My father's tefillin (z''l) turned up in a storage box. Unfortunately the box, which had been left open in the basement, was misused as a catbox (by the cat, not by human intention). The tefillin are now quite odiferous; quite likely they are as ruined as if they had been in a flood, and should be properly sent to genizah, but I would like to be sure I'm not missing anything.

From a practical point of view is there any legal and reasonable step to take to remove this odor? I've seen baking soda and saddle soap each mentioned elsewhere but I don't want to mistreat these holy objects.

If there is no legal and practical way to make the tefillin usable again, is there an organization I should contact? (Eastern United States, Philadelphia PA area)

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    First, you should contact a sofer, who would check for you the text on the parchment. He would certainly know the relevant rules for the odour if the text was fine. I'm sure that there are many soferim in Philadelphia. Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 19:32
  • Welcome to MiYodeya Ross and thanks for this first question. Hope you will get some practical ideas. Note that if you decide to put the tefilin into genizah, your closest synagogue should be able to help
    – mbloch
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 5:16
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    @Kazibácsi It is a bit simple for an answer in my personal opinion
    – mbloch
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 10:15

1 Answer 1


As Kazi bácsi already noted, start with the inside parchment. It probably isn't as odiferous as the hardened outer boxes.

Get a Sofer to check them.

If the parchments are still kosher then you have 2 choices:

  1. Use them in a new set of boxes
  2. Get the boxes cleaned up by a pro; a leather expert I would guess. Then, get a Sofer to redo the black paint (which can only be done by someone who is Jewish), reinsert the parchment, and sew it together [Halachically].

The straps should probably be replaced, as cleaning them and then repainting them will be a huge job and older straps may anyway be too delicate to use.

If the parchments are no longer kosher you can still try salvage the boxes, but by then you will have Tefillin with new straps (I assume), new parchments and refurbished boxes; hardly reminiscent of the original owner.

Do not discard the Tefillin! If you do not want to deodorize them and use them or keep them as souvenirs in a safe place, then they should be disposed of in Geniza. Search Google for "Geniza" and you'll find sites like Bet Geniza that give you instructions how to ship them items for a small fee.
I have no idea who they are, they were the first Google result I noticed that looked promising.

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