car moves slowly along the winding and dangerous roads of Yehuda-Shomron. In the
car sits a few activists, enthusiastic about their mission. This time they are
heading for the blockade at the entrance to Beit Lechem. The Lubavitchers
sitting in the car, led by Rabbi Zev Ritterman, don’t pass up a single
soldier, even in the hottest spots.
reports on the radio come one after the other, one more frightening than the
next. "At the Karnei junction in Gaza strip, a battle between terrorists
and the I.D.F. lasts for hours. The Arabs shoot at the soldiers. The
Palestinians have even shot a missile at the tanks. There are more exchanges of
fire in Yesha. In the Genin area and at the Ayush junction our soldiers are
being shot at. Additional violent incidents are taking place at the Aram
junction south of Ramallah in the industrial area of Neve Dekalim and at the
Erez blockade. There is an attempt at wresting control by hundreds of
Palestinians from Jilzon of the yishuv Beit Eil, north of
Ritterman listens to the reports while gripping the steering wheel. He is full
of bitachon and emuna and he travels about sharing his bitachon
and emuna with Israeli soldiers who are in the midst of these
been a while now since he began this special campaign of distributing booklets
to I.D.F. soldiers. The booklets discuss the mitzva of t’fillin
and contain chapters of Tehillim for protection, as a segula, and
for bitachon. Since the uprising on Rosh HaShana, Rabbi Ritterman has
stepped up this campaign. Nearly 50,000 booklets have been distributed on the
different trips he has made, accompanied by two or three other enthusiastic
Ritterman, what inspired you all of a sudden?
light of the serious situation, I decided to raise the morale of our soldiers. I
didn’t come up with this idea; credit must be given the Rebbe MH"M, who
in 5704 (1944), at the height of World War II, printed booklets of encouragement
for Jewish soldiers. The booklets contained a compilation of letters of the
Rebbe Rayatz with words of encouragement to the soldiers, in addition to
chapters of Tehillim.
on this idea, I also compiled letters the Rebbe wrote to the I.D.F. soldiers and
to various generals about the importance of Mitzvas T’fillin,
especially for the soldiers. The Rebbe gives warm blessings for the safety of
the soldiers. I included the same chapters of Tehillim that the Rebbe
printed, along with Krias Shma and pertinent laws of t’fillin.
This is what I distribute among the soldiers as protection from the enemy.
did you start this project?
began five years ago, when I distributed thousands of booklets on t’fillin
to the soldiers entering Lebanon. There was a great demand for it them.
first they were printed in a large-sized format, but when I saw that the
soldiers needed to put them in their pockets for personal shmira (protection),
I printed them in a pocket-size edition with a picture of the Rebbe on the
after they left Lebanon?
that point, I got involved in other things.
things started happening Erev Rosh HaShana. How did you manage to get organized
was really an incredible act of hashgacha pratis. One day at the
beginning of Elul, I was with Rabbi Tzvi Slonim, the shaliach in Mitzpeh
Rimon, and I showed him the booklet. He loved it, and on the spot he promised
his help in getting 10,000 more copies printed. Although it was quiet at the
time, we printed 10,000 additional booklets, and remarkably, the booklets
arrived at my house on Erev Rosh HaShana.
Motzaei Rosh HaShana we began receiving reports about the uprising and the next
day I was ready to travel to where the soldiers were stationed.
went around to the bases and various military posts, and saw soldiers thirsting
for encouragement in their intolerable situation. I saw their longing for a good
word, and when I gave them the booklets I could see the joy in their eyes.
period reminds me a great deal of the time before and during the Six Day War,
when there was great fear and confusion. Chabad Chassidim went to the soldiers
and put t’fillin on with them. But what was most important was that
they lifted their spirits and gave them hope. The soldiers are in the line of
fire with despair in their eyes (in no small part thanks to the policy of
restraint forced upon them) and are thrilled when they see us show up. They
thank us with all their hearts for coming. Some of them said not to forget them
around Chanuka time...
Ritterman’s team consists of Rabbi Yaakov Tzirkus, Rabbi Elimelech Kobalkin,
and Rabbi Yeshaya Isaacowitz. They travel together fearlessly, putting on t’fillin
with the soldiers, giving out booklets, and inviting others to join them
in joyous dancing. They put their hands on the soldiers’ shoulders and dance.
At times they see the Palestinians in the distance.
distribute Actualia, which contains statements of the Rebbe about the
danger in giving away land, and what will happen as a result of doing so –
which we are seeing come true every day, r’l. They also sign up
soldiers for a letter in a Torah as a segula for protection.
do the soldiers react?
tell you what happened last Sunday. We went to the Central Bus Station in Tel
Aviv, where thousands of soldiers were on their way to various bases around the
country. I went over to one of them and offered him the booklet. He smiled in
response and began searching his knapsack. A moment later he had withdrawn the
very same, though worn out, booklet. Seeing the surprised look on my face, he
proceeded to tell me that I had given it to him two years before, moments before
he had entered Lebanon. "In the merit of this booklet I managed to get out
of Lebanon alive," he said.
one example of many. I think of that soldier who received the booklet from me,
sitting on his own in a free moment and taking out the booklet and reading some
chapters of Tehillim, or the Rebbe’s comforting words written with
boundless love for our soldiers.
week a Jew from Afula called who regularly orders booklets from me. I asked him
why he was so enthusiastic about them, and he said, "Zev, you have no idea
what your booklets are doing for the soldiers. I personally know soldiers who
began putting on t’fillin after reading the booklets."
all the soldiers gladly accept your booklet?
refuses to take it, especially not those who are in dangerous areas. Just
yesterday I met a soldier who is a new Russian immigrant, and I offered him a
booklet. He told me that although he was Jewish, he was not shomer mitzvos
(observant, though the word shomer literally means to guard or protect).
I replied, "But this booklet will protect you," and I saw his eyes
light up. He took the booklet and blessed me for it, too.
you heard any stories about soldiers being saved as a result?
can tell you a story we see as an amazing miracle as a result of the booklet. We
went to Beis Lechem and distributed the booklet and put t’fillin on
with the soldiers. They didn’t let us go to Kever Rochel, because the entire
area was closed off. We asked the soldiers at the military post at the entrance
to Beis Lechem to give additional booklets to the soldiers who were at Kever
Rochel, and they promised to do so. We saw a tremendous amount of inspiration
next day, at the same spot where we had been with the soldiers, a bomb exploded,
though miraculously it blew up early, together with the terrorists who had set
it. I was certain that putting on t’fillin there had protected the
days, when even old, established Yerushalmi neighborhoods such as Gilo are on
the front lines, the team of Lubavitchers was there to encourage the residents
and distribute the booklet. "Actually, more than we encouraged them,
they encouraged us," said R’ Ritterman. "People read what the
Rebbe said and are amazed that the only one who correctly foresaw what would
happen was the Rebbe. They see how the Rebbe’s prophecies are taking place
before their very eyes."
Ritterman has spent many years instilling the mitzva of t’fillin
within the non-religious population. He published a book, suitable for all types
of people, about the mitzva of t’fillin, and various booklets on
the subject. These days he is focusing on the soldiers.
date, 50,000 booklets have been distributed. But that isn’t enough, for the
demand continues to grow. Anash are asked to help print another beautiful
edition and to distribute it.
Ritterman, what pushed you to leave everything else you’ve been busy with and
to devote yourself to this project?
like to tell you a story which taught me the importance of Mivtza T’fillin
and how it helps bring salvation to the soldiers. When I was a member of Kibbutz
Shaar HaGolan, I once went to pick bananas with a friend, in the course of which
we got into a heated debate about religion, with my friend being in favor...
friend, a pilot in the air force, suddenly stopped and said he had to tell me
something. He told me about his group leader in HaShomer HaTzair who was a
commander of a tank. "One day, after the Six Day War, he took us to the
Kosel. When we got there, a Lubavitcher came over and asked him to put on t’fillin,
saying that the t’fillin shel rosh would protect his head. Despite his
pleading, the youth leader refused to put on t’fillin. A week later he
was drafted and at some point when he put his head out of the turret, he took a
fellow banana picker, raised in HaShomer HaTzair, told me this story because he
realized how important the mitzva of t’fillin is. As Chassidim
trained by the Rebbe, who encouraged us to put t’fillin on with the
soldiers, based on the verse, "And the nations of the land will see that
the name of Hashem is called upon you and they will fear you," we don’t
have to elaborate on the importance of putting t’fillin on with the
soldiers, especially these days.
is the privilege and obligation of every one of us to intensify this mivtza
and to publicize the Rebbe’s besuras ha’Geula and the shocking
prophecies about the situation we are currently experiencing in Eretz Yisroel.
the tremendous amount of work you do, how can you possibly reach everyone?
are assisted by others. Last week, with the help of the Yesha council, we sent a
large quantity of booklets to 140 yishuvim throughout Yesha, so that the
security forces can distribute them to the soldiers serving there. Many
residents in the line of fire received the booklet and we have received great
feedback. This past week, with Rochel Imeinu’s yahrtzeit on 11
Cheshvan, we stepped up our work in the area of Beis Lechem.
days, when we are at war, Anash must get involved by quoting the Rebbe,
visiting our soldiers, and putting t’fillin on them. In the merit of t’fillin
we will vanquish our enemies.
Isaacowitz adds, "We travel around and see the tremendous his’orerus
with our own eyes. We have to take advantage of this opportunity when the Jewish
people want to hear the truth. It’s a pity we don’t have enough manpower,
for the more people who go out, the more soldiers we’ll reach.
the booklet, we also distribute kits which contain a small Tehillim and a
pushka. Last week we gave out a thousand of these kits to soldiers, and
the demand is growing. We hope to fill the demand with the help of the meshaleiach,
the Rebbe MH"M. (See Beis Moshiach issue #270)