MIVTZA TEFILLIN FOR A NEW ERA
October 24, 2018
Avremele Rainitz in #1137, Feature, Mivtza Tefilin

Recently, a revolutionary new app was developed under the name “wrapp,” to serve as a mobile platform for mivtza tefillin on a worldwide scale, in the form of a user based initiative to connect between anyone who owns a pair of tefillin and those who want to put in a request to “wrap.” It is the same idea as the one behind the worldwide phenomenon of “car service” apps, such as Uber and Lyft, except that the “wrapp” provider earns a mitzva instead of money. * The man behind the idea and its development sat for an interview with Beis Moshiach, and told of the trigger moment that led to the idea, the divine providence that led to its release on 28 Sivan, and the amazing stories that pour in on an almost daily basis. * 6017 tefillin providers have signed up to date, and the developers are calling upon all of Anash to join. Their promise: When we reach 10,000 providers, we will be able to launch a massive publicity campaign on social media and in the general media. * “Clicking and wrapping.”

Two years ago, Shimon, a Lubavitcher Chassid from New York who was visiting family in Eretz Yisroel, met a close friend one Friday morning. He was happy to see him and began to talk, but the friend was in a rush. “Sorry,” he said, “I cant schmooze now. Someone is waiting all week for me to come and put tefillin on with him and I must go to Tel Aviv.”

Shimon couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You’re telling me that a Jew is waiting to put on tefillin since Sunday, and hasn’t put them on until now, because you couldn’t …?”

“Yup, what can I do? Throughout the week I’m busy with work and it’s only on Friday that I have free time for mivtza tefillin.”

Two years passed and in a phone conversation I had with him recently, Shimon was still as indignant as on that Friday. “I was stunned. I told my wife, ‘This is insane! We work so hard to convince people to put on tefillin and it turns out that there are people willing to do so, and there is nobody to do it with them on weekdays. Why can’t someone else go and put tefillin on with that person?’

“When I thought about it, I considered that the main doers of mivtza tefillin are yeshiva bachurim who operate mainly on Fridays. The rest of the week, the battlefield is unmanned. I concluded: a solution must be found!”

Shimon, who prefers to remain behind the scenes for now and not use his full name, is the person who came up with a highly original idea. He and his brother, Lubavitcher businessmen, use their money to advance the Rebbe’s causes. Among other things, they are responsible for the global campaign to encourage lighting Shabbos candles, and when a woman commits to this mitzva, she receives a beautiful pair of candlesticks by express mail, for free!

When he became aware of the weekday tefillin situation, the wheels in his mind began to turn as he looked for a solution for the thousands of people who want to put on tefillin but don’t know whom to ask. The idea that suddenly came to him surprised even him: Uber Tefillin.

A LIFELONG JOB

For those who don’t know, Uber is an American company that supplies taxi service via the internet. The company provides a free app that allows for communication between drivers and potential passengers. “I thought, an app is needed to connect those who have tefillin with those who want to put them on. The idea is the same as the one behind Uber; it’s just that in our case, the ones providing the service earn a mitzva, not money.”

The idea was great but implementing it took time. Shimon realized this was a huge project and thought it would be better to toss the ball to the big players. He spoke with people at certain well-known Chabad mosdos, getting them interested in his original project, but they were conservative and were wary of getting involved in this technological venture. They put the ball back in his court and after several months, he realized that he would have to do it himself.

“I realized this was my job and decided to go for it. I started looking for companies that develop apps and they all told me: this is a complicated project. When you develop apps, you can’t just market it and go to sleep. You have to keep updating and improving it. It’s a lifelong job. I figured, if from heaven this idea came to me, I would accept it happily.

“The big companies I turned to dragged their feet. They found it hard to understand the idea. Why would someone volunteer to travel somewhere to put tefillin on with someone he doesn’t know. Since they didn’t get it, they had a hard time producing what was needed. At a certain point, I decided to turn to a Lubavitch development company in Crown Heights, Spotlight Design. They loved the idea and threw themselves into the project.”

DIVINELY ORCHESTRATED RELEASE

The first stage of the plan was to produce a highly developed app with many interesting options. For example, after putting on tefillin, you can take a selfie and immediately post it on social media. Or the option of posting a rating of how satisfied the recipient of the service and the provider of the service are. Just like Uber. But when the development stage took weeks and then months, the planners decided to limit the app to the necessary minimum so it would finally be possible to market the app to the public.

The user interface of the app is convenient and tailored to the user. On the screen appears a map with symbols like on google maps, with the places where tefillin providers are located. Every user is assigned a level of availability and can see the distance between the one making the request and the provider, so the app checks out who is closest and more available and contacts him. In addition, you can call directly to the provider or arrange a time that best suits the provider and/or the one making the request.

“We wanted to bring the app to market for 11 Nissan, as a gift to the Rebbe, but in the process of putting the app into use bugs kept on being found and the launch was postponed to Lag B’Omer, when again things were held up as is typical for matters of holiness.

“In the end, the date was set by divine providence for 28 Sivan. One of the developers sent the app by mistake to a friend and within seconds it was sent all over the net and to WhatsApp groups. The development team called me in a panic and said a mistake had occurred and the app was released unintentionally to the public. I remembered that this was the date that the Rebbe arrived here and told them: This is what the Rebbe wants!

“Behind the scenes there were a few remaining problems and we worked around the clock to fix them. By Gimmel Tammuz everything was running smoothly and we began promoting the app among Anash.”

The short video clip promoting the app uses the pitch line: “clicking and wrapping.” “It could be your boss or coworker, your neighbor, or your Uber driver. Stuck in a hospital bed or in an airport, anyone, anytime, anywhere.” The video has both a Hebrew and English version, along with a lively song that was composed especially for the campaign.

WANTED: 10,000 TEFILLIN PROVIDERS

In the few months that passed since the release of the app, most of the advertising efforts focused on Lubavitchers, the potential providers of tefillin services. “In order for this to be a success, we need at least 10,000 tefillin providers dispersed all over the world, so when someone wants to put on tefillin and uses the app they will get a speedy response; otherwise, there could be a chilul Hashem if a Jew asks to put on tefillin and there is no provider in his area.”

Although they still haven’t launched an organized public relations campaign, the app was widely publicized in the Israeli media. Yisroel Hayom, the daily newspaper with the largest distribution in the country, wrote, “At a time when in Israel criticism is sometimes raised against Chabad Chassidim, these folks are not put off, and lately, they have even produced a new app that upgraded the ancient mitzva into the virtual world.”

On the news broadcast of Arutz 20, a segment was devoted to the new app. Reporter Tzvi Tessler reported about the unique social media initiative for putting on tefillin developed by two Lubavitcher brothers from New York. In light of the attacks by Leftist organizations on Chabad’s tefillin stands, Tessler emphasized that this app enables interested people to reach out to tefillin providers. He also stressed that although the developers of the app are Lubavitchers, their vision is for every Jew who owns tefillin to volunteer to be a tefillin provider, even if he is not a Chabad Chassid.

HE HEARD ABOUT THE APP IN HYDE PARK AND TRIED IT OUT

Although the advertising campaign has not yet gotten underway, thousands of Jews around the world have already downloaded the app and have sent requests to put on tefillin. Naturally, there are some good stories to tell …

In a Jewish newspaper in England, the following story appeared:

Phillip Holland started putting on tefillin on a Wednesday and had his bar mitzva the next Shabbat. So far so normal; it’s the general custom to start putting on tefillin the week of your bar mitzva. But Mr. Holland, from north London, is 50 years old, and both his tefillin wearing and his bar mitzva came about as a result of a new app created by Chabad Lubavitch Chassidim.

Wrapp, which is available for Apple and Android, allows people looking to put on tefillin to search for people nearby who are able to help them do so.

In a conversation with the newspaper, Mr. Holland related that he had been at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park (a park in London that is famous for its speaking events) when he began talking with a few young Jewish people. “I said I was Jewish and they said, ‘Have you ever wrapped tefillin?’

“I said no. They said, ‘Well, you must have at your bar mitzva.’ I said I never had a bar mitzva as I am from an extremely secular family.

“They said ‘Why don’t you download the app?’ So I downloaded it. I was working from home a few days later and thought, Let’s try it and see what happens

“An hour later I got a call from Rabbi Shmuel Lew and he said he was sending somebody over; they were at my house an hour later.”

Rabbi Lew, who is registered as a provider on the tefillin app, explained to the newspaper reporter that “You are like an Uber driver; you can accept or not accept.” He himself was unable to respond to the request because of prior meetings and commitments, but he did not want to ignore it, and so he called the shliach, Rabbi Mendel Raskin, and asked him to go instead.

Philip was so moved by putting tefillin on for the first time in his life, that he decided to buy tefillin and start using them every day. The following Shabbos he went to a Chabad House where they celebrated his bar mitzva.

AN IRRELIGIOUS MAN – TEFILLIN PROVIDER

Shimon tells of an acquaintance, someone who used to be religious but left it behind. Occasionally, the man’s Jewish spark is aroused and he wants to put on tefillin. Up until now, he was embarrassed to go over to a tefillin stand on the street, lest family members see him. After the release of the app, he has used it a few times when inspired to do so, and put tefillin on, in his office.

A Lubavitcher friend who works on a construction site told Shimon that one day one of the workers came over to him and asked to put on tefillin. Just that day, his tefillin were being checked, and he suggested that the worker download the app and send a request to put on tefillin.

Within a short time, he got a text that a tefillin provider was on the way. Within a few minutes, a young man showed up at the construction site, not religious, on a motorcycle. He stopped, took out a tefillin bag, and asked: Who wanted to put on tefillin?

The fellow told the astonished Lubavitcher that he wasn’t religious but he had tefillin and when he saw the app, he loved it and decided to become a tefillin provider. After the worker removed the tefillin, the young man took the tefillin from him and began putting them on himself as he explained: I didn’t put tefillin on yet today, but after helping you with them I have to put them on …

One of the residents of Crown Heights who downloaded the app as a tefillin provider, went to the address submitted in a request and was very surprised when the door was opened by a black woman. At first, he thought it was a mistake, but she explained that she took care of an 88-year-old Jewish man who wanted to put on tefillin.

Sometimes, the app helps religious people too. Recently, a group of yeshiva bachurim traveled to the Catskills and forgot to take along tefillin. They quickly found some providers who brought them tefillin.

JOIN THE REVOLUTION!

Shimon calls upon readers to get involved:

“If you are Chassidim who want to do the Rebbe’s ratzon and be active in Mivtza Tefillin, download the app to your phone and specify how far you are willing to travel or walk to put tefillin on with someone.

“Mivtza Tefillin is not just for the T’mimim; it’s meant for married men and even senior Chassidim. We all must do the Rebbe’s mivtzaim.

“Sometimes you are in the airport for a few hours waiting for a flight or are sitting and waiting at the dentist or visiting a hospital. It’s possible that just a few feet away from you is a person who wants to put on tefillin. If the app is on your phone, you can receive his request and help a Jew put on tefillin.

“As of now, 6017 people have registered as tefillin providers. When we get closer to 10,000, we will start a massive campaign on social media, so there won’t be a single Jew who won’t know about this amazing opportunity. I am convinced that the success of this app will give the Rebbe much nachas and most importantly, will hasten the Geula!

Article originally appeared on Beis Moshiach Magazine (http://beismoshiachmagazine.org/).
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