Tales from the Mitzvah Tank
Writing for the Wall Street Journal, America’s largest newspaper, Allan Ripp profiles one of Chabad’s Mitzvah Tanks – a synagogue on wheels that provide New Yorkers with blessings—and house calls.
From The Wall Street Journal by Allan Ripp:
A few months ago, I popped into a Winnebago parked at the corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, right across from Tiffany and Bergdorf Goodman. This was the Mitzvah Tank, a roving synagogue on wheels operated by the Chabad Lubavitch movement. The “tank” brings old-school Judaism to high-traffic parts of New York. In five minutes or less, anyone can drop by for a quick blessing and some Talmudic wisdom.
I wanted to honor my dad—it would have been his 98th birthday—by putting on tefillin, the miniature black box containing verses of Torah that observant Jews attach to their forehead to be physically closer to God. As a child, I had watched him go through the ritual with his father and found it spellbinding, though I always need a tutorial.
Stepping into the tank was like entering a rabbi’s study, with biblical texts on the table and laminated prayers taped to the cabinets. Also displayed were portraits of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late, charismatic leader of the Lubavitchers known as the Grand Rebbe. Versions of the tank have been driving around New York since 1974.