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.)
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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
was time to go, so we packed everything back into the van, waved
goodbye to the staff, and children and were on our way.
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.”
don’t you organize a minyan here?” asked Michoel.
tried,” said Joe, “believe me, I tried. I promised prizes and
did everything, but it’s very hard.”
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.”
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.
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.
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!
HASHEM AND THE BOY SCOUTS DANCE AND SING
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
OF THE HAVDALA CANDLE
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.
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…
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.
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."
hoped he would forget about it, but every day he would come home and ask his
mother, "Is it Saturday night yet?"
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
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.
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.
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.