|Camouflaged bound volumes of the Torah get distributed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.|
As Jews around the world prepare for the upcoming holiday of Shavuot – central to the commemoration of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai is a public reading of the Ten Commandments, which will take place in thousands of communities this Sunday – Jewish servicemen and women who may not be able to take part in public celebrations are awaiting a very special delivery. Thanks to the Florida-based Aleph Institute, Jewish men and women in uniform will receive their very own pocket-sized camouflaged editions of the Five Books of Moses.
The Aleph Institute, a Chabad-Lubavitch organization that caters to the needs of Jewish soldiers and their families, as well as Jewish prisoners, shipped around 1,000 copies of a special military edition of the Lifestyle Books Torah published by Kol Menachem and compiled by Rabbi Chaim Miller. The new soft-covered Gutnick Edition includes the Hebrew text alongside a contemporary translation and running commentary gleaned from classic sources and teachings of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory.
“Jewish service members around the world find it hard sometimes to get Jewish books and materials,” said Rabbi Menachem Katz, director of outreach programs at the Aleph Institute. “Getting a camouflaged Torah that they can carry around helps them feel special, and at the same time, they don’t stand out.”
In keeping with the custom to eat dairy foods on Shavuot, Aleph also sent individual-sized cheesecakes, as well as Sabbath and holiday candle-lighting kits. In a related campaign, the organization similarly announced that it was offering correspondence classes on such Jewish topics as prayer, the transmission of Torah, holidays, kosher law, and Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith.
“It is difficult being away from family during the holidays,” said Katz, adding that some soldiers would not even know about the two-day holiday were it not for the shipments. “We hope receiving their own Torahs will help them learn more about their Jewish heritage and bring them closer to the Torah. Jewish service members serving in Muslim countries, for instance, can at times be weary of even making their religion known. Packages such as these can give them the strength to stand up and be proud of their identity regardless of the challenges.”