Parked in front of the Times Square subway station, surrounded by neon and flashing lights, was a large vehicle bearing signs that identified it as a Mitzvah Tank. A what?
Mitzvah Tanks are a fleet of specially-outfitted motor homes used by followers of Menachem M. Schneersohn, commonly known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe. His adherents, who are called Lubavitchers, use the vehicles as portable educational and outreach centers.
To understand the purpose of the Mitzvah Tanks, it is necessary to know that the Lubavitchers are Orthodox Jews who encourage secular Jews to learn about and practice Judaism.
The Lubavitchers are not like traditional missionaries or evangelists. They aren’t trying to convert anyone who follows a different religion; rather, their goal is to reach those who have drifted away from (or never really learned) the teachings of their own faith.
The name Mitzvah Tank combines two important concepts: a mitzvah is a good deed (or a holy obligation), and the Lubavitchers cheerfully compare their outreach efforts to a military campaign in which motor homes serve as “tanks.”
Mitzvah Tanks are often seen around town just before major Jewish festivals. Since Passover (Pesach) begins tonight, the tank in Times Square was surrounded by kids offering boxes of hand-made matzoh and information about the holiday.
When I guessed that the kids lived in Brooklyn (location of the Lubavitcher World Headquarters), they were delighted to give me kosher-for-passover snacks and pose for a few photos.
They also urged me to visit their neighborhood, Crown Heights, including a trip to the Jewish Children’s Museum that opened last year. Well, the weather is getting warmer …
Let’s welcome Moshiach with acts of goodness & kindness
Originally uploaded by annulla.