“We go out there like soldiers, with a mission to conquer the world with light, with goodness, with kindness,” said Yishai Eliefja, 23, a Hasidic Jew who works for the Chabad Lubavitch’s “mitzvah tanks,” or “synagogues on wheels.”
The mitzvah tanks, which will resume operation on Wednesday now that Passover has ended, were inspired by the teachings of the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson and aim to engage secular Jews in acts of tradition and prayer in order to advance the coming of the Messiah.
“We look at the mitzvah tanks as the front line Marines in the rebbe’s arsenal,” said Rabbi Mordy Hirsch, who is also involved with the administering of the mitzvah tanks. “People are depressed today. Everyone has their worries, their headaches. The mitzvah tanks idea is a warm, comfortable home environment in the hustle and bustle of Fifth Avenue.”
Although the tanks are a familiar sight in certain neighborhoods in New York City, a parade of 61 tanks — symbolizing each year since the rebbe ascended to leadership in Crown Heights, Brooklyn — snaked through the city on April 14.
“We invite them in the tank, to have something to eat, something to drink, and we have a blessing,” said Yishai Eliefja, the bearded 23-year-old driver of one of the mitzvah tanks. “Instead of going to the synagogue, we bring the synagogue to you.”