The annual Mitzvah Tank Parade marking Yud Alef Nissan, unable to take place in its classical format due to coronavirus, adapted to social distancing and had bochurim personally deliver packages of Shmura Matzah across NYC.
By Aharon Loschak for Chabad.org
Repurposed RVs as “Mitzvah Tanks” are a familiar sight on the streets of New York City every year during the days before Passover. Staffed by young yeshivah students armed with shmurah matzah, these “tanks” roll through the city and deliver the traditional handmade discs to thousands of Jews across the metropolis.
This year, the repurposed “tanks” have been repurposed yet again—as roving billboards announcing to the world that shmurah matzah is available to be delivered to your door, social-distancing-style.
For Chabad Rabbis Mordy Hirsch and Moshe Shmuckler, who co-direct the “Mitzvah Tank Office” under the auspices of the Lubavitch Youth Organization in New York City, the weeks before Passover are usually frantically busy with work for the Mitzvah Tank parade, held every year to honor the anniversary of the birth of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—on the 11th day of Nissan. But as the days wore closer, and the social-distancing rules in place due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic made the prospect of hitting the streets and interacting so closely with passersby impossible, initial thoughts were that this year, their offices would sadly be shuttered.
Not to be deterred, after some creative brainstorming, they came up with a plan: There are so many people in their homes who will probably not get a chance to procure their own matzah, so let’s bring the matzah to them! To get the word out, they rented roving billboard trucks to circulate the city.
“We recorded a message of hope to blast from the trucks,” Hirsch told Chabad.org. “We wanted to let people know that we are united as a city, and that if they have any holiday needs, particularly shmurah matzah, we were there for them.”
Indeed, the duo set up a dedicated website (matzah.nyc) for anyone to order.
“We have fielded hundreds of requests, carefully packing the matzah and delivering it with only one person under maximum health guidelines to the lucky recipient,” said Hirsch.
Fulfilling Hundreds of Requests
The campaign has taken off on Twitter. Scroll through the Mitzvah Tank feed and you’ll find many retweets, as people isolated at home are finding their holiday needs through the social network. “Thank you to the @MitzvahTank crew who delivered shmurah hand matzah to me today, for free, with masks and social distancing! DM them if you or a friend need a matzah delivery,” tweeted Elissa Shevinsky. “Thank you for the special delivery, chag sameach [happy holiday],” tweeted Laruen Young, along with a picture of the matzah and the accompanying letter.
With the nature of social media, the campaign caught fire, and requests are coming in from friends, and friends of friends, to deliver to contacts all over the city.
So while the campaign was scheduled to end on Tuesday, Hirsch and Shmuckler have extended it another day and are doing their best to deliver matzah to every person who needs it.
The city may be hunkered down at home, but tradition continues, and the Jewish holiday of freedom rings truer than ever, say organizers. As their audio message blares through the deserted streets of the city: “Remember to wash your hands—and remember Whose hands you are in.”