Guidelines on Purchasing Tefillin
Properly made Gassos Tefillin are both beautiful and long lasting.
Most likely, if you own a high quality set of tefillin, they will outlast all but your most sturdy possessions. The longevity of good tefillin is itself a valid reason to invest in a well made set. As a starting point I recommend considering tefillin from the Netzach Series and if those are more expensive than your budget allows, consider other less expensive Gassos Tefillin Sets. Although I even sell peshutos mehudaros, under most circumstances I can not highly recommend them. To see a discussion about when peshutos mehudaros would be acceptable see my post entitled Under What Circumstances Would Peshutos Mehudaros Be Acceptable? When simple inexpensive tefillin are called for based on the circumstances, I do my best to provide the best peshutos mehudaros that I can and I take responsibility for their kashrus, but I still believe that you will get much more out of a high quality gassos tefillin set in terms of both in the quality of the construction, and in their level of kashrus and hiddur (the pursuit of excellence in the halachic details and the beauty of the tefillin). The reason I steer people away from peshutos is that there is an actual dispute in the poskim if peshutos mehudaros are kosher. Although we rely on the opinions of the poskim that permit their use, it is far better to wear tefillin that are constructed in such a way as to be kosher according to all the shitos. Here is the Shulchan Aruch and Mishna Berura that discuss peshutos tefillin:
שלחן ערוך ל”ב ל”ח: יעשה ארבע בתים מעור אחד לשל ראש ובית אחד לשל יד. משנה ברורה ס”ק קע”ב: וחתיכת עור תפורים יחד מצדד המ”א דחשובין עור אחד וכ”כ בתשובות ח”ס או”ח סימן ה’ שיש להקל בתפורות ואם היו רק דבוקות בדבק מחמיר שם אבל בח”א משמע דהוא הדין דבוקות בדבק וכן משמע באו”ז וכן נתפשט עתה המינהג במדינותנו ומ”מ לכתחילה ראוי ונכון לעשותו מעור אחד ממש כי יש מחמירים וסוברים דלא מהני בחתיכות תפורות יחד או מדובקות בדבק …ובאמת טוב הוא שאפילו העושין מעור אחד ממש יהיו תפילהן פרודות דשמא הדבוק חבור וכן התפילין של הגר”א היו פרודות
The Shulchan Aruch says, “He should make four compartments from one piece of leather for the shel rosh and one compartment for the shel yad.” Mishna Berura explains, “Cut pieces of leather that are sewn together the Magan Avraham decides that they are considered ‘one piece of leather’ and the Chasam Sofer in his teshuva on Aruch Chaim Simin 5 writes that we can be lenient when they are sewn together, but if they are only glued. The Chai Adam, on the other hand, rules that glued together is also good, and the Ohr Zerua also seems to agree, and this is the minhag that has spread in our country. Nontheless, it is proper to make the tefillin from one piece of leather, without any gluing because there are stringent opinions that gluing and sewing does not qualify to be ‘one piece of leather’. In truth, even tefillin that are made with ‘one piece of leather’ need to have four separate compartments that are separated completely, because if we give any credence to the opinions that gluing creates a single entity, than if they are made of ‘one piece of leather’ but there is glue between the compartmants, it would be as if they are not separated, and the Vilna Gaon’s tefillin were separated.”
This paragraph from the Shulchan Aruch really gives us some solid direction: We are recommended to stay away from peshutos, and stick to gassos that are separated completly. As for dakkos battim, I don’t carry them in my store because I have not seen dakkos that are of a high enough standard to compete with the relatively inexpensive Pearl Battim.
The Aruch HaShulchan gives us some more advice. His clear words needs no elaboration: ולכן צריך כל איש מישראל ליזהר במצוה הגדולה הלזו ושיהדר אחר סופר ירא ה’ ותפילין נאים ומהודרים ויזכר שלא בכל יום ולא בכל שנה לוקח תפילין והוא לשנים רבות ואיך יקמץ הכסף המעט על מצוה גדולה לרבות בשנים “And therefore every man from the people of Israel should be careful in this big mizvah, and he should search for a sofer who is a God fearing person, and he should seek beautiful tefillin, that are made to a high standard of kashrus. He should remember that a person does not buy tefillin every day, and not even every year. A person buys them to last for many years. How could he try to save money when it comes to the purchase of tefillin, which will help him fulfill the mitzvah for many years?”
Not all those who visit my store are coming from the same Orthodox perspective that I am. I often here people say that the cheapest tefillin or mezuzah will do, as they are not Orthodox. If this describes you, I would like to offer you a personal challenge: Study this website and other resources on tefillin and mezuzos and learn how to perform their mitzvos according to all their details. No matter where you are on your journey, you will find it to be a rewarding experience to take a mitzvah, learn about it in depth, and then expend the extra effort needed to perform it in the best way possible.
Truly, for most of us our tefillin are our most valuable and loved possessions True workmanship with a lifetime of use in mind and adherence to every detail of the halacha are what you should be looking for. As you see from the Gassos Tefillin Sets page the price ranges from $650 to almost $2000. I would like to offer two personal recommendations for what I consider the best tefillin options that I have available for purchase. Two sets of tefillin stand out in my mind as being excellent values in terms of quality and standard of halacha. My highest recommendation goes to the Tiferes series which range in price from $1425 to $1600. The tefillin parshios are written by Rabbi Mordechai Yaakovzon are they are very cleanly and beautiful. Every tag is perfect and the lettering is straight and very consistent. He writes above and beyond what is known as the ‘Mishna Berura’ level of ksav and he follows various chumros, stringencies, which the safrus world has accepted as worthwhile. Some of those chumros are safeguards from possible errors in halacha. Other chumros have to do with the production of the klaf, parchment and the conduct of the sofer who is writing the parshios. Yes, I offer sets that cost more than this, and if you can afford them they are very much worth the money. I very much love and appreciate the best of the best when it comes to tefillin and mezuzos and want to own them. If on the other hand you are trying not to cut any corners but you really want a high quality set of tefillin, one designed for a lifetime or more of daily use, this is the series that you should consider. On the lower priced end of gassos tefillin sets I recommend the Netzach Tefillin Sets series 3 a. which costs $975. The Battim are from the Starek Battim Co. with their sterling reputation for quality. This means that they make strong battim, according to a high standard of halacha, with a beautiful finish. They look good and they feel good to wear. The parshios are good and clear with nice solid ksav, lettering. I stand behind all of the tefillin sets that I sell, but my personal opinion is that $975 to $1550 range is the most appropriate range to consider if your budget is a consideration.