More on Tefillin Retzuos

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tefillinBy Rabbi Yair Hoffman

In exploring the mystery of the peeling Tefillin straps, this author has had several meetings with Tefillin strap manufacturers, workers in the dying plants, a chemist, visits to a few of the plants both under Eida supervision and under other supervisions, Rabbi Lubin, the head of the Stam Division in the Eida Chareidis, Reb Gershon, the Eida Chareidis Mashgiach of Tefillin strap production, and the Poskim of the Eida Chareidis.

The seven issues that needed to be investigated are:  Why are the Tefillin straps peeling?  Are there new processes that have been adopted that have changed the nature of Tefillin strap production?  What is the source and nature of the leather being used?  Is the supervision of the Retzuos manufacturing adequate?  Are there issues of the Retzuos not being produced with the proper intent of Lishma?  Is there possible fraud happening in some Tefillin straps being misrepresented? And, finally, has the problem been corrected?

Some of the issues were clarified to this author’s satisfaction.  Some of the issues still need to be investigated further and this is being worked on.  We will try to address each of the issues one by one.

1] Why are the straps peeling? After being given unprecedented access to the dyeing operations themselves of those who actually had produced many of the peeling straps, this author can safely say that the issue is a quality control issue in the very complex manufacturing process.  This does not mean, of course, that the Tefillin straps are kosher.  It is the view of the majority of Poskim that they are not.  To be sure, there are chemical reasons why the ink appears and acts like a laminate. But the consumer can rest assured that there is no laminate being affixed onto the leather strips, notwithstanding what the laboratories may have reported to us.

2] Are there new processes that have been adopted that have changed the nature of Tefillin strap production? Yes and no. Leather dyeing in the commercial world utilizes machines.  Tefillin strap production, however, according to most Poskim, requires the operations to be performed by hand.  The chemicals and materials that are used in the commercial world are often changed and improved, and the Tefillin world must adapt, change and tweak.

3] What is the source and nature of the leather being used?  The Eida Chareidis oversees production of four Tefillin strap factories:  Zonnenfeld, Shimbarsky, Mandrizinsky, and Kaduri.  There are no questions on any of the leathers being used in Eida factories.  The system they have put in place is quite rigorous – from the supervision, down to the lab testing of ingredients at Baktochen Laboratories, and to the use of specialized chemical consultants with PhD’s.

4] Is the supervision of the Retzuos manufacturing adequate? As in any area and field there are different qualities of product and different levels of oversight and supervision.  The Eida Chareidis supervision is unimpeachable and a worthy standard to emulate.  The Eida has very strict rules of conflict of interest which are scrupulously adhered to.  Those involved in psak, supervision, and management are extremely capable, take their jobs seriously and are Yarei Shamayim.  The Eida does not allow any amount of non-kosher ingredient whatsoever and accepts no leniencies of Bitul whatsoever.  There are some other Rabbinical supervisions that are also very impressive, some with different halachic opinions in certain rulings than those of the Eida.  These differences are the subject of healthy halachic debate.  There are also some supervisions that are not up to par, however.  The consumer should therefore use extreme caution in ascertaining who exactly manufactured the Retzuos and under what supervision.

5] Are there issues of the Retzuos not being produced with the proper intent of Lishma?  There are some supervising agencies that allow more machine use than others.  The issue of Koach Gavrah, that the entire process must be with direct human involvement versus machine or gravity, is a serious one.  There are also some fascinating halachic debates as to what must be done when certain errors need to be corrected.  Rav Elyashiv zt”l had certain requirements, while others ybl”t have more lenient positions.

6] Is there possible fraud happening in some Tefillin straps being misrepresented? This is a matter that is currently being investigated by a number of parties and we will be, B’Ezras Hashem, reporting the findings shortly.

7]  Has the problem been corrected? This question and question number six are, of course, the sixty-four thousand dollar question.  The larger manufacturer who admitted to the quality control issue has indeed stepped up to the plate and corrected the problem, offering free replacement of the Retzuos, both in Israel and the United States.  The offer for replacement of the Tefillin straps in the United States is a very recent development and has been facilitated in large part by the Five Towns Jewish Times. More details of this will be forthcoming.   The problem is that the peeling Tefillin straps are not unique to this one firm.  Are there Retzuos that are free of the problem?  Yes.  All Eida supervised Retzuos are free of the problem, Rav Landau supervised Retzuos are problem free, the black on both sides products are problem free, and a few others as well.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


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  1. The maker in question is not suspect of using “leatherboard” and any such premature claims should be ignored.

    The Edah continues to clarify the entire matter and has asked Rabbi Hoffman to hold off from further public articles for the time being.

  2. To # 2,

    The Teshuva that’s scanned in, is unfortunately a very poor scan. When I tried printing it, the document was totally illegible.

    Can you ask whoever was the original scanner, to do a proper rescanning for everyone. Thanks.

  3. they should fix this quickly because if you remember the Lubavitcher Rebbe started a tefillin campaign right before the war of 1967 in which israel was very successful. In kaballah it is known that tefillin is one of the sources that causes deep fear in the heart of the enemy of the jew. Hence every jew that puts on the tefillin forces andd causes deep and effective amount of fear in the hearts of all enemies of the jews.

  4. I am responding to Rabbi Hoffman’s points following the same #’s.

    Aryeh, your comment #1 is almost verbatim my comments on 3-4 other sites posted over the last 10 days. There is no reason at this time to suspect that there is any issue with the leather used by the larger retzuos maker, whose name hasn’t been mentioned.

    1) Rav Moshe Shaul Klein, who is a major posek and renown expert in STaM and the Karlsburger Rav have paskened that the retzuos are not pasul unless they peel and then would be treated as any retzuah that lacks paint. The Edah has paskened that a retzuah than is the type that can peel like tape is pasul, even before it peels. Hence they and others require that the retzuos be checked. One should consult their posek for guidance.

    2)Most machine made retzuos are painted by machine. This is one of the reasons why most poskim consider them to be bedieved.

    3)At least one of the makers mentioned, also produce retzuos under another hechsher so it is not sufficient to know the maker by name but one would have to also check which hechsher it is.

    7) I briefly spoke to the “larger retzuos maker” in person on Thursday night. He told me that he is still unsure why the retzuos peeled and is working on preventing the problem in future. When I asked him which of his retzuos had the problem he said that if it happened to one type it could happen to any of them. A test can be done to confirm if there is a problem.

    With regards to his all black retzuos, even if they would peel, there would be no issue as the leather remains black underneath.

    It is my understanding that the reason why some of this larger maker’s retzuos have a peeling problem is not likely due to the machshir’s more easygoing standards of supervision, which is only on this makers avodas yad retzuos. (There is no hechsher on machine made retzuos.) It could have happened even under stricter supervision. Don’t confuse this will Rabbi Hoffman’s accurate portrayal of the various hechsherim in #4.

  5. Correction to my comment in #3. This maker no longer does separate productions under different hechsherim. Once the inventory is gone (I’d guess within a year based on what I saw left in stock) he’ll only offer retzuos under the Edah.


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