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When painting tefillin, are there any requirements regarding the ink (other than the need to be black)? Or is any ink okay to use?

Like in the comments to this answer, shoe polish is recommended. Is that indeed correct?

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Possible duplicate: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/2244/… – Dave Aug 5 '11 at 18:47
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Keset HaSofer 21:14 rules that you can't put ground ivory into the tefillin paint as it is not from a kosher animal (an elephant). Accordingly, it would seem that one would need to make sure to use paint that has a certification ensuring that all ingredients are from kosher species.

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While I haven't looked it up, I think I recall hearing that the ingredients should be kosher.

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as in kosher to eat? – yydl Aug 5 '11 at 18:07
If I recall correctly, it just needs to be from a kosher animal, regardless of whether it was a treifah or neveilah. – YDK Aug 5 '11 at 18:16

Yes, it does require that the ink be made from kosher ingredients. Therefore, stam shoe polish is NOT acceptable unless ALL the ingredients in its manufacture is 100% kosher or synthetic.

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George, welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for posting an answer! You could make this answer more valuable by editing in sources to back up your claims. Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. – Isaac Moses Feb 27 '12 at 18:04

Tefillin need to be painted with paint made from either synthetic or kosher animal species ingredients. If any oil is added from a non kosher animal species or if the black pigment is sourced from burnt bones, which could be from a non kosher animal species, that would be a problem.

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Providing a source to back up your comments about the source of the ink/shoe dye would improve this answer. – Seth J Sep 19 '12 at 17:50
Bones from non kosher animals are kosher, actually. – Double AA May 5 '15 at 2:24

According to halakhah, there is actually no need for the tefillin themselves to be painted black. The requirement is for the straps only (cf. Rambam, Hilkhoth Tefillin 3:1,13), and even then only the outer surface (cf. ibid).

The halakhah at 3:14 actually concludes by saying: "wa-noy hu la-tefillin sheyyihyu kullan shakhoroth haqqassissah wa-ressu`ah kulah - And it is an ornamentation to the tefillin that they are black, their case and the entire strap [i.e. the front and the back]."

This is also the opinion of the Tur and the Shulhan `Arukh.

[See also `Arokh HaShulhan, Hilkhoth Tefillin, Siman 32:5 for a discussion of the opinions regarding the blackness of the batim and the straps.]

To specifically answer your question about what can be used, I assume that what ever is "kosher: for the straps is "kosher" for the tefillin themselves. I say "kosher" in quotes because there is no discussion in the Mishneh Thorah about what needs to be used for blackening either. All of this discussion comes from latter-day authorities and usually stems from concerns based on the Qabbalah.

So, le-`aniyuth da'ati, it would seem that according to all opinions it is enough to use something derived from either kosher or synthetic sources, and the blackening should be done by a Jew.

Hope that this helps. Kol tuv

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See here "Halacha 4 How is ink prepared? One collects the vapor of oils, of tar, of wax, or the like, [causes it to condense,] and kneads it together with sap from a tree and a drop of honey. It is moistened extensively, crushed until it is formed into flat cakes, dried, and then stored.

When one desires to write with it, one soaks [the cakes of ink] in gallnut juice or the like and writes with it. Thus, if one attempts to rub it out, he would be able to.

This is the ink with which it is most preferable to write scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot. If, however, one wrote any of the three with gallnut juice or vitriol, which remains without being rubbed out, it is acceptable."

I certainly wouldn't use shoe polish. How do you know what's in it? Kosher ink is not so expensive.

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The question was about painting the straps, which does not require the specialized sofer's ink. See YDK's answer here: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/2244/… – Dave Aug 21 '11 at 6:29
That question was about Retzuos. This question is about Tefillin. – follick Aug 21 '11 at 7:02
you are indeed correct, the question was about painting the tefillin themselves. But I don't think that requires special ink, either. If I'm not mistaken, it is required only for writing. – Dave Aug 21 '11 at 14:10

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