The biographical sketch of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that appears in the beginning of Igrot Moshe volume 8 states that his father, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein of Uzda, was born and raised Hassidic, but took on his in-law's very non-Hassidic customs when he married.

So I'll ask: I assume that he started off with Tefilin that use the Hassidically-favored Ktav Ari script. Upon marrying, did he switch to the standard-Ashkenazic Ktav Beit Yosef script? And what about his sons/grandsons? Were they given Ktav Ari tefilin?

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    Anyone able to ask his grandsons, the contemporary Rabbi Dovid Feinstein of NY, or his brother Rabbi Reuven Feinstein?
    – Shalom
    Jun 13, 2011 at 15:53

3 Answers 3


R' Moshe himself apparently used Beis Yosef kesav. In his letter to the Lubavitcher Rebbe about Rabbeinu Tam's tefillin (Igros Moshe, vol. 6, no. 9), at the end, R' Moshe asks that the sofer whom the Rebbe charged with writing him a pair of R"T tefillin (I have heard orally that this was R' Eliezer Zirkind) should do so using Beis Yosef script, so that it should be consistent with the other STA"M that he uses.

(He also points out that all of the various scripts used for STA"M are in fact equally halachically kosher. So R' Dovid wouldn't really have had a reason to switch - most likely he continued using the same tefillin before and after his marriage.)

  • But you think R' Dovid bought his son Ksav Beis Yosef for his bar mitzva?
    – Shalom
    Jun 14, 2011 at 10:20
  • @Shalom: I don't know, but I can't see any reason why not. R' Moshe writes that אנו נוהגין שהכל יהיה בכתב הב"י, so presumably that means that he always wore tefillin written that way.
    – Alex
    Jun 15, 2011 at 4:02
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    @Shalom, tefillin in those days weren't a life-time investment. The battim or parshiot would need replacement more quickly than ours. Sep 19, 2017 at 5:07

The Tefillin of Rabbenu Tam were written by R' Zirkind, at the special request of R' Moshe. These tefillin were checked by my rebbe, Rabbi Shmuel Schneid, who told me that the tefillin were written in typical Russian Beis Yosef script. As any sofer experienced with Sifre Torah of the world will tell you, before 1948, each country and Edah had their unique style of Beis Yosef writing, with changes that are not found in today's modern day Israeli Beis Yosef script. All of these styles are Kosher L'Chatchila, according to the Rosh (who first dealt with this question); the Tur, a straight reading of the S'A, the Aruch HaShulchan, and R' Moshe himself issued a teshuva on the matter.

R' Moshe's tefillin were Russian script- at his direct order. He met many times with R' Zirkind and discussed how each letter should be formed. R' Moshe, as a Russian, wanted Russian tefillin. My Rebbe, R'Schneid, has a photocopy of these tefillin, which he took with permission, after having checked the tefillin.

  • Tzvi Mauner, welcome to the site, and thank you for the information! I hope you stick around. You might wish to register your username: this will afford you more of the site's features, and enable the site to attribute all of your contributions to the same account.
    – msh210
    Oct 30, 2011 at 3:18
  • @Tzvi Mauner this sounds extremely interesting, would you be able to obtain and upload this photocopy? Feb 9, 2014 at 22:32

I have heard from a sofer who checked Rav Moshe's tefillin that the ktav was mostly similar to that of Chabad. He found this entirely unsurprising, given that both come from Russia. He expressed disdain for those who expect Lithuanian writing in Russian tefillin.

  • The Chabad kesav that I've seen has the ends of the letters (e.g., the two ends of a ב or כ) slightly angled (by holding the quill with its tip a few degrees off the vertical); but it's my understanding that this was indeed the common style in Russia among many soferim, and so isn't diagnostic of specifically Chabad kesav. The variants in Chabad kesav vs. Beis Yosef and Arizal mainly relate to having the tops of some of the letters (שעטנ"ז ג"ץ and the right side of the ח) be sort of halfway between a ו and a ז; do R. Moshe's tefillin have that feature?
    – Alex
    Sep 23, 2011 at 3:57
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    And to tack on to @Alex's comment: Another Chabad feature is that the last letter of the shem has its loose leg point outward. Do Rav Moshe's t'filin have that?
    – msh210
    Sep 23, 2011 at 5:56

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