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diary of a sofer - part 30

Mordechai Pinchas Sofer

There's quite a large section on this site about Tefillin but up till now that was very much theory, learnt from books and from my late teacher Vivian Solomon z"t"l. However this is no longer theory as I recently completed my first commission for a pair of Tefillin and what a challenge it was! Having now worked on Sifrey Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzot I can finally claim properly the title S"TaM as opposed to just SaM (whoever he is!)  What follows is a somewhat condensed version of how it went.

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shel rosh
calf hairs
shel yad

As usual the first stage of making Tefillin is study. I have several books on the subject (see sources bibliography) and I re-read all of these with an eye to the practical as opposed to the theory. I hit the web and found a couple of good (but low resolution) videos detailing Tefillin production in a couple of places in Israel.

I then ordered the various materials from Yehudah in Israel.

Recipe for making Tefillin:
Pieces of k'laf for shel rosh (head tefillin) - 4
Long piece of k'laf for shel yad (arm tefillin) - 1
Leather gassot (best quality made from one piece of hide) batim (housings) - 2
Black paint - 1
Calf hairs - several
R’tsu’ot - straps (black one side) - 2
Lengths of giddin (animal sinew) - 2
Random bits of k'laf - 5
Kulmus (quil) - 1
D'yo (ink) - 1
Patience, concentration and skill - lots!

tefillin paint
klaf rolls
straps
shel yad protector

The first thing I realised is that unlike other things I had done I didn't really have a sized tikkun for this and that was vital. Reproductions of Tefillin in books are either small or cut into sub sections because the individual lengths are quite long! So I scanned in and sized from one of my books, cut out, joined together and wrapped in sticky back plastic. Then knowing the width of the columns could mark them out with my sargel on the parchment.

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Then it was writing, two times the four paragraphs in the Torah that refer to the commandment of Tefillin, with writing that is 2.5mm high. I was lucky that my client had elected to go large with the batim as, whilst I have gone to smaller lettering on mezuzot, it's harder to make them mehudar (nice).

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Writing has to be k'sidran (in order) and one starts with the shel yad (hand tefillin) because that's mentioned first 'uk'shartam l'ot al yadecha' (and you will bind them as a sign upon your arm) before the shel rosh (head tefillin) which follows in the text 'v'hayu l'totafot beyn eynecha' (and they will be as frontlets between your eyes). One is allowed to make an error in words other than God's names but if you had moved to the next letter correction would invalidate unless you scrape out everything you had written after the error. If this contains one of God's names this is impossible. So, like a mezuzah, you really really don't want to make an error - much harder to deal with than in a Torah or Megillah.

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Well so far so good... more in the next diary...

Mordechai Pinchas

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