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It has been brought to my attention that originally, both Ashkenazim and Sephardim used a square knot (also called the "double-daled knot") on the tefillin shel rosh, but when the daled knot was invented, tefillin makers began tying it in place of the square knot.

It seems that in general, the Ashkenazi custom is to use a square knot, while the Sephardi custom is to use a daled knot. There are, of course, exceptions to this: various Chasidic groups use the daled knot, and certain Sephardi communities use the square knot (such as the London community).

Some have told me that the use of the square knot is obsolete, and that one should use the daled knot, even if his family custom is to use a square. Some have even cited Rav Soloveitchik in this.

A few questions:

What are the origins of both knots?

Is there a reason why Ashkenazim use a square knot while Sephardim use a daled? Also, considering that Spanish-Portuguese customs usually reflect an older Sephardi tradition, does this mean that the older custom is to use a square knot?

Why would a daled knot be preferred, when it seems the square knot is older?

If you look at companies which sell tefillin online (whether this is a good idea or not aside), the default option is to have a daled. Square knots are usually tied upon special request. Could it be that the daled knot is much easier to tie?

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    Single dalet is actually much harder to tie. Yemenites also use double dalet.
    – Double AA
    Apr 10, 2018 at 13:49
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    @DoubleAA I am aware with the fact that there's another "double-daled" knot but it's very strange and almost not used at all. For those who have no idea what we're talking about, it looks like this: i.stack.imgur.com/ejSod.png
    – ezra
    Apr 10, 2018 at 13:54
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    Every picture of Tefillin-knots from the medieval period has the square knot, and every written instructions for tying the knot from then produces the square knot. (There are obviously Rishonim who don't write instructions and say it looks like a Dalet, but that can't be a proof they held single dalet, since even many square knot rishonim say explicitly it looks like a Dalet.)
    – Double AA
    Apr 10, 2018 at 14:00
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    We all use a square knot - so add about 3 dozen people to your count. ;-) Apr 10, 2018 at 14:40
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    I have no proof for this, but to answer your title: probably people in the last few hundred years who didn't know better (which in the details of Safrus unfortunately includes many rabbis) picked the one that looked most like a Dalet because they had read that it's supposed to look like a Dalet. I mean, if you didn't know the history, read about the how the knot should resemble a Dalet, saw the two modern options, and heard what seems like forced explanations for how the square is a Dalet, what would you think?
    – Double AA
    Apr 10, 2018 at 17:23

1 Answer 1

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Your question begins with a misunderstanding; I am sepharadi, and the dalet knot does not exist in our tradition. That custom began in ashkenaz and became standard due to a literal examination of the text. Every sepharadi community is halachically obligated to use a square knot because that's what we have always done. We started using dalet knots when sepharadim moved to the states and israel, and when turning in tefillin to get checked by ashkenazi sopherim it would be returned with dalet knots. Nothing to do with sepharadi custom or obligation. It just took over in the last century because of assimilation and people not caring about preserving their traditions.

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    חנן, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thanks for this first answer! One way this site works differently from most sites is that we try to bring sources to back up our answers here. Great to have you learn with us and I hope to see you around! Here'a a quick tour: judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3887 Aug 18, 2022 at 22:08
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    Except the original Ashkenazi minhag is to use a square as well. -1
    – ezra
    Aug 18, 2022 at 22:52
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    From my experience I have never met anyone Sephardi that uses square knot except for Yemenites and some (not a majority) Spanish-Portugese. Aug 19, 2022 at 18:24
  • Apologies if my answer seemed a little hostile, re-reading I feel that this may have been the case. To clarify, it was also the original ashkenazi minhag to use a square knot. This had confused me before so I asked a number of tefillin makers and they told me the older tradition is a square knot, but the modern proclivity leans toward a daled knot due to it looking more like a daled. When I receive tefillin, I always do two things; redirect the feed of the shel rosh resuot so that the bottom lays on the head, and retie the knot to a square. Square is also easier to adjust, and fits easily IMO Oct 25, 2023 at 10:42

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