My friend told me that there have been a few ocasions when a customs official in a foreign country requested to open my friends tefillin because he had never seen anything like this before and suspected that my friend might be hiding drugs in the "black box". My friend refused and was asked harsh questions until, eventually the customs official relented and released him with a harsh warning.

Customs officials are usually non-Jews, and we can assume that while they will find a way to open the box, they won't put it back together. Can someone nonetheless allow customs to open the boxes and even unroll the parchment and do what they want with it, or is there some point when one should protest at the beginning? What if you're concerned that the official may inadvertently damage your tefillin in the process?

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    "inadvertently" It's highly unlikely the tefillin will not be seriously damaged if an untrained individual attempts to disassemble them. – Double AA Jun 9 '14 at 16:15
  • Some airports keep a Sofer on call to open them. – Yishai Jun 9 '14 at 17:07
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    This reminds me of the "bomb threat" from several years ago because someone put their tefillin on in the middle of their flight. – PixelArtDragon Jun 9 '14 at 17:19
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    @Yishai - news to me. Where have you seen this? – DanF Jun 9 '14 at 17:19
  • @DanF, I didn't see it personally, it was reported to me directly by someone who had their Teffilin opened that way. The airport was in England, don't remember which one. – Yishai Jun 9 '14 at 17:23

Unless you want to take your opened and disassembled tefillin to a Sofer to reassemble you should explain from the onset that they are religious objects used during prayer and support your claim with a Wikipedia page on your smart phone or a printout. Additionally, if the tefillin are opened without proper care they can become permanently passul.

Tefillin are sealed with tightly sewn and knotted gid which is sinew from a kosher animal. Also each parsha in the tefillin is rolled and wrapped in a particular manner which if not done properly will invalidate the tefillin. If the tefillin parchment is touched with moist hands the letters may run and invalidate the tefillin permanently.

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  • So it is allowed? – Double AA Jun 9 '14 at 17:14
  • @DoubleAA the original question was whether the customs officer can dismantle it which is not a question since he is not Jewish and not asking the question. I asked the OP what his question really is – Yoni Jun 9 '14 at 17:29
  • See comment, above. If necessary, I can edit the question. – DanF Jun 9 '14 at 17:31
  • @Yoni The original title was indeed off-topic which is why i changed it. Were you attempting to answer an off-topic question? – Double AA Jun 9 '14 at 17:34
  • @DoubleAA - Ah yes, I see. Thanks for the question editing. – DanF Jun 9 '14 at 18:02

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