Shlomo ben Rokeach
spent the day with the Shofar Factory along with Rí Michoel
Albukerk of Tzivos Hashem. * He heard many amazing stories about
the various workshops offered around the year and about their
central theme: the imminent Redemption. *
Part 1 of 2
were about to set out for a Jewish camp located in the mountains
of New York. It was overcast and drops of rain began sprinkling
the windshield, but inside it was nice and warm. Michoel jumped
out for a minute and went into the Tzivos Hashem office to verify
where we were heading, while I took the opportunity to schmooze
with the two "soldiers" who had joined us, Michoelís
ten-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter. They are their
fatherís right hand men, real soldiers!
long have you been helping your father," I asked Mendy, the
you were five?!"
and what do you do?"
I help, I organize, I prepare the materials. We do all the small
jobs. A few years ago there was a workshop and the children
prepared lots of shofars, but for some reason they couldnít
blow any of them. While they tried, we suddenly heard a long blast
of the shofar coming from a corner of the room. We were so
surprised when we saw it was my two-year-old sister who had found
a shofar and was playing with it."
came back and we were on our way.
from the beginning. How did you get the idea for these workshops?
started over eleven years ago. I was hired by Rabbi Yerachmiel
Benjaminson to work for Tzivos Hashem. My job was to increase the
number of soldiers in Tzivos Hashem and to establish the army like
any youth movement with official clubs, etc.
goal was and still is to have an official Tzivos Hashem club in
every city and as many children as possible involved. We work
alongside the shluchim in implementing this goal.
some research was done, we learned that the most successful
programs with children are those in which they make Jewish crafts.
Until that point, a few shluchim were doing these kind of
workshops, but they hadnít all succeeded in providing the
decided that this was perfect for us, so we opened various
workshops. We added many professional details the schools couldnít
provide, both as far as the materials we use and the content of
the accompanying lectures.
example, we brought actual stalks of wheat, hand mills made of
stone, and other special equipment the children can use and see
during every stage of matza baking, from the stalks to the
packaging. The baking equipment is highly professional, as is the
background presentation, which includes slides, etc.
Hashem, we quickly became very popular among the schools. The
name Tzivos Hashem gets around and many schools want us to visit
them with our workshops. Just last Pesach, we had four teams
working for an entire month, non-stop.
only schools, but even day camps and sleep-away camps want us,
including the Boy Scouts. They heard of our organization and
wanted us to provide a program for the Jewish kids.
remember the first time we went to a Boy Scouts gathering and they
told us to expect fifty boys at our workshops. What actually
happened was that our workshops were packed with hundreds of kids.
It made such a tumult that even the local papers reported
next on the agenda?
goal is for the workshops to be a peula nimsheches (an
ongoing activity). Itís important that the workshop not be a
one-time event. We want it to be something that accompanies the
child for a long time to come. Thatís why we initiated more and
more workshops: the Shofar Factory, the Olive Oil Factory, the
Tzitzis Factory, etc. These workshops cover the calendar just
we come dressed in our official Scouts uniforms, the children
identify us as part of the organization they respect, and our
important advantage is the quiz we give at the end of the program.
We hand out a page with questions about the material covered in
the workshop. By answering correctly, getting a high score, the
child receives a badge for that subject. The children collect the
badges and become Ďexpertsí in many topics.
order to receive the badge, the child has to mail the quiz to
Tzivos Hashem. Thatís how he automatically gets inducted into
the army and is included in other programs. Heíll get the Tzivos
Hashem Newsletter delivered to his house (which his parents will
read along with him) and do the missions, get prizes and go up in
rank in the Rebbeís army."
workshops have expanded in scope. The matza baking program
used to take twenty minutes, whereas now itís an hour long. As
the children grind the kernels of wheat, they learn about Pesach
and the redemption from Egypt and, of course, about the final
part of the program incorporates yet another little lesson. By the
end of the workshop, the children feel good about the project and
have gained a lot of knowledge without much effort.
we weigh the flour on an old-fashioned scale itís a contest to
see who ground more, with each bit of flour weighing the scale
down further. We explain that if you do one mitzva, it has
the same effect, for oneself and the world. Thus, we constantly
apply what the children are doing to ideas related to Moshiach.
the new workshops run in the same way as the original ones?
have three rules for all our workshops. The first rule is
professionalism and attention to detail, which make every workshop
unique. The second rule is that everything must be genuine. Tzivos
Hashem received much guidance from the Rebbe MH"M, and one of
his directives that he repeated on numerous occasions was that
everything must be authentic. The pictures and all the details
have to be realistic.
we do a tzitzis or shofar workshop for example, the tzitzis
and shofar have to be kosher, ready to be used for a mitzva.
Although the matzos baked at the matza baking
workshop cannot be used on Pesach, we give each child a kosher matza
to take home for Pesach.
third important rule is that every project incorporates inyanei
Moshiach and Geula, appropriate for children, of
course. On Chanuka they learn about the menora in the Beis
HaMikdash (and they take home a menora with straight,
diagonal branches). At the Havdala candle workshop
they learn about the separation between the Jewish people and the
nations of the world and the separation between Galus and Geula,
and in general about the sin of Adam and its connection to Geula.
The same goes for every workshop. In this way, the children begin
to "live" with Moshiach and prepare for his coming.
advantages are there in learning through a workshop?
from the obvious advantage in experiential learning, thereís
another critical advantage. The children donít look at us as
rabbis who came to preach at their school, but as a team of men
who came to teach them the secrets of the ancient craft of
preparing parchment for a Torah, or the secret of how one fashions
the tzitzis. They look at us altogether differently and are
much more open to listening to us.
we say is treated with respect, since itís not some
old-fashioned rabbi saying it, but a fascinating person who knows
mystical secrets. Itís altogether different.
cross the bridge leading us outside the city. The cityscape fades
away and we slowly begin to see browns and greens, for there are
only mountains and trees now. The van quickly makes its way down
the highway where the pastoral scene is peaceful and relaxing.
Chani sleeps on the back seat and Mendy is busy, while I get back
to the main topic of my interview.
do you incorporate "kabbalas pnei Moshiach" into
it was founded, the Tzivos Hashem organization has been an army to
greet Moshiach. Our logo has the slogan "We Want Moshiach
Now." By the way, this is the only logo the Rebbe practically
designed himself. The Rebbe gave instructions for every detail of
the logo, including the colors. Since the year the organization
was founded was the year the Rebbe spoke so much about "We
Want Moshiach Now," the slogan was added to the logo with the
official magazine of Tzivos Hashem is The Moshiach Times.
The logo and slogans are not just phrases that appear routinely.
The children look at our uniforms and tend to read the
inscriptions out loud, "We Want Moshiach Now." They
often come over to talk about it or to ask questions about
jumps up from the back seat): "Tatty, remember what happened
with the ĎYechi Adoneinuí in Boro Park?"
smiles as he relates what happened. "We went to a Chassidishe
school in Boro Park wearing our usual shirts, and the children
noticed the "We Want Moshiach Now" printed on them and
figured out we were Lubavitch. They started singing ĎYechií
and it lasted ten minutes! It was unbelievable.
course it doesnít begin and end with slogans and songs. During
each project we make sure to discuss Moshiach and how to properly
prepare for Geula. After all, thatís the whole point of
all mivtzaim today. We are the Rebbeís army and our only
objective is to bring about the final Redemption."
you get any negative feedback?
with every matter of holiness, we sometimes encounter opposition.
It just shows us the importance of what weíre doing. It reminds
me how Rabbi Benjaminson has received countless complaints and
friendly advice to change the name Tzivos Hashem (the Army of
Hashem) to a more gentle, refined name that isnít connected with
war. (By the way, this issue is addressed in one of the Rebbeís
same goes for the name of the magazine, The Moshiach Times.
Many people have suggested that the name be changed to something
else. It just shows us the importance of the inyan. The
rule to remember is not to cave in but to stand strong for what we
believe in. When people see you stand firm, they realize this is
serious and they respect you for it.
give you an example from something that happened to me. It was a
bit unusual but it definitely teaches us the importance of
standing strong. I was invited to do a workshop at a Talmud Torah
affiliated with Misnagdim. We explained to the children
what a shofar is and how itís made, and we taught them
the relevant halachos. Then we related this to preparing to
greet Moshiach and we spoke about the identity of Moshiach. Nobody
said a word.
talk ended and the hands-on activity with the older children
began. Meanwhile, I went over to the younger children, who were
preparing to leave, and began distributing a pile of Moshiach
Times magazines. Suddenly the principal noticed me giving out
the magazines and he shouted, "Donít take magazines from
him. Itís all nonsense!"
wasnít all. He began taking the magazines away from the
children. Nevertheless, I continued to give them out. I finished
distributing the magazines and then I turned to the principal and
said that he had to explain what his comment about the Rebbeís
magazine meant or apologize in front of the children for what he
said. He refused and I told him the workshop was over.
he yelled, "donít be ridiculous. Continue. Continue with
the workshop. Iíll pay you."
said, "Iím sorry, but as long as you donít apologize for
what you said or explain why you said it, I canít go on. We donít
work for money and your offer wonít persuade me."
explained this to the teachers who had come over to see what was
going on, and that was that. We packed up our equipment and left.
I thought that was the end of the story, but it wasnítÖ
Yom Kippur I went into my office for a minute to get my tallis and
tífillin, and the telephone rang. It was Rabbi Shmuel
Butman, director of Lubavitch Youth Organization, saying that a
woman had left her telephone number and asked that I get in touch
with her immediately. I agreed to call her after Yom Kippur, but
Rabbi Butman said I had to contact her immediately.
called the woman and she thanked me for calling her back. It
turned out that she was part of a committee of parents in that
Talmud Torah. "I wanted to tell you that we all think the
principal made a mistake. We all know that the Lubavitcher Rebbe
is the leader of the generation. Before Yom Kippur it was
important for us to apologize and to ask mechila for what
happened, and to tell you that you will always be welcome guests
at our school."
similar incident happened at a camp when I spoke to the children
about Moshiach. I called out, "We Want Moshiach," and
the children, with no prior guidance, yelled out, "Now!"
all this talk about Moshiach didnít please the camp director,
and after part one of our presentation, he said, "Enough with
Moshiach. Iím warning you not to talk about it anymore. This is
the deal: I sign the check and I say to stop talking about this
now." We nearly left, but at the last minute other staff
members got involved and apologized in front of the children,
saying that the director was wrong.
main thing to remember is that we are not in this for the money,
nor are we businessmen who might concede important principles to
appease the customer. We work in order to conquer the world and
prepare it for the revelation of the Rebbe MH"M, and our
workshops have to reflect that. Obviously, we canít conquer the
world without that principle.