Take a look at this eBay listing and than take a look at my comments below.
One thing is for sure: The person who is listing these tefillin is living in a different world than I am. In my world, I can’t put together a set of tefillin for $111.00, let alone make a profit. In fact the only part of tefillin that I sell for less than $111.00 is the retzuous, and my better retzuous cost more than that. Lets do the math. If the seller makes $11.00, and the retzuous cost him $10.00, the battim $20.00, the klaf for the parshios $15.00, the computer scan $5.00, sewing them up and tying the retzuous $10.00 and the bag $5.00, checking the parshios $10.00, and another few dollars for an eBay listing that leaves less than $30 for the ‘duly qualified sofer’ that he claims is writing the parshois. This means the sofer is writing the equivalent of four and one half mezuzos for less than thirty dollars, or less than $7.00 per mezuzah This means that the person (is he even Jewish?) needs to write more than two sets of tefillin per day in order to make $60 per day. This amount of money may be acceptable for menial labor, but not for a professional sofer who has s’micha and writes tefillin according to all of their many halachic requirements. In reality, the cost of each item in the simplest kosher set of tefillin is considerably more expensive (even wholesale, even when buying large quantities) than what I am estimating here. Nobody is selling kosher tefillin for an $11.00 profit. Responsible soferim put a lot of work into each set of tefillin that they sell, and like any other professional, need to be paid appropriately in order to be able to dedicate themselves to their work. The bottom line is that these tefillin are almost certainly not kosher, even according to the most lenient interpretation of the halacha. I would very much like to say that they definitely are not kosher but I have not actually ordered them and taken them apart. That being said, I have seen many, many sets of tefillin just like this and I can predict with a pretty high degree of accuracy exactly what each part of these sets looks like, especially the parshios. In addition, what does he mean when he says that there is no law or prohibition for an Ashkenazi to use Sfaradi tefillin and vice versa? If he means that when you are stranded without your tefillin that you can use tefillin that are not written according to your custom, that would be one thing, but he is encouraging you to buy them without giving a second thought to your minhag. In other words, he is saying, “Don’t worry about your minhag, the one that has been passed down in your family for hundreds, or even thousands of years, none of that matters, just place your order so I can make my money in the easiest way possible.” While the seller is encouraging you to forget about your precious minhag, he does recommend contacting him about the color of the little cardboard boxes that protect the tefillin when you put them away. Yes, whether you get purple or yellow boxes is important, but whether you are Sfaradi or Ashkenaz is not. Instead of torturing yourself over what color the cardboard boxes should be, you should know that any tefillin that come with those type of cardboard boxes are almost certainly not kosher.
If you aren’t convinced, here are a few questions you might ask the seller:
1. Who do the soferim that write the parshios have s’micha from?
2. Have the parshios been computer scanned?
3. Who checks the parshios (and does the person who checks them have s’micha)?
4. How can you provide tefillin for such a low price? Provide him with my breakdown of the prices (which as I said are all complete exaggerations anyway, we know he is making more than $11 on a set of tefillin).
5. Can you email me a picture of the parshios? I would like to show them to my rabbi.
Please don’t even consider buying this type of tefillin if you have any desire to fulfill the beautiful mitzvah of tefillin. Here is a link to another post that I have written on this topic: