As part of her scribal apprenticeship, Ariela is learning how to repair tefillin. The only English word that exists for these ritual objects is phylacteries. And you guessed it, that's not English!* Jews are commanded to bind certain words of the Torah "on their arms and between their eyes." The traditional** way to fulfill this commandment is to write the specific words on teeny tiny parchments and put them into square rawhide boxes, which are then attached to leather straps. The straps are how the words are bound to one's arm and between one's eyes.*** And when I say square, it really means square. We make every edge flat and every corner a 90 degree angle.
How do you transform rawhide into neat square boxes? You wet it and either mold it over a wooden block in the correct shape, or you put it into a special metal press which squishes the soaked rawhide into the correct shape. Tefillin are worn during morning prayer.**** If you're running late, that sometimes means that your hair doesn't have time to dry properly between getting out of the shower and donning your tefillin. What do you think happens when that same shaped rawhide is put on wet hair?
And so we present the visual essay of why leather boxes on wet hair is a supremely bad idea.
These are sad tefillin. Please don't wear your tefillin on wet hair and makes yours sad like them. It won't happen instantly, but it will happen over time.
The good news is that this sort of problem can be fixed! You can take them to a scribe, or some other person who knows about both leatherworking and the laws of tefillin and they can re-mold them. However, this is not an excuse to be lax about drying your hair.
This is the same tefilah shel rosh pictured above after Ariela finished its rehab job.
*Though it pleases me to refer to a large workshop for making tefillin as a "phylactery factory."
**The tradition in question is the rabbinic tradition.
***"Between your eyes" doesn't actually mean what it sounds like. The tefillin worn on the head are centered between the eyes, but the bottom edge should be flush with the hairline (or the original location of the hairline, if it has receded).
****Mostly. Tefillin are mostly worn during morning prayer. There are exceptions.
*****Tefilah is the singular of tefillin.