Tefillin is among the most potent mitzvahs in the Torah. We are commmanded to bind them on the head and arm: “You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for a reminder between your eyes” (Deut. 6:8).
We bind the tefillin close to the heart, as a reminder to devote our intellect, feelings and actions to the service of G‑d. Buying a a set of bar mitzvah tefillin allows your son to fulfill this important mitzvah every day.
Although all tefillin consist of the same basic components — carefully formed leather boxes, parchments inside and leather straps — the price of set of tefillin varies considerably, depending on the type of construction, the caliber of the writing on the parchments and the type of straps. Purchasing a first pair of tefillin can be a bit daunting for the uninitiated.
Types of Tefillin for the Bar Mitzvah Boy
All tefillin look pretty much the same to the untrained eye, but they are divided into three categories based on the way the leather boxes are constructed and how the materials used. If you come across a tefillin referred to as “bar mitzvah tefillin,” chances are they are either tefillin peshutim or tefillin peshutim mehudarim.
Tefillin Peshutim – Tefillin made from several pieces of leather glued together are known as tefillin peshutim. They are relatively flimsy, do not hold up over time and their kashrus is often questionable.
Tefillin Peshutim Mehudarim – Tefillin crafted from two separate pieces of leather are known as tefillin peshutim mehudarim, specially folded like origami.
Tefillin Dakkot – Tefillin made from a single piece of thin leather are called tefillin dakkot (or tefillin dakkot ohr echad).
Tefillin Gassot – Tefillin formed from one a single piece of thick leather are known as tefillin gassot, thick tefillin. These are the most durable (and expensive) type.
Tefillin peshutim are often problematic and in recent years tefillin dakkot have been phasing out of the market, so most people buying a set of bar mitzvah tefillin choose between tefillin peshutim mehudarim and tefillin gassot.
Celebrating a bar mitzvah can be expensive, even for parents who budget sensibly, so many parents are looking for tefillin under $300 for their bar mitzvah boy. But keep in mind that if you spend $500 for tefillin gassot, in many cases you are getting a much better value over time. Not only do tefillin gassot often hold up well for decades, but even if they take a bang or somehow get a dent, usually it can be repaired, whereas in the case of tefillin peshutim mehudarim, the tefillin expert might tell you there is nothing that can be done. Also, the caliber of the parchments on the inside and the level of finishing work on the outside is generally superior.