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From Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 10:22:

מֻתָּר לִקַּח תְּפִלִּין שֶׁל חֲבֵרוֹ גַּם שֶׁלֹּא בִידִיעָתוֹ לְהָנִיחָן וּלְבָרֵךְ עֲלֵיהֶן, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתַבְתִּי בְּסִימָן שֶׁלִּפְנֵי זֶה סָעִיף י"א לְעִנְיַן טַלִּית (י"ד ל' ס"ו).

One is allowed to take someone else's Tefillin even without the owner's knowledge and say a blessing on them, as explained in ch. 11.

There, in discussing that one can take someone else's Tallit, based on a principle that one is happy when someone borrows something for the purpose of a mitzvah (if I understand the underlying principle of what he says. I'm not doing a literal translation.)

Let's say while borrowing the tefillin, the strap tears accidentally. Is the person liable to pay for or replace the strap?

The person is considered a "sho'el" - borrower. Under the normal principles of borrowing, he is liable for all damages. However, in this case, perhaps, the strap was so weak already that it may have torn anyway the next time the owner would have put it on. (I.e. - at the time the borrower took the tefillin, there were no noticeable signs of a weak strap or any other noticeable damage, but something accidental occurred. Chances are, if there was some noticeable weak strap, the person might not have borowed the strap to start, as a torn strap would make the tefillin pasul, and the borrower wouldn't care to take the risk, and would rather have borrowed a sturdier pair.)

Also, if it is assumed that the owner allows anyone to use his tefillin automatically, does the owner in a sense relinquish unknown borrowers from accidental damage as well?

  • If there was due cause to be concerned that it would break during use, the original owner probably would never have allowed it to be borrowed, in which case the whole heter of the KS"A would fall apart and the "borrower" would be liable as a thief. If it was an unexpectable oness, however, he would at best still be liable as a borrower. – Loewian Jun 18 '15 at 21:47
  • @Loewian But if a person wants a Mitzva to be done, then maybe he is a Socher. (Truth is, it's hard to believe, but I'm asking in the spirit of DoubleAA.) But that's an interesting Svara. You are basically saying that מתה מחמת מלאכה won't apply for borrowing without his knowledge. – HaLeiVi Jun 18 '15 at 22:03
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    Isn't this just Metah Machmat Melacha? @Loewian , HaLeiVi – Double AA Jun 19 '15 at 2:37
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    Like what @DoubleAA was referring to, why would this be different than any other standard case of Shomer? This person with implied permission becomes one of the categories of Shomrim (you suggested Sho'el, which sounds right to me), and has all the same rules as any other Sho'el. If it was an Oness/Geneivah/P'shiyah he's obligated. If it's Metah Machmat Melacha, he's exempt. Why would the owner be assumed to give special dispensations? – Salmononius2 Jun 19 '15 at 15:23
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    For the record: The Aruch Hashulchan says that nowadays people are more sensitive, and you can't take it for granted that he'd want you to bind his hygienic Tefilin on your (potentially) sweaty arm. – Danny Schoemann Jun 18 '18 at 13:54

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