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The Rebbe’s Army
Shlomo ben Rokeach spent the day with the Shofar Factory along with R’ 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 2 of 2 (Click here for Part 1.)

Michoel made a slight turn and the van veered off onto a narrow side road. A sign on the roadside led us to the camp, which was located between two large mountains and overlooking a lovely lake nestled between them.

An older counselor waited for us at the entrance to the camp. Michoel greeted him enthusiastically, “Joe, who would have thought we’d meet after so many years!” Joe worked for the Boy Scouts and had joined forces with Tzivos Hashem. He was the one who had invited us to come.

After a short, friendly conversation, we arrived at the camp dining room, where the workshop would take place. We unloaded the stuff from the van and then I watched Michoel “do his thing.” It was unbelievable how quickly he got to work on the presentation display. He used an electric drill and begin building. I turned aside to speak to one of the counselors and before I realized what was happening, the Shofar Factory was already in place.

On the walls that had just been assembled were deer heads with long, curvy horns. The children are shown which animals’ horns can be used to make a shofar. The table at the center of the factory had drills and other tools, as well as long shofars and other items that would be displayed later. The head counselor took one of the long shofars and tried to blow it. He blew a long tekia and decided to gather the children the “Biblical way.” He went out to the field and blew as loudly as he could.

The room quickly filled with about fifty excited children. They sat on long benches and looked curiously at the equipment that filled the room. In the meantime, Michoel finished his final preparations and the workshop got underway. There were quite a few staff members who stayed for the entire presentation voluntarily.

Michoel explained to the children about the different types of animals. “This is a rabbinic goat,” he said, stroking the beard on one of the goats. You can only fashion a shofar from the horn of a kosher animal. Who knows which are the kosher animals and how you can tell? (It was amazing to see how he made each question entertaining): “What kosher sign appears on a kosher animal? Does it have an O.K. on one foot and an O.U. on the other?”

Then he explained how the shofar has to come from an animal with hollow horns, and he called upon one of the children to remove the insides of the horn to demonstrate what he was talking about. Using the appropriate tools, one of them held onto the outer layer of the horn, the shofar, while the other one grasped the insides. The children giggled as the two assistants tugged at the horn until they finally separated it. Michoel explained that they were able to do so only after most of the work of soaking and softening had already been done.

The children listened closely to the different methods of making a shofar, about the difference between making a shofar from a ram’s horn and making a shofar from a deer’s horn, and the different processes used today. Along the way, Michoel told the children about the ram that replaced Yitzchok and how one of its horns will be blown to announce the coming of Moshiach.

Michoel skillfully guided the children through the laws of shofar and many other laws as well. The children were fascinated. It looked like the staff members were surprised to see how cooperative the children were. Michoel called upon two children to demonstrate how to properly cut the tip of the shofar and then asked, “Did you all understand? Let’s get to work!”

The children took work gloves and in pairs got busy sawing off the tips of their own shofars that had been distributed to each of them. Mendy and Chani circulated among the children lending a helping hand where needed. The room was full of the sounds of people working. It felt good to walk around and see the satisfied looks on the children’s faces as they busied themselves with their holy work.

Joe told us the reason why he thought it was so important that we come. “Most of the children get a poor education. I’d be surprised if they learned anything about the holiday. I knew I just had to get you out here.”

The children finished stage one and brought the shofars to Michoel for him to drill out the mouthpiece. They grasped their shofar at one end while Michoel drilled the other end. “Hold it. Hold it tight,” he told them, “so it’ll come out good.”

The time flew by but we hardly noticed. Most of the children had already finished preparing their shofars. They brought them over for a final filing and then they shellacked them.

Children came over to us with their shofars. Their eyes sparkled as they demonstrated how great their shofar sounded. Michoel suggested that they use the sawed off tips as key chains. The kids jumped at the idea and rushed over to do that, too.

In the meantime, other children throughout the camp who heard about the workshop came over asking if they could also get shofars. Michoel hates to refuse, so he distributed a bunch of shofars to them.

It was time to go, so we packed everything back into the van, waved goodbye to the staff, and children and were on our way.

Joe accompanied us to the entrance and said, “You know something, thank G-d we got a lot of Judaism in the camp this summer. We brought you out, as well as other rabbis. I organized classes too, but I think this is my last summer here. I can’t be in this environment any more. I should daven with a minyan every day. I don’t belong here.”

“Why don’t you organize a minyan here?” asked Michoel.

“I tried,” said Joe, “believe me, I tried. I promised prizes and did everything, but it’s very hard.”

Michoel said, “Listen, I can’t tell you exactly what the Rebbe would say in this specific instance, but on many occasions the Rebbe told people to remain in places with difficult spiritual conditions. It’s important that you realize the significance of your being here. In a way, you’re all the Yiddishkeit that there is here. You should know,” Michoel continued, “that there are Lubavitchers who try for years to ‘get inside’ places like this in order to be able to better influence people, and you’re already here. Think about it.”

* * *

As the van drove through the wooded areas, images of the day’s adventures flashed through my mind. It was hard to digest it all. Mendy broke the silence by asking whether we should stop for Mincha. Michoel said that he hoped to catch Mincha at 770.

The van crossed the bridge as the sun moved down and seemed to be suspended between the skyscrapers of the city we were approaching. Michoel continued to tell me about the other workshops and how each one is connected to Moshiach and Geula. During the Sukka workshop the children hear about aliya l’regel and how it will happen again soon. The tzitzis workshops teach them about the Jewish people being gathered from all four corners of the world. While making parchment they learn the meaning of is’hapcha, transforming animal skin into a holy object, and how the material world has been refined in Galus in order to prepare for Moshiach. They also learn about how Eretz Yisroel will expand with the final Redemption.

As the van drove into Crown Heights, Michoel described his ideas for a new workshop, one for building the third Beis HaMikdash. We left the van and dashed off for Mincha, hoping that the workshops and all other projects would bring about the long-awaited hisgalus of the Rebbe MH”M now!





At one of the Boy Scout jamborees we participated in, there was a group of Scouts from Eretz Yisroel, from one of the Shomer HaTzair kibbutzim. They were called up to the stage right after us and sang some Israeli songs.

At first the children refused to leave the workshops. That is until we promised that we would continue after the performance. Throughout the performance the children looked bored, with an expression of "Nu, when will this be over already?"

One of our people saw this and went over to one of the performers and said, "If you sing a song everybody knows then we’ll join in and dance on the stage. They liked the idea and began singing a song that was originally a Chassidic niggun. Some of us jumped on stage and danced with them.

The organizers of the event, who weren’t Orthodox Jews, were not pleased. They didn’t think it was right for kids from HaShomer HaTzair, who ought to keep their distance from us, to dance with us on stage. One of them came over and told us to get down.

We did as he requested and got down and stood off to the side. As the program was about to end, one of the performers announced, "We’ll end with a song that is very popular in Eretz Yisroel: "Ani Maamin... Moshiach, Moshiach, Moshiach..." Naturally, we jumped back on stage and danced and danced.



A few years ago, I was invited to do a big event at the Sephardic community center in New York. The organizers don’t have warm ties with Chabad, yet they asked us to do all our workshops in one day.

At the end of the day we worked hard arranging and packing up our equipment, and the program coordinator came over and helped us. At some point she turned to me and said, "We put our son in a religious school this year." "Great," I said without noticing that there was something special she was alluding to in what she said. As she went on, I understood that we were invited that day for a reason…

Two years before, she and her husband and child had attended a big event in Long Island. While the parents went over to one of the exhibits, their six-year-old son went to the Tzivos Hashem tent where we had the Havdala workshop.

The boy enjoyed it tremendously and made a Havdala candle and a besamim holder. That very night when they returned home, he asked his mother to light the Havdala candle. She couldn’t understand what had gotten into her son and figured he would get over it soon. "You don’t light a Havdala candle tonight, she said. "A Havdala candle is lit on Saturday night."

She hoped he would forget about it, but every day he would come home and ask his mother, "Is it Saturday night yet?"

On Motzaei Shabbos, the boy prepared for the Havdala ceremony. His mother lit the candle and the besamim were at hand, when he suddenly shouted, "Hey, one minute! We need wine. That’s how we did it at the workshop."

His mother got some grape juice and the ceremony was about to begin when the boy cried out, "One minute, Daddy has to do it. That’s how we did it at the workshop." The father was called over to perform the ceremony.

I don’t know if they got all the details right, but they did what they could. The scene repeated itself for a few weeks in a row, but the candle was getting very small and within a few weeks, there was only a stub of wax left. The boy asked his mother for a new candle. She got him one and then began to think that if she was doing Havdala, she might as well light Shabbos candles.

Shabbos candles were accompanied by Kiddush, and one thing led to another. Now the mother told me her son was in a religious school, and of course, it is much clearer now why she invited us to present our workshops at the center she runs.




A Tzivos Hashem van at the Boy Scouts campgrounds

A child of one of the clubs gets kos shel bracha from the Rebbe MH”M


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