What are Hiddurim?
Hiddurim is the multiple of the Hebrew word Hiddur which translates into enhancements or beautification. This is the act whereby one invests whether by an act or by an additional outlay of money in enhancing the quality of the fulfillment of a mitzvah.
What qualifies a pair of Tefillin to be considered Tefillin Mehudarot?
A pair of Tefillin does not just emerge from the manufacturing process and happen to be "Mehudar". A vast amount of time, knowledge and knowhow must be invested in the manufacturing process in order to ensure the highest form of quality. The terminology Mehudar Tefillin manufactured form a thick skinned animal (בהמה גסה) refers only to the type of hide used to manufacture the housings themselves. The cost of the actual raw material is a negligible part of the cost of a pair of Tefillin. In no way or manner does this reflect on the amount of time required to really produce the highest quality and Mehudar pair of Tefillin. The highest quality Tefillin require over one year of strenuous and intensive labor which is reflected in their price.
What are the Hiddurim in the Scrolls?
All the parchment scrolls are written by qualified scribes on the hides of unborn calves. All of our scrolls undergo three levels of proofreading that check the shapes of the letters, check whether there is anything added or missing from the letters, are all the connections of the parts of the letters properly connected or are there any separations. All the parchments then undergo a computerized scanning and check. All the scrolls are categorized as to the level of compliance to Jewish ritual and as to the beauty of their graphic image. A sample as to beauty; It is permitted by Halacha to glue two pieces of parchment together in order to receive the necessary length of parchment required to write the long scroll used in the Tefillin which is tied on the arm. However, these just don't look nice and therefore are not used in the Yovel, Odem or Bareket brands of our Tefillin in Tefillin Beit El.
What are the Hiddurim in the Tefillin housings themselves?
The "Odem" brand of the Tefillin sold by Tefillin Beit El have more than 40 of the enhancements listed in the "Seal of Halachik Standard and Quality" of Tefillin Beit El. For instance; the letter "Shin" (ש) is extruded by hand from the hide of the head unit (Tefillin Shel Rosh), without any deformations being caused in the inside of the housing. A tendon is used to separate each interior compartment on the inside and to separate the scrolls from one another on the outside. Note: These are just a few of the "Hiddurim" that cannot be discerned by the naked eye. We then add to the Mehudar housings straps which are hand manufactured. We choose the nicest housings and then enhance them in order to provide you with the tools necessary to fulfill this mitzvah in the best possible manner and thus allow you to achieve the highest attributes of Hiddur Mitzvah.
The "Bareket" brand of Tefillin sold by Tefillin Beit El have over 30 Hiddurim listed in the "Seal of Halachik Standard and Quality". They are manufactured from a single piece of hide, a tendon is used to separate the scrolls on the outside and no punctures or tears are allowed in any of the interior compartments.
"One Piece" and "Hardened" Tefillin
There are two Halachik or Rabbinical concepts that are considered when manufacturing Tefillin from thick hided animals.
A. "One Piece" – These are Tefillin manufactured from one piece of hide from top to bottom. In accordance with Jewish ritual it is permissible to add a piece of hide known as the "Footing". This piece of leather has a square hole cut into it which is then glued with special glue to the body of the housing. By adding this piece, we can form a symmetrical and beautiful base for the Tefillin.
The "Footing" has numerous purposes:
- It enhances the stability of the housing and enhances the integrity of the housing over time.
- It expands the area on the bottom of the housing which enables us to create a channel wherein the straps are inserted.
- It enhances the structural integrity of the housing in the head unit thus giving us a stronger base to pin the head compartments together.
- Gives a beautified symmetrical look to the Tefillin.
The picture on the right depicts a Tefillin housing made from a single piece of hide with the passageway for the straps as the "Footing" is being attached to the housing.
B. "Hardened" Hardened Tefillin are made from a very thick piece of hide and therefore do not require the insertion of a "Footing". These are rare and are much more complex and difficult to manufacture for various reasons:
- It is extremely rare to find such a large piece of hide with such overall thickness.
- It is much more difficult and complicated to work this hide and form the compartments needed in a pair of Tefillin.
Harav Mordechai Eliyahu Ztz"l ruled that "Hardened" Tefillin is considered an enhancement and is therefore considered a "Hiddur".
Harav Shalom Yosef Ztz"l ruled that using "Hardened" hide does not add any value to Tefillin.
Today, most Tefillin are not manufactured from "Hardened" or extra thick hide.
The picture on the right depicts a housing manufactured from an extra thick hide without the addition of a "Footing".
All of the Tefillin manufactured by Tefillin Beit El are done in such a manner as to ensure the total separation between each compartment of the head unit (Tefillin Shel Rosh), all the way to the base.
This is accomplished by placing a tendon at the base of the individual houses in the channels that separate each individual house. These channels are visible only during the manufacturing process. The houses are then pressed together so that they transform into what looks like a solid cube. The tendons are cut so that they do not protrude from the housing. Prior to the painting of the Tefillin a sharp knife is passed between the separate housing parts in order to ensure the exterior separation of the scrolls.
The picture on the right depicts a pair of Tefillin with the tendon placed between the parts of the housing.