Reclaiming More Minhagim
When I met Rabbi Lazer Brody for the first time in January 2005, he showed me the a common Ukrainian Chassidic finger winding minhag for the tefillin shel yad. This minhag was also shared by Breslov and involved winding the first circuit above the knuckle, the second circuit over the knuckle, and the third circuit over both the middle and ring finger. Up until this time, I had been using Chabad's finger winding minhag since I had learned it from a good friend who taught me how to put on tefillin when I was a teenager.
After my meeting with Rabbi Brody, I immediately started using this new finger winding and I also ordered a new pair of tefillin that Rabbi Brody personally wrote for me.
Later that year, Rabbi Dovid Sears posted a list of Breslov minhagim on his website which included some information about tefillin minhagim. Immediately, I noticed that it stated,
"The kesher shel rosh should be a double-dalet, which was the prevailing custom in the Ukraine. That is, the knot should look like a square, or a mem setuma with no space in the middle."
My new pair of tefillin, however, had a daled kesher since this is what Rabbi Brody, Rabbi Shalom Arush, and the Melitzer Rebbe use. I spoke with the Sudilkover Rebbe about this issue shortly afterwards on a few occasions and after Chanuka this year he told me that if I wanted to follow Sudilkov's minhag I should switch the knot of the tefillin shel rosh from a daled to a square. Once I got this green light, I immediately went out the next day and had the knot changed to a square knot.
The Sudilkover Rebbe also told me that the finger winding that I was using differed from Sudilkov's minhag. Because of his difficulty explaining Sudilkov's minhag over the phone in English, he suggested that I have Chabakuk Elisha call him so he could instruct him in Yiddish.
I am truly indebted to Chabakuk Elisha since not only did call, but he even went over to have the Rebbe show him first-hand exactly how to do it. Chabakuk Elisha then e-mailed me these instructions:
1) One circuit over the ma'abarta of the tefillin shel yad
2) One more circuit below the tefillin shel yad, but still above the elbow
3) Four circuits below the elbow (note: the first "half-wrap circuit" is considered and counted as a full circuit. Leaving a separation between the four and three coils conforms with the verse (Devarim 4:4):
וְאַתֶּם, הַדְּבֵקִים, בַּיהוָה, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם--חַיִּים כֻּלְּכֶם, הַיּוֹם
4) After leaving a small space, three circuits and then diagonally across the wrist and hand
5) One circuit around the middle section of the middle finger
6) Two circuits around the lower section of the middle finger
7) One circuit around all three middle fingers (fingers 2, 3, and 4)
8) One circuit around the middle of the hand above the thumb
9) Make knot in the middle of the palm of the hand by tucking the remaining strap under bulk of the strap, pulling it over the top, and then pulling it back through and then inserting it sideways.
In order to ensure that I was following his instructions exactly, I had my wife take a picture of me performing each step. I then e-mailed these pictures to Chabakuk Elisha so he could verify that I was doing precisely what the Sudilkover Rebbe had instructed him.
After looking at the pictures that I sent him, Chabakuk Elisha told me that I was doing it 100% as he was instructed. Thanks to Chabakuk Elisha's kindness, I now put on tefillin according to the minhag of Sudilkov and hope to one day pass it along this minhag to my son.