As we know, the outside of the tefillin's retzuos (phylacteries' straps) must be black. Lately, I've noticed that the very end of the retzuah of my shel yad (tefillin of the arm) is cracking and discolored. This only affects the last 3-4 inches or so—after I have already encircled my hand several times.

Is it permitted to have a completely non-essential part of the tefillin discolored?

Can I cut off the discolored portion of the retzuah (presumably using scissors, if permitted, what would be the best procedure)?

Thank you.

  • 6
    CYLOR............ Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 20:04

3 Answers 3


The Biur Halacha (33:Dibur Hamaschil "Haretzuos") has a safek about whether the entire retzuah needs to be black. One can certainly cut it off, or paint it black. Tefilin paint is readily available in seforim stores. If you cut it off, it needs to go in shaimos.

See Siman 33:4, that it should be painted lishmah. If you don't know what this means, then you should not do it yourself.

  • You need not spend the money/time getting "tefilin paint". Shoe polish already available in your house is fine.
    – YDK
    Commented Jun 27, 2010 at 17:35
  • See also judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9315
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 17:03

2 Additional Points:

  1. If you cut it off use a very sharp utility knife rather than scissors because unless you have professional leather shears it will be very hard to get a clean cut with scissors.

  2. For reasons beyond my knowledge, sofrim always cut them on a slant so you should probably do so as well.

  • I was always under the impression that they were cut on a slant as a siman that they are Rashi tefilin. At least that is how it is done in communities that wear both. Rashi is a slant, and R"T is a point. Commented Aug 9, 2010 at 13:06
  • 1
    i never saw Rabbeinu Tam retzuos in that case! i believe the point was to indicate the direction of the insertion into the teffilin box. an animal is not flat. the strap has a curve to it and i believe the point or slant to indicate in which direction the retzuos should be put on the battim. if you go against the curve the tefillin will not adhere to the head properly and the retzuos shel yad will be uncomfortable. Commented Jun 23, 2011 at 22:10
  • See also judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/9316
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 17:03

In response to a few of the above comments:

"One can certanly cut it off" - Actually, that is not correct. Once the tefillin are worn for the mitzvah they become kadosh and can't be discarded unnecessarily. If the blackening of the retzuah will hold for some time (I'd say a few months) then they should not be cut. However, if you'll have to regularly touch them up then the piece should be cut off and put in shaimos.

Black shoe dye (not to be confused with polish) likely is made with synthetic ingredients. If so, it may be used to blacken retzuos. (The black pigment could be sourced from burnt bone, which could include non kosher animal species.) It is inappropriate to use the same bottle of shoe dye for shoes hence, either way, one should invest in paint specially for tefillin.

It is not necessary to use a utility knife. A quality pair of scissors works just fine. (25 years and countless meters of retzuos have proven this.)

The retzuos are cut on an angle at the end because it is easier to get them through the passageway and easier to knot. Once finished they are usually left this way. Perhaps some cut the end a special way as a means of differentiating between Rashi and Rabbeinu Tam.

  • 3
    Sofer, welcome to Mi.Yodeya, and thank you for your experienced answer! Providing a source to back up your comments about the Kedushah of the Retzu'oth and the source of the ink/shoe dye, would improve this answer. Also, I'd encourage you to register your account so that you will have access to more of the site's features.
    – Seth J
    Commented Sep 19, 2012 at 17:46

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