Dec 132011

I just lost a sale, but I’m glad.

A family in Washington D.C. wanted to buy a tallit, a set of bar mitzvah tefillin and a set of tallit and tefillin bags for their son, whose bar mitzvah is coming up soon. I referred them to my tefillin page, which explains at length why I only sell tefillin made by Rabbi Shmuel Rosenfeld of Jerusalem.

A week later they informed me that they wanted to go ahead with the tallit order, including matching bags with their son’s name embroidered in Hebrew, but had decided to buy bar mitzvah tefillin from the same tefillin maker who made the tefillin worn by the bar mitzvah boy’s father’s father.

I wrote back that I applaud their decision – even if it ran against my commercial interests. Since tefillin is so important, and you generally have no way of really knowing or evaluating what’s inside, you need to have a connection with the tefillin maker.

I know a sofer (scribe) who told me when he writes parchments, the buyer often looks them over approvingly or critically, but he said they really don’t know good writing from inferior writing. His buyers are all avrechim (full-time Talmudic scholars), so the average Jew is even less qualified to evaluate tefillin parchments. And of course many people are unable to see the parchments at all before they are sewn up inside the tefillin.

If you read my tefillin page, the gist of it is that I made a big effort to link with a tefillin maker I trust implicitly. Obviously the above-mentioned parents looking for a set of bar mitzvah tefillin have a much tighter connection with a tefillin maker, and of course it resonates with the passing down of Torah and mitzvahs from one generation to the next, but most people don’t have that, so I try to provide the next best thing. That way prospective tefillin buyers know what they’re getting, inside and out.

  • Yash

    After reading this alticre and learning that a flight was diverted after a man was praying while wearing tafillin, I am very torn on this issue. I see the airlines perspective as being safe, and the passenger s perspective of not thinking anything of completing his normal prayer rituals. I see the need for security in the U.S., and I see our ignorant society. Where does ignorance go too far to the point that anything unknown is a threat to national security?Being Jewish, I am well aware that there are certain traditions that people of other religions are unaware of and don t understand. So I think that if I were in in the position that I wanted to pray, especially on an airplane where security is high and people are often suspicious, I would consider what other people would think and how they reacted if I was wrapping black cable looking material around my arms and head. In general, people are scared of what they don t understand. In this case, a harmless prayer tradition was misunderstood and was interpreted as dangerous and even associated with terrorist activity.On the other hand, I also see his perspective. If you are a person that wears taffilin, then you are most likely very religious and live in in surroundings and among people that don t think twice about your customs, because they are all doing the same things. In that case, you probably don t see prayer as an interruption to your day, but in fact a natural part of the day that is done in any place, whenever necessary to fulfill the custom.It is sad to me that many people are ignorant and are completely unaware of other religions and customs. After grow up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, coming to Penn State was quite a shock to me. I am not unaware of the small percentage of Jews in most areas of Pennsylvania- but I actually have met people who have never met a Jewish person before. Forget knowing these intricate details and traditions of Tafillan, some people make it to college never having learned about Judaism- not even in the context of its difference from Christianity. This lack of knowledge is what turns into fear of the unknown and stereotypes that people are ignorant to believe.It also seems sad, even though I know it is necessary, that this is what causes a flight to be diverted and for someone to be in handcuffs. But national security is highly important, and I know there is a lot of controversy about this- but I d rather see us erring on the side of being cautious, than missing a sign of a possible danger.