Chabad mitzvah campaigns
Mitzvah Campaigns, or Mivtzo'im (Heb. מבצעים) is a term coined by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, leader of the Chabad movement, to refer to his various initiatives calling his followers, and all Jews, to reach out to less affiliated Jews and encourage them to undertake specific practices of Orthodox Judaism. The Rebbe suggested ten possible "beginner's mitzvot"—precepts which, because of their centrality to the Torah's guide to life, are ideally suited for a first experience of the mitzvah connection.
"You shall spread out"
He encapsulated his outreach activity in the slogan of "Uforatzto" (Heb. ופרצת) "you shall spread out." The origin of this phrase is in God's words to Ya'akov, "You shall spread out to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south." Rabbi Schneerson would use it in a borrowed sense to refer to the global scale of the outreach activities that he was calling for.
Rabbi Schneerson's general outreach activity began already in the early years of leadership, but was accelerated with the call for encouraging these specific practices.
History of the Ten Campaigns
The first Mitzvah Campaign was the Tefillin campaign, an international campaign by Chabad Hasidim to influence all male Jews, regardless of their level of religious observance, to fulfill the mitzvah of Tefillin (phylacteries) daily. Rabbi Schneerson announced this campaign two days before the outbreak of the Six Day War, on June 3, 1967. After the victory of the Six Day War and the liberation of the Western Wall, Rabbi Schneerson intensified this call, and his Hasidim gave hundreds of thousands of Jews the opportunity to don tefillin, many for the first time. "A cable arrived from the Rebbe with instructions to intensify the 'Action Tefillin' throughout Israel, and to immediately establish a Tefillin booth near the Wall where even those who did not regularly observe Tefillin be given the opportunity to do so."
The campaign received some opposition at first. Over the course of that summer, some torah observant Jews raised halakhic questions about the propriety of the campaign. In the fall, Rabbi Schneerson publicly addressed these issues at the farbrengen of parashat bereshit that year, later published in the rabbi's books of Likkutei Sichos. Shortly afterward, the yearly conference of the heads of the World Agudath Israel took place, at which one of the speakers publicly criticized Rabbi Schneerson and the tefillin campaign. Rabbi Schneerson responded to this criticism at the farbrengen of parashat toledot that year.
On one occasion Rabbi Schneerson gave two reasons for his particular choice of campaign, saying, "The first reason is that there is a passage in the Talmudic tractate of Rosh Hashanah which says that once a Jew wears Tefillin on his head—even one time in his life—he falls into a different category as a Jew." Secondly, "When a Jew in Miami sees pictures of Jews at the Western Wall wearing Tefillin, he gets an urge to put on Tefillin himself."
Letter in the Sefer Torah campaign
Schneerson called for Jewish unity by encouraging each Jew to buy a letter in specific Torah scrolls (sefer Torah) and encouraging his followers through the Tzivos Hashem youth group to carry out this campaign. He instructed that all the letters should be purchased prior to the beginning of writing the scroll since he claimed that purchasing a letter in a Torah scroll unites that person with all the other Jews who had purchased letters in the same scroll. Former Chief Rabbi of Israel Mordechai Eliyahu declared of this campaign, "Only a brilliant mind like our master and teacher, genius and splendor of the generation, the holy Rebbe of Lubavitch, may he live long, can come up with such a grand idea of uniting Jewish children through the writing of letters in a Torah scroll. Indeed, only within Torah, and through Torah, is the true unity of close friendship, love, brotherliness, peace, and companionship possible. We must learn from the Rebbe, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that not a single Jewish child remains without Torah, God forbid."
In 1973-1974 other Mitzvah Campaigns were initiated:
- the Torah campaign, that all Jews: men, women, and children, engage in regular Torah study. Of this Rabbi Schneerson said:
|“||One should strive as much as possible, and more, to influence every single Jew, regardless of his location or circumstances, to designate a set time for Torah study. When one encounters a Jew in the street, one should ask him if he has already set a time for Torah study. If he has, one should influence him to increase further—ideally, by influencing him to become a teacher himself.||”|
- the Mezuzah campaign, for every Jewish home to have a Mezuzah on all its doorposts;
- the Tzedaka campaign, that every Jewish home have a prominently-displayed charity box, in which all the family members give charity regularly;
- the campaign for all Jewish homes to be filled with Torah books, inspired by the lesson of the city of Yavneh;
- the campaign for Jewish women and girls to light Shabbos and Yom Tov candles with a blessing, starting from age three, and even earlier.
In 1974-1975 he called for
- the Kashrus campaign, for all Jewish homes to follow the laws of keeping Kosher;
- the Family Purity campaign, that married Jewish women should immerse in the mikveh and keep the laws of niddah.
In 1975-1976 he called for
- the Jewish education campaign, that every Jewish child should study in an Orthodox Jewish school;
- the Love your fellow Jew campaign, which he declared should be henceforth listed as the first and the foundation of all the other campaigns.
From then on Rabbi Schneerson would refer to these outreach activities as "the ten general Mitzvah Campaigns." He emphasised their importance, saying:
|“||In practical terms, each Jew must proceed in Torah and Mitzvos, the channels for his growth being the Ten Mivtzoim, beginning with oneself, and then spreading forth Torah and Jewishness to the fullest extent of his influence ... As stated on the cover page of “Tanya” — “this service is not far removed from you, in the heavens or across the sea, but rather close to you and within your potential, with your mouth and heart, and able to be accomplished in deed”. And as our Sages emphasized, “deed is the most essential.”||”|
Furthermore, he stressed a joyful approach to outreach:
|“||The Mivtzoim should be spread with joy. Just as we fulfill the Mitzvos with joy, so too, must we try to share that joy with others... However, we realize that “serve God with joy,” is a fundamental Torah principle. All our efforts in the Miztzoim must be carried out with joy. This joy, in turn will bring greater success to the Mivtzoim. Our inner joy will light up our faces, and light up our approach toward another Jew. And then, the joy will break down barriers, including the barriers of the person whom we are trying to influence. The happiness will bring us to a complete unity, without any separations.||”|
He also stressed warmth and friendliness:
|“||When he starts to speak with another Jew he might think that the way to bring him to complete fulfillment of the Mitzvos is to show him a sour face, and to let him know that he is unhappy to have to deal with him. We must realize that such actions are contrary to the relations that must exist between one Jew and another. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a fundamental principle of Torah, as the Talmud declares: “the fulfillment of this Mitzvah is the entire Torah and the others are merely an explanation.”||”|
He taught that the Jewish education and love your fellow Jew campaigns are all-encompassing campaigns, of which all the other campaigns are a subset.
Additionally, Rabbi Schneerson called for numerous other campaigns. Some were related to the holidays in that time of year:
- the Shofar campaign, that all Jews to hear the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah;
- the Four Species campaign, that all Jews to perform this Mitzvah on Sukkos;
- the Hanukkah campaign, to bring the joy of Hanukah to all Jews, encouraging them to fulfill the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah. Rabbi Schneerson announced this campaign in 1973. About 60,000 menorah's were given out that year. Today, roughly 350,000 are distributed around the world in Russian, Hebrew, French, Spanish and English. Each includes a package of Hanukkah candles and a guide for the blessings.
- the Purim campaign, to bring the joy of Purim to all Jews, encouraging them to fulfil the Mitzvos of Purim;
- the campaign encouraging all Jews to use Shmurah Matza for the night of the Passover Seder;
- the Lag Ba'Omer campaign, to bring the joy of Lag Ba'Omer to every Jew, especially by organising Lag Ba'Omer parades for Jewish children;
- the campaign that all Jewish children should hear the ten commandments on Shavuos;
- the campaign for all Jews to study Torah on topics related to the Beis HaMikdash during the Three Weeks of mourning.
Others campaigns applied all year round:
- the campaign for all Jews to study Chasidic philosophy;
- the campaign for all Jews to recite before morning prayer the phrase, "I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the positive [Mitzvah], 'Love your fellow as yourself,'" and after prayer to recite the verse, "Indeed, the righteous will extol Your Name; the upright will dwell in Your presence."
- the campaigns against contraception and family planning;
- the campaign for vouchers in parochial schools;
- the campaign against any territorial concessions in the Land of Israel;
- the campaign against the Law of Return endorsing non-Orthodox conversions (see Who is a Jew);
- the campaign for a Moment of silence in public schools;
- the campaign for all Jews to celebrate their Jewish birthdays with a festive gathering, and to undertake to increase in Torah, prayer, and good deeds in the coming year;
- most recently, the campaign for all Jews to study Torah on topics related to belief in the Moshiach and the Jewish redemption; and many more.
Rabbi Schneerson called for intensive activities in the Noahide Campaign, calling on every Jew to reach out to non-Jews to teach and encourage them to adopt the Noahide laws and study Chasidic philosophy. The goal is to spread the concept of divine unity as understood by Chasidic philosophy.
- Mitzva campaigns chabad.org
- Genesis, 28:14
- Levine, Rabbi Sholom Dovber (2009). Treasures From the Chabad Library (in Hebrew, English). Daniel Goldberg. Brooklyn, New York: Library of Agudas Chasidei Chabad and Kehot Publication Society. pp. 22–23, פח. ISBN 978-0-8266-0657-0.
- A Six-Day War Inspiration: Forty Years Later, And Still Binding (www.lubavitch.com)
- Collier, Bernard L. (May 27, 1968). "Hassidic Jews Confront Hippies to Press a Joyous Accasion". New York: New York Times. p. 49.
- Schneerson, Menahem mendel. Likkutei Sichos (in Hebrew) 6. Kehot Publication Society. pp. 271–275. ISBN 0-8266-5724-9.
- Why Tefillin? - First Person
- Excerpts of Sichos delivered by The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson Yud-Gimmel (13th) Tishrei, 5742
- Hitva’aduyot 5745, Vol. 1, pp. 461-2
- Public Address of Vayeishev, 5740
- Shabbos 31a
- Public address of 13 Tammuz, 5742
- Medina, Jennifer (December 18, 2009). "With Tin Menorahs, an Outreach to Promote Faith". New York: The New York Times. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
- Sicha of 25 Kislev 5747 (1987)
- Prayers For Our Times
- Arizal, beg. of Shaar HaKavanos; Pri Etz Chayim Shaar Olam Ha’asiyah, ch. 1.
- Psalms, 140:13
- See Karati Ve'ein Oneh, a compilation of public addresses discussing the Halachic prohibition of surrendering land in the Land of Israel to non-Jews.
- See A birthday: Cause for celebration.
- Likutei Sichot, Vol. 25, p. 192