Nov 292015

If you are shopping for tefillin gassot online, you may have come across options labeled “Mehudar 1” or “Mehudar 2” or “Mehudar 3” etc. in reference to the parchments.

These labels are somewhat arbitrary and are determined by the tefillin seller. There is no universal scale for tefillin parchment writing quality. One tefillin dealer may consider a given set of parchments “kosher” or “kosher l’chatchila,” whereas another dealer would say the same parchments are “mehudar.” Options for “Mehudar 1” or “Mehudar 2” etc. are approximations. I know of one online tefillin dealer who offers Mehudar 1, Mehudar 2 and Mehudar 3 as options in the tefillin gassot he sells. These descriptions may be somewhat misleading, because in my opinion his Mehudar 1 should not be called “mehudar” but merely “kosher.”

Typically a tefillin dealer with have at least a dozen sets of tefillin parchments in stock. No two will be exactly the same level of writing quality. In fact, even two sets of parchments written by the same sofer will vary somewhat in quality.

Tefillin GassotThe key factor is that the parchments are kosher beyond a doubt from a halachic standpoint, i.e. no letters are touching, none of the letters looks like a different letter (e.g. a long yud, a short vav, a long vav that could be mistaken for a nun sofis). This is up to the sofer (scribe) and the magihah (parchment checker).

Beyond that, the level of artistry of the parchment is important to some, since we are enjoined to fulfill mitzvahs in an aesthetic manner (zeh Keli v’anveihu). Just as the battim should be painted nicely, the corners and edges should be shaped nicely, the straps should be crafted well, so too we want our tefillin to be attractice on the inside, to the extent that we can afford. A sofer with nicer writing can command a higher price for the parchments he writes.

For many people it’s not easy to shell out another $150 or $250 for mehudar parchments, but keep in mind that chances are good that the parchments you buy will last a lifetime. If you go out to buy a car or do renovation work, would you be willing to spend an extra $200 for better quality?

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