40th Anniversary of the Mitzvah Tank

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By Ruth Judah

On Thursday, April 10th, Yud Aleph Nissan, the boys and girls of Cheder Menachem and Bais Chaya Mushka in Los Angeles, gathered together for a very special Pre Pesach Rally, honoring the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s 112th birthday. For forty years, the Mitzvah tanks have been gathering on the Rebbe’s birthday and driving through city streets reminding Jews to do mitzvot, lay tefillin and enjoy the Passover holiday.

The children at the rally were connected via live video to rallies worldwide, including Melbourne, Montreal, Miami, Golders Green, London and Crown Heights. Rabbi Shalom Duchman, international director of Kollel Chabad was one of the original creators of the mitzvah trucks in 1974 and his brother, Rabbi Duchman arranged this year’s event. Rabbi Duchman was proud to see this year’s event run smoothly and with plenty of enthusiasm.

The Rebbe believed that the Mitzvah trucks would bring Jewish people closer to their heritage. Citing Maimonides, the Rebbe repeated time and again: a single person performing a single mitzvah, could be the deed that tips the scales and brings redemption to the entire world and all of creation.

At the gathering, the boys of the Cheder cheered wildly when their school’s name was called out as the winner of the “highest lines of Tanya bal peh” learned. The event continued with pesukim recited by the boys, in another program run by Rabbi Duchman, who also leads the Rebbe’s Diamond Daveners Children’s Minyan.

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Mitzvah Tanks, Shabi Soffer created an exclusive and memorable video that documents the history of the Mitzvah tank. The video can be viewed at: https://vimeo.com/91872811 The Mitzvah Trucks have been hard at work for many years. The shape of the standard vans or u-haul trucks has modernized but the message hasn’t needed to change: the vans are a place to come and do mitzvot and to receive the tools to let you take mitzvot home with you. The logos are the same as they were in the early days, “Mitzvot On The Spot, For People On The Go.” “Bringing Light And kindness To Young And Old.”

The crowd moved outside to a noisy celebration as the 12 Mitzvah Tanks drove off through the streets of Hollywood, spreading Passover awareness. Many of the Cheder boys were thrilled to be onboard. The L.A.P.D. kindly lent their support which made the parade possible. The mitzvah tanks were then dispersed to UCLA, SMC, Beverly Hills Public Schools, Downtown Los Angeles, Hancock Park, The Grove, and other high schools citywide. The boys distributed over 3,000 hand baked Matzohs, guides, kid’s magazines and other mivtzoim materials.

The next event has now been confirmed as the Great Lag BaOmer Parade on Sunday, May 18th and the streets of Pico and Doheny will be closed for a morning of celebration. Rabbi Duchman has hinted that plans are in the works for floats, marching bands and other festivities.
The L.A. Mitzvah Tank office would like to thank Kol Yakov Yehuda, Cheder Menachem, Unzere Kinder foundation, Congregation Levi Yitzchak, Kol Avrohom-Bais Bezalel, Chabad Persian Youth, the devoted drivers, the bochurim, and our Tankistim who all helped and participated in the beautiful community wide present to the Rebbe. Also, a special thanks to Los Angeles Askan Rabbi Yankee Raichick for arranging the permits and police escort.