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Eidah Chareidis Rules on Retzuos By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

As a follow up to our article last week regarding the Tefillin straps, there have been three very important developments.  These developments will, unfortunately, cause a bit of a panic in regard to the Retzuos market across the country and, indeed, internationally.

The first is that the Beis Din of the Eida Chareidis in Jerusalem did, in fact, meet this week and they ruled that the said Tefillin straps, if they have the potential of peeling and are of that type, are indeed Posul and are unfit for use.  Anyone who purchased Tefillin within the past 16 months should ascertain whether they are of the peelable type with a Sofer or Rav familiar with this latest development.This was also the ruling of Rabbi Shlomo Miller, of the Beis Din Shel Horaah of Lakewood, New Jersey issued this week.

Last week, Dayan Roth of Karlsburg issued a ruling prohibiting as well.  This ruling supercedes the letter issued to a Rabbi Oberlander earlier, according to Dayan Roth’s Av Beis Din.  Rav Shmuel Fuerst of Chicago last week also issued a ruling forbidding it.  Sofrim should be aware that Retzuos that came from “W” or “YK” from April of 2011 until July of 2012 are suspect.

It is interesting to note that Rav Bakshi Doron, the Sfardi Chief Rabbi of Haifa had issued a ruling prohibiting these very Retzuos in his responsa book.

The second development, perhaps even more significant than the first development, is that our lab results came back.  The Five Towns Jewish Times had the leather samples tested at a laboratory.  The leather samples that came from “W” that were tested are actually made from something called “leatherboard.”  Leatherboard is for all essential purposes a type of recycled leather and is half of the price of regular skin.  In a ruling issued on Wednesday morning by the chief Eidah Chareidis Posek on STAM, Rav Mordechai Friedlander to Rabbi Yair Hoffman, leatherboard is completely posul.  “All of the Ibud (leather working) must be completely Lishma (done for the sake of Tefillin) and even if part of that process was not done Lishma – it is forbidden.”  This is a very significant point.

The third development is that a number of other samples were also tested and found to be a form of laminate as well.  These laminates may perhaps be halachically permitted due to the existence of a special chemical that causes the blackness to seep into the Retzuah itself.  As a public service the Five Towns Jewish Times has been underwriting many of the costs associated with this ongoing investigation.  Members of the Eida Chareidis agreed to meet with this author next week in Jerusalem to review both the lab results and samples.

The laboratory results do indicate that this was not a matter of error, but that there may even be a possibility of fraud involved in Retzuos manufacturing.  In response to questions as to how these Retzuos could have had a Hechsher issued from one of the senior halachic personalities in Bnei Brak on it, an associate of the Rav involved explained, “This Rav’s position is that the hechsher is on the individual and not that he is overseeing the process.  It is a position regarding Hechsherim that has fallen into question, of late.” Rabbi Avrohom Berkowitz of Five Towns Judaica explained, “The BaDatz of Yerushalayim will not take this position, they must ensure that they observe every step of the process.”

It is a very sad observation that there could be many thousands of people that have been wearing Tefillin that were posul from the onset.  As a reminder, perhaps, post facto, one may rely upon the opinion of the Aishel Avrohom (OC Siman 39) that it was not a Bracha Levatala nor a non-fulfillment of  the Mitzvah.  Similarly, according to the Vilna Gaon in the Maaseh Rav, the Ibud of the Retzuos does not need to be Lishma.  Although we do not rule like this Vilna Gaon, and it is debatable whether he said it because it was in the Maaseh Rav, these two opinions may be a source of consolation.

The author can be reached at yairhoffman2@gmail.com

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Posted by on August 29, 2012. Filed under In This Week's Edition,Jewish News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

8 Responses to Eidah Chareidis Rules on Retzuos By Rabbi Yair Hoffman

  1. Tefillin man

    August 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    The teffilin, the kosher food, the education and everything else is controlled by money and greed
    I don’t trust anyone including the Eida Chareidis, they all get sold for money

    • Is this the kind of trash that the moderator allows on an apparently Torah website?

      • My Hat Is On Fire

        August 30, 2012 at 5:18 pm

        What got you so fired up about that comment, is there something YOU are hiding? The man made a statement and you could respectfully disagree.

        Regrettably he made a very strong point.

  2. Ideas

    August 30, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Thank you moderator for allowing the comment. People express themselves on a news site and even if i don’t necessarily agree with the comment, i see where he is coming from and he has a good point.

    It is very sad that its semi true, but the fact is that a lot of the so called Rabbis will sell themselves for money.

    As you reported last week on this site, The head of Rabbis in Tel Aviv was arrested in Kashrus Fraud…

  3. From reading the opinion of the Edah as presented, it seems a little unclear. I have spoken to my rebbi of 25 years, Rav Mordechai Friedlander, the day before and after the psak was issued and again today to make sure I had a clear understanding of the psak before I replied to a few dealers who contacted me. He said that the retzuos should be physically checked to see if the paint peels/lifts off (like tape). This should be done with a knife. (I’d suggest having a sofer do it.) If it peels then it is passul. If it doesn’t peel then it is ok. While on the phone with 2 dealers, one said he checked his roll and it was peeling and the other said his wasn’t. Rav Friedlander also said that the all black retzuos are not problematic since the surface underneath is black. (Make sure the sides and back are halachically black (and hence black through and through) otherwise there is no difference between these and the non all black retzuos.)
    Here in Israel, after talking with my colleagues, including a major supplier of the retzuos in question, We haven’t noticed the problem nor have people returned with peeling retzuos. Nevertheless, the Edah hasn’t made a distinction between locations.
    The Edah chose not to identify the source to the public. However, since the article identifies them by initial, the correct initial would be K”Y.
    As an aside, some of us involved in STaM have been aware of the difference between the hechsherim. (the 2 hechsherim mentioned have a similar policy on batim. Not that all batim have a hechsher or that these are the only 2 sources that provide hechsherim for batim.) In fact, a number of years ago, a retzuos maker, who produces under both hechsherim, told me the difference, as mentioned in the article. My policy (besides to only offer avodas yad/with a hechsher-based on guidance from Rav Friedlander) [Machine made do not have a hechsher.] has generally been to make the customer of better quality tefillin aware of the differences so they can make an educated choice or consult their rav for guidance. The additional cost for Edah retzuos is relatively small compared to the overall cost of tefillin. The problem is that Edah retzuos are often in short supply.

    Rav Friedlander mentioned the new, potentially more serious, issue with the testing results. Obviously we’ll need to wait for the investigation to be completed and a psak rendered.

  4. Ideas,
    whether you agree or disagree or whether it is true or not is not the issue. Zilzul of talmidei chachamim is expressly forbidden and kal vachomer in public. In addition, this is no less than either motzei shem ra or lashon hara. (I’d like to see if people would post and support such comments if required to identify themselves?) Is this a kosher website or not? I find it contradictory that this sites gives a forum to halachic matters and to Rabbi Hoffman while allowing such comments to pass moderation.

  5. True Colors

    August 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    As a Sofer i would expect you to have a more relaxed tone and a more Derech eretz mode to yourself, and you don’t.

    So another perfect example of who is controlling yiddishkeit and how you blew up when your point or comment was not immediately published or approved. Well Done.

    By The Way who made him Daas Torah and who cares if he “approved: the article or not WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? you are so so making the point of why none of you can be trusted, its all about control and money as the previous commentator said

  6. Max Applebaum

    August 30, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Ladies and Gentleman,

    The comment you are seeing from the “Sofer Stam” is a typical Public Relations move and “defense” that will follow now.

    Every time that one of the Rabbis or organizations get exposed, they will follow it with an attack against everyone and do heavy PR to make them look good.

    Don’t get fooled and don’t buy the garbage this commentator is pushing on us. He is in panic mode, the jig is up and now he must explain to you why he charged you $1,500 for a pair of fake tefilin, that’s all it is.

    The email in comment one speaks volume about their routine. On the comment to the public they will try to come across gentle, professional and nice, while the comment to the editors they are full of threats and intimidation.

    Note: I have copied the comment as I am sure they will request that to be removed and the editors might buckle to the pressure, so I have it already.) At the same time I want to say kudos to Five Towns editors for not covering up anything and reporting it straight forward.

    Ladies and gentleman, he is not worried about talmidei chachumim or anything like that, he is worried about legal action that should follow this and in my humble opinion, he has lots to worry about