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I would like to buy my first Tefillin. I was raised in a semi-secular household, and thus do not own a pair of my own.

However, being a student, I am tight with my money. I understand that there is some controversy regarding the use of tefillin peshutim due to their cheaper preparation. There was a brief discussion of this here, but my specific question is not answered.

Is it permissible for me to use such tefillin because they are cheaper? Is there any law that suggests that I should wait until I can afford better tefillin?

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    Jgolden1, I got myself a pair of gassot over the summer and it was worth the waiting and saving as well as the outlay. While peshutim are certainly permissible bish'at had'chak, they are not halachically ideal. If you can find a pair of used dakkot or gassot, it would likely be preferable, although you need to likely get them re-conditioned. – Noach MiFrankfurt Dec 13 '15 at 23:48
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    I believe that there are funds to subsidise getting a nicer pair of tefillin as a starter if that would help at all. – Noach MiFrankfurt Dec 13 '15 at 23:48
  • @NoachmiFrankfurt Many thanks for your advice! Do you have any idea where I might look to find such funds or where I might find some used tefillin? I have been looking around on ebay but not much comes up. I have also been looking around at local synagogues, but so far I haven't had any luck finding a used pair for sale. – User093203920 Dec 14 '15 at 1:57
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    Davidariel25@gmail.com....you may contact me to help in buying gassos at a very affordable discount for you. Even though peshutos are kosher (if made correctly), if you treasure mitzvos, then we can help :) – David Kenner Dec 14 '15 at 1:57
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    Jgolden1, I would not advise buying tefillin of any type on eBay, as other factors will be at play besides quality, namely the lack of chezkat kashrut. – Noach MiFrankfurt Dec 14 '15 at 3:00
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There are two issues at play here. First is whether the tfilin are kosher now. Second is how they will keep over time.

On the second, it is clear that pshutim don't hold very well over time and for sure not as well as gassot which can last dozens of years when well maintained.

On the first issue, whether pshutim are kosher at the moment you buy depends who you buy from. Reliable sources can sell you kosher pshutim - you are just losing a lot of enhancements. On the other side lots of "cheap bar mitsva tfilin" are not really kosher or only b'di eved (after the fact). They should be avoided at all costs.

In all cases, it is infinitely better to star putting on tfilin right now even if they are not at the optimal level rather than delay the mitzva. Remember that Moshe Rabbenu and the Rambam's tfilin were far inferior technically to the ones we wear today. Someone explained that by saying that as the generations descend spiritually, we are compensating by more beautiful physical objects used for mitzvot (think tfilin, megillat Esther, etc.)

If you live near a chabad center (see chabad.org) they will be able to lend you a pair to wear every day until you have your own.

I referred here (Where can I buy kosher tfilin scrolls?) to a number of very reliable sources I used to personally purchase tfilin who also sell through the Internet.

  • it is clear that *pshutim don't hold very well over time* and for sure not as well as gassot which can last dozens of years when well maintained. - Seriously? I've seen pshutim in daily use for decades that were in good shape, with minimal maintenance. (Maybe some paint every few years. But Gassos also need that.) – Danny Schoemann Dec 14 '15 at 12:37
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To add to Michael Bloch's important points regarding purchasing t'fillin from a reliable seller and borrowing t'fillin for use in the meanwhile:

I'd advise you to CYLOR, but it seems from the Mishna B'rura (32:172) and his extended discussion in Bei'ur Halacha on 32:38 (s.v.v. "יעשה" and "מעור אחד") that one can rely on the lenient opinions regarding p'shutim if necessary.

It is probably not advisable to wait if this means not wearing t'fillin at all in the meanwhile. The Talmud (Rosh HaShana 17a) categorizes people who avoid wearing t'fillin as "Jews who sin with their bodies,"1 and the Bach (OC 37) interprets this stringently as even including people who have nothing against wearing t'fillin but miss wearing them because they are busy with other activities or with work.

Perhaps the Bach would not apply this category to people who temporarily miss wearing t'fillin in order to save up money to eventually fulfill the mitzva in a better manner. However, due to the principle of chaviva mitzva b'sha'ata ("a mitzva is most dear when performed in its proper time," P'sachim 68b), it may very well be better to wear inferior t'fillin now than to continually miss the mitzva until you finally obtain a superior pair.

There is a lot more to be said on each of these points, and there are various opinions regarding just about all of the aforementioned. In the spirit of this topic, however, I figured I would post a bare-bones answer now, rather than not posting anything until later.


1 See the P'ri M'gadim (Eshel Avraham 37:1) who cites the strict opinion of the Nachalas Tz'vi that this even refers so someone who misses wearing t'fillin for one day: "עיין מ"א אבל בעטרת צבי ס"ק ב ונחלת צבי ס"ק א פירש דברי השו"ע כמו שכתב בב"י ד"ה וכל דאפילו אין מניחן מאיזה טעם שיהיה הוה בכלל פושעי ישאל בגופן ועיין ב"ח ד"ה גדולה מלת בכלל ואפילו יום א' שמבטל ולא הניח הוה בכלל פושעי ישראל כמו שכתב בנחלת צבי שם יע"ש".

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