A Little Known Tefillin Strap Debate

(Tuesday, September 11th, 2012)

[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman – 5TJT]

The recent scandal concerning peeling Tefillin straps has uncovered a fascinating debate between Rav Landau of Bnei Brak and the Eida Chareidis Poskim about the ideal way to color the Tefillin straps in the first place. It is not an innocuous debate either – as each side has serious concerns about the Kashrus of the other.

Without burdening the readers with too much detail, there are three halachos that must be known:

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1] Tefillin straps themselves must be colored – not a paste that lies on top of the strap.

2] The coloring must be done by human power and not gravity power.

3] Once something was colored incorrectly, it cannot be covered up with correctly made coloring. Rather it must be sanded down and redone.

Rav Landau of Bnei Brak investigated the method of Tefillin strap dyeing some fifteen years ago and concluded that the chemicals used create a paste layer that lies on top of the strap. He felt that the leather itself was not being colored – only the paste was. He therefore conceived of a new method of dyeing the strap – by adding a black color to the chemical that creats the paste. The Lubavitcher Rebbe approved of Rav Landau’s position completely.

The Eida Chareidis brought Rav Landau’s suggestion to both Rav Meir Bransdorfer zt”l and Dayan Fisher zt”l. They both concluded that the way that the chemical spreads over the leather, even with the black paint added, spreads too quickly to be considered Koach Gavrah (human power) upon application. They discouraged this method.

How do they get around Rav Landau’s concern? They ruled that the application of the chemical at the time of application only hardens later, and is considered “ain bo mamashus” – something that does not have significance.

The debate between Eida Chareidis straps and Rav Landau straps is something that, in this author’s opinion, should be something that American Poskim should look into. The possibility of dropping the use of the chemical entirely should also be looked into. The downside of this is that the black paint will crack more often and not be as shiny or smooth. However, even though the straps will no longer appear shiny and will look “as if they are used Tefillin straps” – this may be the preferable way to proceed.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

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9 Comments

  1. akuperma says:

    The article is inappropriate, and clearly doesn’t belong on YWN.

    The dispute is one involving tsadikkin debating something “Le-shem Shamayim”.

    This website is devoted to Loshan Hora.

  2. YECHI says:

    I agree with the previous writer

    no shortage of loshin hora when it is said about the Rebbe

  3. lazerc says:

    I disagree with number 1 and 2. It is not lashon hara, but rather a respectful explanation of the maklokus between the two parties. This gives the reader more insight into the problem of tefilin straps so that the reader can make an educated decision.

    Kol hakavod to Yair Hoffman for this informative article. And at the same time I recommend 1 and 2 to relearn the laws of lashon hara to better understand their mistake.

  4. shmu says:

    “Rav Landau of Bnei Brak investigated the method of Tefillin strap dyeing some fifteen years ago…
    ” 15 years ago was 1997 not sure how that fits with “The Lubavitcher Rebbe approved of Rav Landau’s position completely” just asking maybe 15 is typo also wondering where i can find R’ Landaus correspondence with L.R. about the Teffilin.

  5. yisrael1 says:

    What ever happened about the author’s claim that certain retzuos were made with leatherboard?
    What ever happened about the scandal and how does that connect with the author’s newest update?

  6. brooklynhocker says:

    Akuperma- you comment on virtually EVERY article and only NOW you suddenly come to this realization????

  7. The Chassidishe Gatesheader says:

    For me, either way will be fine. I’ll rely on either opinion. Both sides are names I absolutely trust.

  8. Moose613 says:

    SHMU raises a very interesting point. How did Rav Landau correspond with the Rebbe?

  9. The rabbanim involved in this matter have already made it clear that the word scandal is inappropriate and should not be used.

    I am finding the information contradictory. Are we talking about a paste that goes on the leather before painting or something that goes on the top of the paint to make it look new and shiny?

    Regarding the “paste” (I believe it is offically called impregnator) – the reztuos makers sand down the surface, removing any mamashus so one is painting on the leather and not the dried “paste”. With regards to the shiny finish over the paint, it is either clear or some add some paint to it as well and the 3 halachos mentioned about don;t seem to have any bearing on this.

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