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Is there any problem with having stray marks or writing on the underside of a t'filin strap?

If it is in a non-essential location (such as down at the end of a long strap) is it preferable to cut it off than to leave it on?

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3 Answers 3

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Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 33:3) states that the undersides can be any color (except red). The Sefardic custom that Isaac mentioned stems from the Rambam (Hil. Tefillin 3:14), who says that preferably they should be black on both sides; but Mishnah Berurah (33:21) states that Ashkenazim don't follow the Rambam in this regard.

All in all, though, it would seem that some writing - especially if it's on the "non-essential" parts of the straps - shouldn't be a problem.

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A couple of years ago, I took my Tefillin to a sofer and he gave me new straps for my Tefillin Shel Rosh. They were the type that's black on both sides. So if it can be completely black on both sides, what are a couple of marks?

Additionally I know we have a halacha that they must be black, but who said the underside must be a specific color?

So it would seem it's fine, but I'm just basing it on the above...

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I believe that Ashkenazim have a minhag of having white undersides, while Sefaradim have a minhag of having black undersides. –  Isaac Moses Jun 1 '10 at 4:46
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Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 33:3) indeed states that the undersides can be any color (except red). The Sefardic custom that you mentioned stems from the Rambam (Hil. Tefillin 3:14), who says that preferably they should be black on both sides; but Mishnah Berurah (33:21) states that Ashkenazim don't follow the Rambam in this regard. All in all, though, I agree that some writing - especially if it's on the "non-essential" parts of the straps (e.g., the ends that hang down from the shel rosh below the belt) - shouldn't be a problem. –  Alex Jun 1 '10 at 18:00
    
Strange. My sofer never told me anything of sort (I'm Ashkenaz)... –  yydl Jun 2 '10 at 2:58
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My sofer explained to me that the minhag of Ashkenazim is not to require black on both sides, but that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be black. BTW, many people get the special black retzuos not because of the Rambam, but because the color is through-and-through and will never come off. –  Dave Jul 16 '10 at 21:16
    
@Alex I think that is an answer to the original question at least as much as it is a comment on yydl's. –  WAF Dec 11 '10 at 23:18
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In practical halacha, neither Ashkenazim or Sephardim follow the opinion of the Rambam that the back side should be black. 9Of course there have always been some individuals who were strict about this. As Dave mentioned, the primary purpose of the all black straps is that they are black through and trough and hence, one never has to worry about the retzua losing any blackness.

There is a difference between color on the back side and writing. Writing on any part of the tefillin should be limited to what and where halacha says there should be writing. It is preferable for there not to be any writing on the back of the retzuos. Hence once should find some other means for identification, without writing on the bottom of the batim or reztuos.

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Thanks! Do you have sources for these halachos? –  WAF Sep 19 '12 at 18:13
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