This week, we learn, read and live the Torah reading Bamidbar, we say (and study) the sixth chapter of Pirkei Avos, and we celebrate Shavuos, the Holiday in which we were given the Torah, this coming Wednesday and Thursday.
It was on Shabbos Bamidbar 5727, on the 24th of Iyar, Shabbos Mevarchim Sivan, 50 years ago, that the Rebbe launched the famous "Tefillin Campaign", - מבצע תפילין, just two days before the Six Day War began.
The Rebbe requested that his followers put on Tefillin with soldiers of the IDF (and on all Jewish males over 13) as a means of protection for Israel and its citizens.
The Talmud explicitly states that the Torah verse וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה? נקרא עליך - that the nations of the world will see that the name of G-d is upon you - ויראו ממך - and they will fear you - alludes to the Tefillin of the head.
The Rebbe mentioned how Tefillin lengthens the years of man, and that it will assist in Israel's victory and how Tefillin is compared and equaled to all the Mitzvos!
This was the first of the Rebbe's worldwide Mitzvah Campaigns, and several days later, Jerusalem was miraculously reunited, and a permanent Tefillin booth was established at the Western Wall.
Millions of Jews have put on Tefillin at the Western Wall, and throughout the world, thanks to this campaign.
I was fortunate to see this campaign firsthand in its initial stages. As a ten year old boy, I occasionally joined my late brother Sroli ז?ל, (Rabbi Yisroel Tennenhaus) who was very skilled in encouraging young men to put on Tefillin, as he put on Tefillin with students at McGill University and at Expo 67.
When a young man would question my brother "how can I put on Tefillin when I don't believe"? - my brother would respond: Believing is one Mitzvah. Tefillin is another Mitzvah. If we start to philosophize right now about this subject (belief) we might get into a very long discussion, that may last beyond sunset. By then it will be too late to put on Tefillin.
So today, let's put on Tefillin right now. Tomorrow, let's talk about belief.
More often than naught, the young man my brother encountered would yield and acquiesce, and the mission was accomplished !
There was recently published a beautiful story with an historical background of Mivtzah Tefillin in the Iyar Edition of the Chassidishe Derher.
The article mentioned the dedicated involvement of the Rabbonim of Montreal, as they immediately got involved in The Tefillin Campaign.
Indeed, Rabbi Isaac L Hechtman, ז?ל, the executive director of the Vaad Ha'ir (Jewish Community Council) in Montreal, was mentioned in the Derher as the one responsible for helping this campaign reach the public schools in Montreal.
I personally remember how my father ז?ל, Reb (Avrohom) Dovid Tennenhaus came home one day, very excited, that the Vaad Ha'ir and Rabbi Hechtman had arranged the purchase of about ten pairs of Tefillin for my father's "Tefillin Club", in the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal.
The Tefillin Club was started by my father, shortly after he left the Bais Yaakov and Hertzliah High Schools (where he taught Latin, French and Math) to teach French in public school.
It was in September of 1967, shortly after the Six Day War, and my father was now teaching for the Protestant School Board.
He immediately launched a Tefillin Club for the boys, that opened up each day, one hour before school. This started first in the Strathcona and Outremont High Schools, and then at Wagar High School in the seventies and early eighties, until he left teaching due to failing health.
Every day, scores of boys would put on Tefillin!
Every week, hundreds of boys would put on Tefillin!
Every year, thousands of boys would put on Tefillin!
Multiply that by 18 years, and the amount of times my father put on Tefillin with teenage boys (and teachers) is staggering!
The irony was that The Protestant(!) School Board allocated a special classroom for this Tefillin Campaign!
Rarely did a boy say "no" to putting on Tefillin with Mr Tennenhaus, especially because it was known, that you won't fail French if you put on Tefillin!
Until today, in my Shul in Hallandale Beach, I often meet visiting middle aged men, who either fondly remember putting on Tefillin with my father in high school, as well as numerous individuals who became "every day " Tefillin wearers, thanks to the head start they received in the Tefillin Club.
In the Annual High School Yearbook, included in the various clubs, which of course were all secular in nature, was the Tefillin Club. My father had the gift to inspire the students to put on Tefillin with the same enthusiasm as they would be playing (lehavdil) sports.
I have included a picture in one of the high school yearbooks of the Tefillin Club, proudly displayed amongst the "other" clubs.
Attached are also two letters written by the Rebbe to my father. One is a letter two years after the Tefillin Campaign was launched, that emphasizes how relevant the Tefillin Campaign is today, long after its initiation. The letter was written to numerous Chassidim, and is published in volume 26 of the Rebbe's Letters - אגרות קודש.
The second letter concludes with the Rebbe telling my father, that the merit of his involvement in the Tefillin Campaign will benefit him greatly in many ways.
Let us utilize this "Shabbat Achdus", this Shabbos of unity as the Rebbe referred to the Shabbos before Shavuos, to unify ourselves with Ahavas Yisroel and Achdus Yisroel, and to strengthen our uniting ourselves with every Jew in the world, via the Rebbe's Mitzvah Campaigns, including and especially the Tefillin Campaign.
Good Shabbos. Good Chodesh. Chag Sameach!
Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus
THE MOSHIACH WATCH: Shavuot is connected with three specific Torah luminaries: Moshe, who gave us from Hashem the Torah from Mt Sinai; King David, whose Yahrzeit is Shavuos, who made Jerusalem the capital, and gave us the Psalms - Tehillim; and Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov, whose Yahrzeit is also Shavuos, and who gave us Chassidus, the innermost teachings of Torah.
These three names, משה , ישראל and דוד , can be used in an acronym - מי?ד - emphasizing that by daily reciting Chumash (the Torah of Moshe), Tehillim (the songs of David) and Tanya (Chassidus based on the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov) we will merit Moshiach מיד - right away!