Between each hole is a furrow in which the thread or sinew
A thread is passed between each compartment of the tefillin shel rosh
(the tefillin shel rosh is divided into four compartments, while the tefillin
shel yad contains one large compartment).
Some say that this is done only if the parshiot were written on one klaf,
in order to separate the parshiot, but if they were each written separately,
there is no need. Others, however,
maintain that it is necessary in either case. Be-di'avad, the lack of this does not
invalidate the tefillin (Shulchan Arukh 32:47; M.B. 32:217).
TEFILLIN FROM ONE PIECE OF
Rashi in Menachot 35a states that the whole tefillin (ketzitza, titura,
ma'avarta) must be made from one piece of leather. The Rosh (siman 7), however, says that
the general minhag was that the bayit and the titura were not made of the same
piece (which seems to imply that the bayit itself should be of one
The Magen Avraham (32:52), citing the Aguda and Sefer Ha-teruma, permits
even the bayit to be of more than one piece, provided that they are sewn
together, since sewing is considered a valid method of binding. In light of this, the Mishna Berura
(32:172) debates the issue of pieces which are stuck together: "If they were simply stuck together with
glue, the Chatam Sofer rules stringently, but the Chayei Adam seems to accept it
as well ... and this minhag has now become widespread among us; nevertheless, it
is still best to make it from one solid piece of
THE TYPE OF ANIMAL:
In the past, it was impossible to construct tefillin from one piece of
the leather of a "beheima gasa"
(e.g., a cow) - but only from a "beheima daka" (goat, sheep, etc.). This changed only about a hundred and
fifty years ago. The advantage
of a "beheima gasa" lies in its
durability, plus the fact that one can achieve greater precision in the angle of
the square and in other enhancements.
The tefillin shel rosh must have three indentations (charitzim) which
serve to separate the four compartments.
The gemara in Menachot 34b requires that these indentations be
identifiable from the outside, and so rules the Shulchan Arukh in se'if 40.
These indentations must penetrate through the leather of the bayit: "A mere scratch or mark is not
sufficient because there must be at least a minimal separation between the batim
such that the indentations are noticeable" (M.B. 32:188).
The lines drawn outside must match the inner indentations exactly (if
these lines are not completely straight - for the depth, width, and depth on the
other side - this would indicate a misalignment).
Ideally, the indentations should be deep, reaching till the seam
(Shulchan Arukh 32:40).
After the indentations have been made, may one join together the
compartments of the tefillin shel rosh with glue? If the tefillin are not made of one
piece of leather, it is forbidden, since these tefillin are permissible only if
one considers glue a valid method of binding and if so, gluing the compartments
together renders them in effect a single compartment. Even in tefillin which are made of one
piece of leather, it is preferable that the compartments remain separate, lest
glue really be a true binding (M.B. 32:172).
Each compartment in the tefillin shel rosh should ideally be of equal
width (Rema 32:39), but failing to fulfill this requirement does not render the
tefillin invalid, be-di'avad (M.B. 32:182).
There are three required squares in tefillin: the bayit (ketzitza), the titura, and
the seams (Menachot 35a; Rishonim there; Shulchan Arukh 32: 39).
Failure to fulfill this requirement renders the tefillin invalid, even
be-di'avad (M.B. 32:173); however, if one has no others he should put them on
without a berakha (M.B. there).
The square should be as exact as possible: "Even though achieving a
perfect square in the crafting of the batim is next to impossible, one is
nevertheless required to do all that he is able in this regard" (M.B.
When would this invalidate tefillin? There are many situations, and a variety
of opinions. However, if the
tefillin still look square, albeit slightly rubbed-out, leniency is generally
the rule: "There are those who wish to say that when the edges have lost some of
their sharpness and begin to look roundish - that this is considered
obliteration of the square. But in
my humble opinion, this is not so ... And furthermore, the Torah was not given
to the angels... " (Arukh Ha-shulchan 32:77).
To measure squareness, one length and one width should be measured to
ascertain that they are equal, and then the diagonals should be compared (M.B.
The squareness of the titura must be both above and below (M.B.
The squareness of the stitches is the most important of all, since it is
agreed that this requirement is halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai. But see M.B. 32:177, where he notes
regretfully that people are frequently negligent in this
Menachot 35a states:
"The shin of tefillin is halakha le-Moshe
On the right side of the tefillin shel rosh (the wearer's right) there is
a "shin" with three "heads"; on the
left, a shin with four. This shin
resembles the regular shin in "ktav stam" - as written by a sofer, with the
variety of minhagim which this entails - except that for esthetic purposes the
bottom of the shin (its "foot") is placed in the letter's center rather than to
the left as it is ordinarily written.
The bottom of the shin must reach till the seam (Shulchan Arukh
The Beit Yosef writes in the name of the Ri Ascandrani that the shin
represents the external face of the Tetragrammaton, that which is visible to the
nations of the world: "And all the
nations of the land will see that the name of God is called upon you and they
will fear you" (Devarim 28:10). And
why specifically a shin? The
Tetragrammaton, in the at-bash numerology [substituting taf, the last letter of
the alphabet, for aleph, the first;
shin for bet, and so forth], comes out mem-tzadi-pei-tzadi, and this in
gimatria is the equivalent of shin (three hundred).
Why the double shin?
According to the Smag (cited in the Beit Yosef), the writing of the Ten
Commandments was sunken; therefore
the shin there had four walls and is commemorated by the four-headed shin in
tefillin. The other shin
corresponds to the writing used in a sefer Torah, the standard (un-sunken) type,
with a three-pointed shin.
THE BLACKNESS OF THE STRAPS
AND THE TEFILLIN:
Menachot 35a continues: "Said R. Yitzchak, 'Black straps are halakha
Though the gemara does not mention batim in this connection, the Elia
Rabba and the Gra believe that they too must be black, halakha le-Moshe
mi-Sinai. In contrast, the Rambam
(3:14) maintains that the tefillin themselves need not be black, though it is
preferable for esthetic reasons.
This seems to be the opinion of the Shulchan Arukh as well, for he writes
in 33:3, "It is halakha le-Moshe mi-Sinai that the straps be black," but in
32:40, "The leather of the batim - it is a mitzva to make it
One must take great care that the straps be black. Is it enough for the blackness to extend
to the minimal length of the strap (for tefillin shel yad, see above 27:8; for
tefillin shel rosh, 27:11 and M.B. 27:41), or, since it is all one piece, must
the whole thing be black? Must the
piece which goes into the ma'avarta also be black? See the Biur Halakha siman 33 (in se'if
3, s.v. Ha-retzu'ot shechorot) who wonders about these
One should be careful, too, that the batim be black. However, if they are not, there is room
for leniency, be-di'avad (Arukh Ha-shulchan 32:79; M.B. 32:
(This shiur was
translated by Pnina Baumgarten.)