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I recently came across an image which showed a variety of Tefillin boxes that were much smaller than what I am use to seeing.

The image shows them lined up by size with the smallest being roughly the size of a dime.

These looked to be pretty old so I took it as they might have been used by Jews forced to practice in secret and possibly took advantage of the size so they could be easily hidden.

I then came across another image of someone selling a pair of Tefillin that were smaller than what I have seen and owned. (Not my image so I blurred their face) They identify them as "traveling tefillin" and describe them as being for a traveling businessman or yeshiva student.

I've personally never heard of such a thing. Are Tefillin like this considered Kosher or is it something that shifted between different cultural communities (Say Ashkenazi vs Sephardic)?

  • The only limitation is the scribe's ability to write tiny letters... – Kazi bácsi Apr 12 at 12:03
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    @Kazibácsi and also the manufacturer's ability to make a sturdy square box. I think that was the bigger deal earlier in history. – Heshy Apr 12 at 12:34
  • Those tefillin when kosher and very expensive. If someone is giving you some special deal, you'll usually get what you pay for, so beware – Double AA Apr 12 at 14:31
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The Kohen gadol was allowed to wear the tefillin shel rosh but they had to be small enough to fit between the tzitz (headband) and the mitznefes (turban. The gemara last line of zevachim 19a and first line of zevachim 19b) as translated by Art Scroll. Of course the tefillin on the hand could not be worn because they would constitute an interruption between the garment of the Kohen and his skin. One can see that the head tefillin of the Kohen Gadol, that of a kohen hedyot, and that of a regular Levi or Yisrael would be of different sizes based on the space available.

תנא שערו היה נראה בין ציץ למצנפת ששם מניכים תפילין

A Baraisa has taught: The hair of the Kohen Gadol was visible between the tzitz and the turban for there they (i.e. the Kohen Gadol) put tefillin1

Art Scroll note 1 on 19b1 states:

1 Thus, the head tefillin do not interpose between the priestly vestments and the Kohen Gadol, because there was a space between the turban and the tzitz which accommodated the tefillin. Indeed, given this placement of the head tefillin, it seems superfluous for the Baraisa to state that the head tefillin do not interpose. The Baraisa's intent is, rather, that head tefillin do not constitute an additional vestment, because tefillin are not deemed a "vestment" at all (Rashi; see Bach)

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