I recently had the opportunity to check a very special pair of tefillin, belonging to the late esteemed Chabad chassid Rabbi Shmuel Levitin Z"L. Rabbi Levitin passed away in the 70's and his tefillin were handed down in his family. As to be expected, the parshiyos are extremely unique in the fact that they are an old "Alter Rebbe" ksav, from the old Chabad Russian ksavim (not the new post war style).
The shel rosh was replaced over the years due to age, but the shel yad is original. It must have been checked many times over the years as I can see fresh tikunnim here and there. I would imagine Reb Shmuel's tefillin would have been written by a reputable sofer and clearly they were checked by many (presumably reputable Chabad) sofrim during the course of his lifetime, both in Russia and the US.
I am unsure if these were the only pair of tefillin he had, but they were definitely his and well worn.
Now here is the interesting part:
Some weeks ago I posted how in recent years there had been a huge (sometimes disproportionate) emphasis by some Chabad magihim to fix the tagei lamed - that the right should be higher than the left. While this is a good thing (provided they are equally stringent about more critical halachic issues), I also wrote that I couldn't understand why the same emphasis is not put on the ches, (since the Alter Rebbe also brings down that al pi hasod that the right side of the chotteres should be thicher than the left . The lamed is also brought down that the right tug should be higher than left al pi sod ). And no one seems to be too bothered about fixing the ches, not even those who are extremely makpid about the lamed...
So here is the thing. In these parshiyos, every single ches was done in such a way that the right was NOTICABLY thicker (and taller ) than the left. You simply don't see that today, even by the best of sofrim.
What's even more interesting is that the lamedim were not as consistent. there were plenty where the left was taller than the right.
There is no question that these tefillin have a strong Chabad lineage and as I said previously would have been written and checked over the years by reputable Chabad sofrim from generations gone by.
I guess its just interesting to see how things change over the years.....
UPDATE: SINCE POSTING THIS, I RECEIVED AN EMAIL EXPLAINING THE REASON WHY CHABAD SOFRIM ARE NOT NOHEG TO THICKEN THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE CHOTETERES - BECAUSE IN REB RUVAIN'S PARSHIYOS HE DID NOT DO SO.
HOWEVER IF ONE LOOKS CLOSELY, REB RUVAIN WAS NOT MAKPID ON ALL THE TAGEI LAMED EITHER (I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE OLD LOW RES PHOTOCOPIE S, I AM TALKING ABOUT THE NEW HIGH RES PHOTOGRAPHS WHERE MANY LAMEDIM ARE CLEARLY NOT RIGHT TUG HIGHER THAN LEFT. )
THAT IS BESIDES THE POINT THAT REB RUVAIN IS ONLY A GUIDE FOR HOW TO WRITE KSAV HAMEYUCHOS, NOT KSAV ARIZAL.
AT ANY RATE MY QUESTION STILL REMAINS: WHOEVER WENT ALL OUT IN RECENT YEARS TO MAKE A VERY BIG ESEK OF THE TAGEI LAMED (OVER AND ABOVE THE WAY REB RUVAIN WROTE), WHY IGNORE THE CHESIN IF IS THE SAME THING AL PI SOD?
Finally, the explanation I have heard from Rabbi Heller and others who quote it in his name, that he pushes it because of the story with the Rebbe where someone was instructed to have his tefillin checked numerous times and finally someone fixed the tagei lamed, and then the Rebbe stopped instructing: Who's to say that the chesin weren't already thicker on the right side in those parshiyos (ie like Reb Shmuel's above)?
I plan on calling Rabbi Heller this week to try and get to the bottom of this.