The war in Israel has left many grappling with a mix of emotions – worry, anguish, and acute distress, due to the innocents murdered and kidnapped by Hamas, the subsequent deployment of IDF soldiers into Gaza resulting in IDF casualties, and the disturbing distortion of the narrative. In a surreal turn, the perpetrators of violence are portrayed as victims, while the true victims are unjustly cast as aggressors.
Amidst the chaos, a ray of light emerges in the form of an initiative, “Tzitzit for Tzahal” workshops, spearheaded by Rabbi Chayim B. Alevsky. The goal is to create actual tzitzit, tying strings onto a four-cornered garment made of military approved khaki green cotton t-shirt fabric, to send to IDF soldiers, and is now being taken up by communities nation-wide. It is a very timely need, as many soldiers on the frontlines are reportedly experiencing siyata dishmaya and though they don’t regularly wear tzitzit, there has been an overwhelming surge in requests for them.
Upon learning of the soldiers’ requests, Rabbi Alevsky wanted to engage the larger Jewish community to participate in the mitzvah, and said, “This is how we go to battle, we are spiritually arming our troops.” At each workshop, Alevsky demonstrates and guides attendees on how to properly tie kosher tzitzit, and hangs a large model of strings from the ceiling in the center of the room that can be constantly referred to. He said, “This is an opportunity to not only express solidarity, but actively participate in a tangible act that symbolizes a collective effort to envelop the soldiers in a spiritual shield, a cloak of spiritual energy and prayers that transcends the physical realm of war.”
Depending on the needs and desires of each community, the program entails the tzitzit tying workshop, creating custom-made cards filled with divrei chizuk that accompany each pair of tzitzit delivered to an IDF soldier, and for those who want to participate but are too young to tie tzitzit, creating beaded bracelets with messages of “Am Yisrael Chai” to be distributed in Israel. Some people also write prayerful notes on the tzitzit itself.
The most recent Tzitzit for Tzahal workshop was held last Sunday in both, North Miami Beach and Surfside, Florida. Rabbi Eli Laufer, program director of Bais Menachem of North Miami Beach, explains that the community sought a hands-on project that could involve everyone, and it was his wife, Rebbetzin Musia Laufer, who orchestrated and facilitated all the necessary preparations for this initiative where they completed fifty tzitzit.
Rabbi Laufer said they deemed Tzitzit for Tzahal to be the perfect undertaking at the opportune moment, as it served as a convergence of faith and action. He said, “Wearing tzitzit is like putting on a bullet-proof vest, it is a mitzvah that not only safeguards the body – it is a ritual mitzvah and also acts as a spiritual vest. These fringes aren’t just some accessory – they set a yid apart from a non-Jew and they encompass all of the mitvos.”
Marvin Schiff who participated in the Tzitzit for Tzahal workshop in Cleveland together with his wife Sheila, enthusiastically said, “Rather than writing a check, you’re doing something that will be used by someone to change their life, and change them. I felt whoever receives my tzitzit will feel the physical effort I put into creating them, and at the same time I could feel their sweat and toil on the frontlines.” Sheila Schiff spoke of a profound duality between feeling both sorrow and joy, “We all knew of the somber events in Israel and why we were there, however, a compelling sense of purpose demanded our concentrated focus to properly tie the strands, and a wave of pride surged within us at the realization that someone would soon wear the tzitzit we created.”
At the New York City workshop, Haim Waisman, a professor at Columbia University said, “The IDF soldiers are fighting there, while we are on the frontlines here in New York City, where we are few against many [at Columbia].” He expressed a heartfelt prayer saying, “B’ezrat Hashem, may our hand-made tzitzit serve as a personal spiritual Iron Dome protecting our IDF heroes and bring them home safe and sound after defeating the greatest evil, Hamas-ISIS.” In describing the tzitzit workshop, Prof. Waisman said, “The tzitzit experience was one of the most unique and gratifying experiences I have ever had. Not only did I do something meaningful for IDF soldiers, I myself was in the IDF 30 years ago, but I also felt that it was a true kiddush Hashem.”
After the meticulous creation of the tzitzit, the last crucial step involves transporting them to the IDF. Rabbi Alevsky faced the challenge of finding reliable couriers for this task. He approached the head of security at El Al at JFK International airport, explaining the situation and was enthusiastically assisted. Subsequently, the tzitzit make their way to Israel where Mr. Nissim, a dedicated individual from Eilat who visits military bases daily to distribute essential items, picks up the tzitzit and bridges the gap between creation and delivering them into the hands of those who not only need, but are actively requesting them.
Rabbi Chayim B. Alevsky, who is willing to travel to any community to conduct the Tzitzit for Tzahal workshop, said, “When things get tough, we tackle it head-on with the strength of mitzvos and prayer. We’re not just talking about it; we’re putting our support into action. We heard the soldiers are asking for tzitzit, so we’re answering their request, and together the Jewish people are stronger and more united than ever.”
To bring the Tzitzit for Tzahal workshop to your community and for additional information, you can visit: https://MitzvahWorkshops.com.