Fifty tefillin in one day seems like a tall order. But Rabbi Yisroel Stone, co-director of Chabad of the Lower East Side, was up for the challenge.
The mivzta of tefillin has always been one that was very close to his heart- he is known throughout the Lower East Side and Midtown for his never fading energy and commitment to wrap tefillin with every Jew he meets, even featuring in an article in the Wall Street Journal.
With the 50th anniversary of the original tefillin campaign approaching, Rabbi Stone knew that he wanted to do something special to commemorate this important day.
After some thought, he decided to set the goal to wrap tefillin with 50 people that would not regularly put on tefillin, all in one day- Chof Hey Iyar, May 21st.
The preparation began the previous week, with emails, texts, Facebook posts and whatsapps, announcing to the community his intended project, and welcoming them to participate and help him reach his goal. The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
The day of the tefillin marathon had an early start, with Rabbi Stone leaving at 4:30 am to put on tefillin with the first member of the campaign. He spent the day walking all over the Lower East Side wrapping tefillin, and keeping a tally running on the Chabad Facebook page.
Rabbi Stone went to storefronts, outside subway stations, and to a local Greek Jewish street festival, encouraging the people that he met to put on tefillin, repeating his slogan “Do it for Israel”, and explaining the connection to the original campaign during the Six Day War. The individuals who wrapped tefillin included two who had never put on tefillin before, as well as those from places outside New York, who had not dreamed that their visit to the Big Apple would give them the chance to do this mitza, and participate in reaching the goal.
By early evening, the goal was reached. Fifty men who would not have otherwise done so had put on tefillin, and walked away happy, inspired and uplifted. Photo were taken with each individual, and many requested a copy to keep. Rabbi Stone commented- “What was special about this campaign is that many individuals who have refused to put on tefillin in the past were inspired to do so, from a desire to help reach fifty. It gave them that extra push that they needed.”
“My father proclaimed at a farbrengen: Just as wearing tefillin every day is a Mitzva commanded by the Torah to every individual regardless of his standing in Torah” (Hayom Yom Tevet 22).
The Hayom Yom of the birthday of Rabbi Stone is apropos, as the mivtza of tefillin has always been one that was very close to his heart. Everyone he knows is aware of his intense commitment to bringing yiddishkeit to every Jew that he meets, especially through riding on a mitzva tank, wrapping tefillin with friends and strangers alike.