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.