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Hilchos Tefillin 33 (page 114)

מאמצע הסעיף הלכה למשה מסיני עד סעיף ה

Blackening the Retzuos

Painting the Underside of the Retzuos

Who May Blacken Retzuos But Not Make Batim?

b2a62383-ab2d-483b-bc19-a7f73668f8bf.jpgBlackening the retzuos

The halacha l’Moshe m’Sinai teaches that the retzuos must be black. Ideally, they should be deep raven-black but light black is kosher b’dieved. According to the Mishna Berura, the smooth outer side (on the live animal) is blackened and the retzuos are pasul if they were blackened on the rough inner side instead. Based on the rule of rubo k’kulo, the retzuos should be kosher even if a small section is not black. From the language of the Mishna Berura, however, it seems that they are pasul if even a small area is not black. If cracks develop in the retzuos that expose unpainted areas, they remain kosher as long as the overall appearance is black. There is an opinion, though, which requires these areas to be painted.

(סעיף ג, ס"ק יט-כ, וביה"ל ד"ה הלכה, ד"ה הרצועות וד"ה מבחוץ; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 14)

548a7519-0b6f-4207-8484-8b6c22024685.jpgPainting the underside of the retzuos

According to the Rambam, it is considered a beautification of the mitzva if the underside of the retzuos is painted to match the color of the batim. This opinion holds that painting the underside of the retzuos is not obligatory, but recommended. The halacha and custom do not follow the Rambam; the underside of the retzuos do not need to be painted, but the batim should be painted black. The underside of the retzuos should not be painted red. Otherwise, people might assume that the person wearing them is bleeding from cuts or wounds, which would be a disgrace to the tefillin. There is an opinion which requires that the sides of the retzuos be painted black.

(סעיף ג וס"ק כא; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 15)

239a3da2-5b26-452e-a793-15de4527e7a0.jpgWho may blacken retzuos but not make batim?

The batim, titura, ma’avarta and shins must be made by an adult Jewish male lishma. If they were made by a woman, child or goy, they are pasul. Tanning, blackening, and cutting the batim and retzuos must be done lishma, and they are kosher if this work is done by a woman. B’dieved, even a child or goy can do those parts if a Jewish adult is supervising the lishma. It is permissible to be lenient with tanning the hides for the batim and blackening them (and, according to the Mechaber, even blackening the retzuos) if no other tefillin are available.

(סעיף ד, ס"ק כב-כג, וביה"ל ד"ה ומיהו, ד"ה אבל וד"ה אפילו; ביאורים ומוספים דרשו, 19-21)

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  • The retzuos should be made from the hide of a kosher animal. The paint used to blacken the retzuos should also be made exclusively from kosher ingredients.
  • There is a machlokes as to whether tanned leather is preferred for the batim or if it is better to use unprocessed leather because it is stronger. Regarding ­retzuos all agree that the leather should be tanned.
  • If two adjacent stitches opened on the titura, the tefillin should not be worn. If no other tefillin are available, these may be worn with a beracha. If three stitches– even non-adjacent– are missing, the tefillin cannot be worn with a beracha until they are repaired.
  • Kshira Tama-proper knotting
  • Using a torn retzua
  • A retzua which tore beyond the necessary length
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