What’s inside the boxes?
The box of the head tefillin (tefillin shel rosh) has four separated compartments, each with a specially prepared parchment or vellum (known as klaf) on which a different passage from the Torah is written? The arm tefillin (tefillin shel yad) has one single compartment containing a parchment with verses.
How are the verses on the tefillin parchments written?
The texts must be written on properly prepared parchment or vellum known as klaf. The style of the lettering varies among Jews of different backgrounds (e.g. Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Chabad), but the halachic requirements are almost identical.
The parchments inside a set of tefillin must be written by a qualified sofer, or ritual scribe. A sofer should be religiously observant, have exemplary character and be knowledgeable about the laws of sofrut. After learning the halachic intricacies of sofrut the sofer-in-training generally does an apprenticeship (shimush) under an expert scribe. By the time a sofer writes his first set of tefillin he has typically spent 2-3 years learning the trade.
How much should a set of kosher tefillin cost?
If you find tefillin for less than $300, beware! Top quality tefillin with all the strictest halachic features can run upwards of $1,200.
What are “tefillin peshutim?”
Tefillin peshutim employ a simple design. The head tefillin (“tefillin shel rosh”) is made using several pieces of parchment to form the inner walls and glued within a slit square to divide it into the four required compartments.
What are “tefillin peshutim mehudarim?”
Tefillin peshutim mehudarim can be roughly translated as “superior simple design.” The boxes are made out of a single piece of leather as required. When finished, tefillin peshutim mehudarim look almost identical to the more expensive cowhide type, but are less durable.
What are “tefillin dakkot?”
“Dak” means thin in Hebrew. Tefillin dakkot are made by stretching a thin layer of parchment over a structural base similar to the peshutim. This outer parchment forms the entire box of the tefillin, which is halachically preferable.
What are “tefillin gassot?”
Tefillin Gassot (“thick phylacteries”) are made out of a single piece of thick leather shaped by repeatedly applying several tons of pressure in industrial presses as part of a complicated but delicate and exacting production process. The resulting battim (“houses”) are so thick and durable that they can be reshaped even if damaged.