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I've recently been having a couple of problems with the retzuot (straps) for my head tefillin. First and foremost, the knot ("double-dalet" or "square" if it makes a difference for answers) has been riding up from the hollow of my neck by as much as an inch! In addition, the loose portions of the retzuah have a tendency to flip over, which may be a halachic problem (I don't have double-black ones).

Does anyone know any practical solutions to keep the knot and straps in place?

  • Is the underlying issue that the head straps have gotten stretched out a bit? – Isaac Moses Jan 22 '15 at 18:45
  • @IsaacMoses, last I inspected them (this morning) it wasn't the issue. I recently tightened them and that helps slightly, but the retzuah still slides (and causes the bayit to move around) and the straps still flip over. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 22 '15 at 18:47
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    when was the last time you had a haircut, that can affect the placement of the straps – Menachem Jan 22 '15 at 21:22
  • @Menachem, less recent than the last time I tightened the straps, although I'm probably do for a trim. – Noach MiFrankfurt Jan 22 '15 at 22:07
  • There's a machlokes about the ideal location of the knot, and some say it should rest on the external occipital protuberance itself, rather than on the median nuchal line that you mention (e.g. Mishna B'rura OC 27:35, see also Bei'ur Halacha ad loc. and Sha'arei T'shuva 27:10). Anyway, I think you are yotzei either way, unless the knot is so low that it rests on a part of your neck below the hairline. – Fred Jan 23 '15 at 8:03
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As for your strap and know issues with the head tefillin, I suggest that you make adjustments until it fits properly, with the knot at the base of the skull and the tefillah sitting just at the front of the spot on the head that is soft when a baby is born. [see Mishneh Thorah, Hilkhoth Tefillin 4:1]

If you are unable to make it work, then I would confer with a competent rabbi or scribe. If this does not work, then I would seriously consider replacing your ressu`oth with newer, more predictable straps.

One of the common problems that I see is that people do not give their tefillah shel rosh enough slack around the sides of their head because they either are wanting the bayith to sit almost directly on top of their head, or they are concerned about it sitting too close to their hairline, or both. This is especially a problem if your batim are larger. But if one gives more slack and aims to set the shel rosh more toward the front of their head, just a centimeter or so above their front hairline, then everything will sit better and will be worn more comfortably.

A more expensive option is to trade in your current tefillin for something closer to 2x2 cm in size, as made by many Temani soferim in Eress Yisra'el. Many find them to be the "Cadillac" of tefillin in both quality and comfort, and once they make the switch they rarely go back.

As for the excess straps flipping over, it is not a halakhic problem at all unless the underside is red. Otherwise, if it the usual white-gray or greenish color, it is completely fine. This is explicitly stated and explained in Mishneh Thorah, Hilkhoth Tefillin 3:14.

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The way the square knot as practiced by ashkenazim is tied leads to the loose part of the retzua being prone to flipping. Thinner retzuos tend to flip less. You can also retie the knot so that the pinched side faces down, which also helps. As Maimonist said, you can prevent the knot from riding up on your head by loosening the strap.

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