STAM 101: Retzu’os

Retzu’os are more than just straps to hold the Tefilin in place. According to most opinions, they are an integral part of the Tefilin and should be treated with the same reverence. Retzu’os must come from the skin of a kosher animal and must be made “lishma”. The minimal width of retzu’os is 9 mm. Good-quality retzu’os are usually 14 mm, which leaves a margin of safety to account for stretching (which often happens at the point where the Shel Yad is tightened, among other places). Halacha leMoshe miSinai, Retzu’os must be black on the outside (the inner side does not need to be painted), and they must be painted lishma by a Torah-observant adult Jewish male. Like all other parts of tefilin, the paint can not contain any ingredients derived from a non-kosher animal. If there are cracks or worn spots in the paint anywhere along the length of the Retzu’os (even at the end which is wrapped around the hand) they are pasul according to the Mishna Berura. Several brands of touch-up paint for retzu’os are available in Judaica stores (in small bottles or paint-markers). When purchasing touch-up paint it is important to buy only items with a reliable hechsher. Before painting the retzu’os, you must say, “lishem kedushas tefilin”.

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