FJMC's Tefillin - Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t understand all this Hebrew terminology. What are the different components of tefillin?

  • Batim - the black leather boxes.
  • Retsuot - the straps.
  • Parshiot - the scrolls containing passages from Sh’mot (Exodus) and D’varim (Deuteronomy). They are inside the batim.
  • Rosh - goes on the head.
  • Yad - goes on the arm.

What are the differences between the various types of tefillin? Which ones do you sell?

  • Katan - i.e. - small, the tefillin boxes are 2.5 cm square.
  • Gadol - i.e. large, the tefillin boxes are 3.0 cm square. This is the size we carry
  • Deluxe - the tefillin boxes are 3.0 cm square, construction is of higher quality (see below and check out the picture of deluxe in our store).
  • Straps are the same length on all types of tefillin.
  • The Katan and Gadol tefillin are written on mashuach parchment and are peshutim.
  • Deluxe tefillin are written on non-mashuach parchment and are peshutim mehudarim [see definitions below]. They are made of better leather and are designed to last a lifetime.

What does mashuach mean?

  • Mashuach refers to a scribal practice developed about 200 years ago in which the parchment used for the parshiot is coated, making it smoother and easier to write on. This is Kosher in Conservative practice. It is Kosher in a large portion but not all of Orthodox practice. 

What is peshutim? What is peshutim mehudarim?

  • Peshutim - the boxes are made from multiple pieces of leather that are glued together to form the boxes.
  • Peshutim Mehudarim - the boxes are made from multiple pieces of leather that are connected by one additional piece of leather.

What is the difference between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Tefillin?

There are 3 main differences:

The Shin on the box:

  • ASHKENAZI: 3 branches, pointy triangular base.
  • SEPHARDI: 4 branches, a flatter, more square base.

The letters on the scrolls:

  • ASHKENAZI: Less rounded; slight variations in the writing of certain letters.
  • SEPHARDI: More rounded; slight variations in the writing of certain letters.

The knots on the straps (there are several differences, but the Rosh knots are easier to spot):

  • ASHKENAZI: Knots tied to form a double dalet.
  • SEPHARDI: Knots tied to form a single dalet.

What do I do if the strap around my head is too big?

  • You can either ask your rabbi or the gabbai at your shul to adjust it. All Tefillin straps come in one standared size. 

Help!! This is really confusing - I’m right handed. However, I know that tefillin go on the opposite arm. So, do I order right-handed or left-handed?

  • If you are right-handed, order right-handed tefillin.
  • If you are left-handed, order left-handed tefillin.

My child is going to become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in a few weeks. What size and type should I purchase for him/her?

  • It depends on your child and your community. If your child is going away to summer camp where there is a chance the tefillin will fall in the lake or be worn into the shower, buy the less expensive pair. But if your child studies at an Orthodox-leaning day school or is a regular shul-goer in an Orthodox environment, you might want to consider the Deluxe tefillin, with its flat finish, which is most common in traditional communities, and non-Mashuach parchment. 

How long will it take to receive them?

  • This depends on where you live. If you are on the East Coast, or in the Midwest, you can expect to receive your tefillin 1-2 weeks from the time you place your order. If you live on the West Coast or Canada, please give us at least 2 weeks from the date the order is placed. Customers in other locations should allow 3 weeks for delivery. The FJMC is a non-profit membership organization and not a retail outlet. Expedited shipping is available for an additional charge.

PLEASE NOTE:  If you have an upcoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or another deadline, we strongly advise that you order as early as possible, just in case we need to restock our inventory to fill the order.

What types of leather are acceptable for the tefillin boxes?

  • Any kosher animal – cow, sheep, or goat.

Do you sell Gassot and Dakot tefillin?

  • We are committed to providing inexpensive, quality kosher tefillin for the purpose of making the fulfillment of this Mitzvah more accesible. Gassot and Dakot tefillin are more expensive. If you are interested in Gassot and Dakot tefillin, please contact a scribe.